Toxic Perfection – How to Survive Social Media

Sick and tired of seeing another perfect post from your favourite celebrity? Hate-following someone you can’t stand because you can’t understand why their life is so perfect (and feel jealous and insecure about your own)? Worried that everyone on social media is living their best life whilst you can barely cope with the constant cycle of work, housework and remembering to put the bins out once a week? Well, don’t worry. You’re not alone!

Since the first series of lockdowns began last year, the majority of our lives have gone digital. We spend our work days in Zoom meetings, whatsapping our friends in between calls and sending emails whenever we have a moment free from the camera. In the evenings, we have video calls with family, go on virtual dates or have virtual pub and quiz nights with our mates. What are we doing with the rest of our time? Well, catching up with the social media on our phones of course (because we haven’t had enough screen time during the day *rolls eyes*).

We’re all guilty of it, ourselves included. Whenever we have a spare minute, we reach for our phones and scroll through our feeds. In the 21st Century, we want to KNOW what everyone is up to and we want it now! Give us content! Entertain us! Dance monkey dance! We have become the ultimate nosy neighbour, curtain twitching at the window and gossiping with our friends about everything we see, except the ‘window’ is now our phone and the ‘neighbour’ is now everyone we follow on social media.

It’s not healthy and it can often make us feel really bad about ourselves. The thing you have to remember (and is so easy to forget) is that more than half the time, the image you’re viewing is an INSTA-LIE! That’s right, the picture of the perfect family in the opulent house with the perfect life? It’s merely a moment in time. You never know what’s going on behind the camera, so why are we so obsessed with comparing ourselves to something that isn’t really a true reflection?

Whilst social media isn’t going away anytime soon, we can strive to navigate it in a more positive, healthy way; a way that stops us from hating ourselves and let’s us just enjoy the experience. So to help you and ourselves, we’ve put together some handy hints to make your social media journey a more friendly, enjoyable one:-

Stop Guilt-Following

I do this with Davinia McCall. Don’t get me wrong, I really like her on the telly and am filled with admiration at her drive, determination and success. However, the majority of the posts she has on Instagram refer to her exercising and keeping fit and well. Perfectly acceptable. Davinia does not pretend to be perfect, she works really hard to keep herself healthy. My reason for following her though is not acceptable.

I started following her because I thought I would be inspired to sort my own health out. The plan was that I would keep an eye on her activity and it would help me to get motivated to stay fit. Obviously, the reality has become quite different. My work commitments have meant that I just don’t have the time to exercise. I literally sit at my laptop working from dawn until dusk and by the time I’m done I have no energy left. Then I look at Davina’s feed and I hate myself for not having the energy that she does. I feel guilty because I feel I should be doing more to look after myself.

This social media feed is not good for me. It makes me feel guilty when I have no need to be. Davina and I don’t have the same lives, the same work commitments, the same anything really! Therefore, I have unfollowed her and now I feel a lot better. We’re guessing that you have someone like this that you follow on social media too – am I right? Take our advice, remove that guilt from your life – you don’t need it and you don’t deserve it. UNFOLLOW.

Stop Hate-Following

There’s this personal trainer who regularly posts on Instagram. I can’t stand her. I hate the way she presents herself to camera. She’s always in full make-up and whenever she’s not demonstrating an exercise move in fashionable work-out gear, she’s posting perfect pictures of herself and her family. She’s always perfect and they’re always smiling and their house is always spotless! I don’t have any positive feelings about her yet I follow her because I feel the need to critique a complete stranger!

Then there’s Meghan Markle – I’ve never known anyone be so vocal about stepping out of the spotlight, whilst using every opportunity to put herself in it! She’s probably a perfectly nice person but she just winds me up to no end. I’m equal parts fascinated and appalled by her but I just can’t stop following! I *need* to keep following her so I can discuss and obsess over her with my friends. This is not normal behaviour. In fact, it’s pretty unacceptable.

You wouldn’t follow someone down the street, whispering about her with your friends, would you? You wouldn’t peak through someone’s window and start bitching about how fucking perfect their home is, would you? You wouldn’t grab a complete stranger in the street and tell them how much you hate their outfit, right? Then why do we think it’s okay online??! If you don’t like someone, just unfollow them – neither of you need the negativity. Your lives are your own business. UNFOLLOW.

You Don’t Owe Anyone Anything

This is almost the opposite of the above post. As a citizen of the 21st century, you have the right to portray yourself online in whatever way you choose to, within reason. However, I would heed the following; not everyone who follows you is going to like you. There. I’ve said it. Some people will follow you because they do. Some people will follow you because they’re genuinely interested in what you have to say. Others may not be so kind.

You don’t deserve nasty comments and you don’t deserve having someone judge you from a single image on an Instagram page. If someone is making you feel bad about your life or leaving snide comments on your feed, don’t even bother engaging with them. In all likelihood that’s the response they’re craving – for you to get upset and start interacting with them online. Don’t give them the satisfaction. BLOCK.

Digital Detox

When it all gets too much and you feel down and negative about yourself, when all of social media seems positive and successful and bright, then give yourself a break, a break from social media! Remember, no one’s life is as rosy as it seems online but it’s sometimes hard for us to realise that when we’re already feeling down in the dumps.

Whenever you feel bad, do yourself a favour and mute your feeds, switch off your phone and spend some time in reality for a while. You’ll feel so much better and pretty soon you’ll start to wonder why you felt so down about your life in the first place.

Have Fun

We should remember that social media was primarily created as a ‘fun’ thing to do. Anyone remember ‘Farmville’ on Facebook? I was obsessed with that game way more than I was about documenting my every move! Things don’t have to change that much. We don’t need to take social media so bloody seriously all the time.

Yeah, yeah, so you’re posting a video about something that has really offended you or a project that a celebrity is promoting that you feel really passionate about. Guess what I’m posting? A picture of myself with a stupid filter and a face full of clown makeup – enjoy!

Don’t forget to have fun with this stuff – why so serious? Social media does not need to be a place full of continuous social commentary all of the time. Do something fun and have a laugh with it every now and then!

Cut Down on Filter Use

Is it just me or is there an epidemic of photo filters at the moment? They’re available on all the social media platforms, the video platforms and even have apps all to themselves. There’s hundreds of the buggers popping up on the app stores. I understand the quest for beauty and perfection, I really do but it only takes a couple of over-facetuned ‘alien’ faces on your feed to realise that everything is becoming really fake.

What’s wrong with your normal face? Nothing! That’s what! You have imperfections, you have character and you’re beautiful just the way you are because you are unique! Why are we hiding our looks and creating fake, plastic images of ourselves? Our friends and family already know what we look like and they’re the most important people so why the hell do we care what strangers think?

Take a leap of faith and leave the filters off every now and then. Reality doesn’t have to be perfect. There’s nothing wrong with being yourself and celebrating your imperfections – at the end of the day, people will respect you more for it.


Social media isn’t going away any time soon but we hope that our tips will help you to get a bit more joy out of it and navigate the toxic aspects of life online. Remember that you can’t always trust the images you see and you don’t know what’s going on behind the camera. Nobody is perfect.

SJB

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