Thursday, 11 September 2014

Behind the Social Media portrayal

Recently I’ve been really struggling with seeing what other people are doing on social media. It’s really been getting me down seeing all my friends getting married, having babies, starting amazing jobs and going on amazing holidays, while I feel like I’m stuck back at the beginning with my poor health. Sure, I’m happy for them that these great things are happening to them, but it doesn’t stop me feeling sad and wishing things were happening for me as well.

Speaking to some of my friends though, I had my eyes opened a bit to the falsity of social media. Yes, these things are happening, but that is only a small snapshot of a person’s life. People want to portray themselves in a positive way, so in general will only post about the good things in their life. They won’t post a photo of their end of the day make-up or of the day when they can’t be bothered to get out of their pyjamas all day. So it’s easy to get a false impression of other people’s lives if you just judge them by their social media posts. I thought I would try and show you a few examples of this by sharing some of my Instagram photos and enlightening you as to what else was going on behind the photo.

This photo was taken of me when I went to BBC Radio Berkshire, to be on the Anne Diamond show. As you can see, I look pretty well and happy, but what you can’t see is how I was really feeling. I was dosed up on strong painkillers, felt incredibly sick and, when I got home, had to spend the rest of the day resting because it took so much out of me. You don’t have to be ill for this though, as a photo can disguise so many other things that could be going on in a person’s life. It just so happens that a lot of my life is overwhelmed by illness.

How beautiful do these bluebells look? Seeing this picture on my Instagram feed, you would probably guess that I’d been for a lovely woodland walk and stumbled across this patch of bluebells. But you would be wrong. My brother and his girlfriend did a lot of research before this, finding a place where I wouldn’t have to walk to see some bluebells. I was still recovering from surgery and couldn’t walk far at all, so this picture was actually taken from the car because I was too weak to walk much at all.

I posted this photo on my feed a few days before the fundraiser I organised. I expect that someone seeing this photo would guess that I’d be running around like a headless chicken, sorting out last minute things and sorting out an awesome outfit to wear. Instead, I was having to spend my time resting and curled up in pain, attempting to delegate jobs that I was desperate to do but couldn’t because I was too unwell. Instead of wearing a killer outfit to the charity evening, I ended up going down there for half an hour in some jogging bottoms and an old hoody, while everyone else was turning up dressed to the nines. For me, it was a choice between wasting my energy getting changed or actually being able to be there for a short time.

This is a pretty typical Instagram photo – the ‘coffee with a friend’ post. You’re probably imagining my friend and I going out for a bit of shopping, perhaps some lunch and then an afternoon coffee. But in reality this was literally it. They picked me up, we went to a local coffee shop and had a drink before I came home again and collapsed. This photo does not even cover the amount of anxiety going through my system about the thought of drinking a coffee with milk in it. This is where my eating disorder comes in and I have to use the little energy I do have fighting with the thoughts that tell me I should just be having a black coffee.

When I posted photos of my magazine article, and my story in the local newspaper, I got a lot of lovely comments saying how brave/amazing/courageous I was. However, what people didn’t see was my anxiety about what the article would say. What would my photos look like? Would they portray my story correctly? What would other people think of me? Yes, it was an amazing thing to happen to me, but there are two sides to every story and this photo only shows the positive side.

I remember posting this photo of myself and my Dad attending a University Open Day. My friends and family thought this was a fantastic thing to be doing, which it was, but it was also incredibly scary and disappointing. To realise I wasn’t well enough to do what I wanted, that I’d have to take yet another year out because I didn’t have to right qualifications. This doesn’t even cover the scary thoughts I constantly get about having to leave home and live on my own.

So, as you can see, social media feeds only show a tiny snapshot of someone’s life. Generally they don’t show the negatives, the difficult times we all have, and it can make it very difficult when you’re having a bad time and it seems like everyone else is leading such fantastic lives. I hope this might comfort you a bit and help you to realise that everyone has difficult times in their lives, even if their Instagram/Facebook/Twitter indicates that they’re having the time of their life. Like me, you need to keep reminding yourself that social media is incredibly biased to what a person wants you to believe about them. So, next time you’re browsing through your friend’s feed and get that pang of jealously about all the awesome things they’re up to, remind yourself that no-one has a perfect life and we all have our own struggles and difficulties.

Do you ever feel inadequate when you use social media? How do you deal with these feelings?


  1. This is such a great post Jenny! Many a time I've felt awful because everyone else seems to be doing so much, but it's true that people only show the good bits, I'm even a bit guilty of it, as I tend to post when some exciting blog thing is happening or, like last week when I graduated. The rest of the time I'm just stuck at home. I feel like I don't want to be a burden on people if I post all of the bad and for them to think I'm just moaning - but then I guess the flip side is, that if they are real friends they'll support me through the good and bad. I'm struggling a bit at the moment with my depression, but I haven't said anything on social media - I don't really know how to word it. It's tough, but I think I'm going to try and keep reminding myself that people are posting the great, exciting things they're doing, not every day life - maybe I'll feel a bit better about it :/

    1. Thanks Annie I'm glad you've found it a helpful post. I'm still very guilty of getting upset by what I see on social media, so I thought I'd write a post about it because I thought I can't be the only one that feels like this! I guess we just have to keep reminding ourselves that social media is incredibly biased and that looks can be deceiving xx

  2. I can completely relate to this! Social media is great, it really is, but when your living life in the slow lane through no fault of your own, it can be tough. When I first got ill I had to delete my facebook account because it was too much. It was making me so upset seeing all of my friends living life whilst I was spending so much time in hospital and in bed. We have to remember though that people online highlight their good days and good moments, most people don't show the reality online. Great post Jenny!

    Hayley-Eszti x

    1. I thought others might be able to relate to this problem Hayley - I'm sorry you've found Facebook difficult since being ill too. I'm glad you like the post :) xx