Through this website, I had the goal of addressing issues that often divide us due to our limited scope of the world—thus, I focused on identity based around religion, occupation, etc. However, I realized that beyond learning, we also need to be understood, to have common ground with others, as that is often how we forge the most meaningful connections.
Since March, 2020, I have been struggling, as have many others, with mental health. Yet we do not care to be open and show that our lives are not the perfect, carefully articulated image that is portrayed on social media.
In what is usually one of the most freeing and experimental times of a person’s life, I shuttered myself indoors, attempting to protect my more vulnerable parents and grandpa from the virus. I became more distressed, watching friends attend prom and move in to college, eager to start the next phase of their budding adult lives.
Meanwhile, I began preparing for online classes. I messaged fellow incoming freshman, tackling the social experiment of making virtual friends. I attended zoom orientations—pre-med preparation, internship and networking lessons, club fairs, and more.
Yet I felt distant. For the past six months, it feels as though I have been separated from my body and watched a new person, one less ambitious, less focused, less empathetic take control. My temper has flared, I’ve cried multiple times, and I’ve watched my mental state deteriorate.
I could have easily disguised my true reality though—I could have created a post on being accepted to college, another for my eighteenth birthday and the drive-by celebration my friends organized, and one more on a trip to a lake in upstate New York. Social media is a megaphone for projecting the perfect image of your life. I have watched teenagers spend hours on instagram, youtube, and other platforms, poring over posts and videos, comparing themselves to others.
But what we often fail to see is the “behind the scenes.” An instagram post encapsulates a picture (albeit sometimes more than one, but nonetheless, a picture). When we look at ourselves in the mirror, we often do not see the model that everyone else so effortlessly encapsulates in their posts. We forget the hair and the makeup and the time spent searching for the perfect angle and the photoshop and so many other factors. A vlog of a youtuber’s day is a ten minute highlight reel, filled with laughter, friends, and excitement. How disheartening it was for me to watch a youtuber go through countless meetings, video edit, exercise, eat healthy, and spend time with friends, condensed into the time it takes me to get out of bed.
Many people’s lives are in tatters—don’t be fooled. The reality of the past few months has been mass unemployment, thousands dead, police shootings, wildfires raging, and hurricanes making landfall. Yet the image of perfection still exists everywhere we look. Students at college may appear to be experiencing the sweet freedom that comes with freshman fall and escaping the grip of parents, but behind the posts of hikes and “roomie” photoshoots, is the restrictions and mostly online classes.
When I catch myself attempting to project perfection, I have realized that it is a way of lying to myself. If I can convince others that my life is exhilarating, productive, and meaningful, then perhaps I will start to believe it as well. But what begins is a cycle of creating a facade of happiness and tranquility, never allowing myself to be vulnerable and outwardly show my true disappointment and despair. Yet if we never allow ourselves to feel pain, how will we know when we feel free and happy?
Of what I have experienced the past six months, only my family and one or two friends know the whole story—everyone else might see an occasional glimpse of stress or gloom but otherwise are only exposed to the cheerful demeanor and smile plastered on my face at most times.
I love human relationships; they help make life meaningful. But if we keep lying to each other, then what is the point?