Social media is an emotional whirlwind. For all the amusement it provides, it’s easy to get caught up scrolling the hours away, believing your life isn’t nearly as exciting as the lives of those you follow.
42% of the current global population of around 7.7 billion people are active social media users. This means that there are nearly 3.2 billion social media users worldwide today, according to Emarsys. Social media has turned the world into a global village.
Furthermore, people spend more than an hour and a half on social media each and every day! There’s no debating that the time we spend and the highly-curated lives we live on social media are influencing our real world health and happiness.
With this boom in social media popularity, we have to stop and ask ourselves if living on social media is making us lose touch with people in the real world. Can a social media fake life and the connections it facilitates take the place of those that should be occurring in real life? Based on research and widespread trends, the answer is no.
Here are some reasons why your social media life can never replace the real one.
1. Fake Intimacy
Social media has connected us in many amazing ways that allow us to share our day-to-day lives. We can find out that a friend went on vacation, had a child or moved across the country within seconds – even if we haven’t talked to that person in years.
This has created a dynamic in which we have loose connections with various people in a virtual realm in which social interactions are generally limited to liking or commenting on a friend’s public post. It’s a false sense of intimacy where we have so many connections and interactions with people without really knowing what’s going on in their lives.
Robin Dunbar, a professor at Oxford University, conducted a study discovering that an average user only has 14 actual friends and 5 close friends out of a group of 150 Facebook connections. It’s likely that a mere 10% of followers are real friends while even fewer are close friends.
We need to make sure that we don’t become so immersed in our social media world that it becomes difficult to differentiate our real lives and fake lives on social media.
You can do this by reaching out to those friends you haven’t seen in person in some time. Ask them if they want to go out for coffee, drinks or grab a bite to eat. It’s important to make an effort to connect in the real world to prevent this false sense of social media intimacy from taking hold.
2. A Culture Of Comparison
Measuring oneself against others comes naturally for the human mind. In some ways it can be helpful by inspiring motivation to improve yourself or boost your self-esteem. On the other hand, comparisons can be harmful when they leave you feeling inferior or depressed.
The latter is often the case when it comes to comparisons drawn via social media. People generally like to share peak experiences, flattering images and positive news about themselves. These highly-curated slices of reality are essentially human highlight reels masquerading as normal, ho-hum moments of everyday life.
It’s these highlight reels that make our own lives feel like they are lacking personally, socially, or professionally.
As unpleasant as these comparisons can feel, they can serve as a positive reminder that there are areas of our lives within our control that we can focus on improving. Developing a stronger sense of confidence and self-worth can be accomplished by doing more of what you love, striving for health in both body and mind and reconnecting with old friends and family.
3. The Masks We Wear
In a similar vein, social media makes it easy and even encourages making a fake life seem real. We’re able to create and share both updates and images of ourselves appearing outwardly happy, even if we’re really miserable on the inside.
There’s significant scientific evidence that shows social media is bad for your mental health. It’s no surprise that we put on a show for our followers even when we’re going through challenging times. This type of act leads to a confusing sense of cognitive dissonance where we act outwardly different from what we feel internally.
It’s important to remember that you don’t need to share constant updates on your life with your friends and followers. It’s okay to take a break from social media. Especially if you’re going through a tough time and need some time to work through whatever challenges you’re facing.
In fact, it’s always good to take a break from social media. Check out this article from Forbes to learn about five easy steps you can take to help you start a social media detox.
4. Lack Of Face-To-Face-Communication
When it comes to communication, social media portrays a picture that differs from reality. Technology enables communication to be instant, across borders and over seas, with just about anyone.
It’s important not to rely solely on messages and comments on social media to maintain relationships. Communication and relationship building with people in the real world requires more effort and investment of time.
Being so accustomed to digital communication can make us less comfortable when it comes to making or maintaining real-life connections.
When we’re alone in public, we bury our noses in our phones to avoid making eye contact with others. And continue living a fake life on social media and going through the motions with fake relations because we find talking to each other, face-to-face, too much to deal with.
5. Trolling And Bullying
Unfortunately, social media can act as a smokescreen for people who are angry at the world. Behind it lies a lot of toxicity. Nobody understands how fast social media can become nasty than someone who has experienced trolling or bullying online.
Today, staying safe on social media is a precaution that everybody needs to take. Luckily Spokeo has a tool that is designed to help you navigate social media safety. If you get attacked by an anonymous troll you can look them up on Spokeo to learn more about them. You can get to know more about other social media users you interact with.
This negative side of online communication should serve as a reminder that a social media fake life is just that. Fake. And once you’ve been down this road, you quickly come to realize that the social life and online persona you’ve created can never replace life in the real world.
Of all the friends you have on social media, how many would you consider friends in real life? How many of them have you tried to see recently?
If your own honest answer to these questions surprises you, work towards developing your existing network of friends and family outside of social media. Take the time, make the effort and commit to communicating and checking up on your loved ones in real life.
Those are the people you can depend on, the ones who will come through for you in challenging times. They’re the ones who will be there to pick you up when you fall. They’re the ones you should share your real life with.