What the Bow Wow Challenge Says About the Pressures of Social Media

Time to take a hard look at our status-driven culture.

If you’re not in the loop on the Bow Wow challenge viral meme, allow us to fill you in: Earlier this week, rapper Bow Wow (also known as Shad Moss) Instagrammed a picture of a private plane with a caption implying he was about to hop on that plane and jet to New York. A very short while later, a SnapChat image starting making the rounds showing Bow Wow on a commercial flight to — you guessed it — New York.

The Internet was quick to jump on the rapper’s apparent lie and the Bow Wow Challenge was born, with people relentlessly ridiculing him for using social media to project a false image of himself. But the sad truth is that most of us use social media the same way, even if we’re not fibbing about something as seemingly highbrow as flying private instead of commercial.

Unless you’re unusually honest on your social accounts, you’re probably using them to present a rose-colored view of your life. We Instagram nights out with friends, not tough days at work. We post about our PR in our latest road race, not mornings where we slept through our alarms instead of getting up for training runs. There’s pressure to show the good and hide the bad.

Self-comparison is a powerful force and when we’re stacking ourselves up against other people’s digital highlight reels, it’s normal to feel inadequate. That adds to what we already know about the negative effects of social media, with more and more research suggesting that the more time we spend on our social accounts, and the more social platforms we use, the higher our risk of poor mental and physical well-being.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Perhaps the most important point being glossed over in the coverage of Bow Wow-gate is that the idea he was chasing, and got caught coming up short on, was our outdated notion of success. In the grand scheme of things, does your mode of transportation really matter? Is that what you’ll look back on in the future and use as a barometer of whether or not you lived a full life? Almost definitely not. And it’s particularly problematic when celebrities — people that young and old alike look up to and try to emulate — use their social accounts to glamorize materialism over meaning.

So before you jump on the bandwagon of roasting Bow Wow, try to remember that he’s dealing with the same social media pressures that the rest of us are, only his are magnified because he’s famous. And the next time you’re tempted to post something that’s a less-than-accurate depiction of your life right now, consider going with a more honest approach.