Expectation VS Reality: Instagram Is Not Real Life

I love Instagram. As a photographer, I am obviously a very visual person. I love art, I love images, I love beautiful things. But I also hate Instagram.

I get jealous easily. I scroll through beautiful pictures of beautiful people doing beautiful things and I get frustrated at my own life. Why am I not where I want to be? Why is my life such a mess? Why are most days boring and difficult and ugly?

One of my favourite quotes is one I heard Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church say years ago:

“One of the reasons we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

We scroll mindlessly through social media, thinking everyone we follow is having the time of their lives. But we don’t see the behind-the-scenes of the carefully curated version of their lives. The danger of social media is that the poster gets to choose what they show the world. If we don’t stop to check ourselves and our intentionality, we can display a very skewed version of reality. And let’s be honest. No one is ever going to post a picture of that big fight with their spouse. Or a selfie in the middle of a 3-hour crying sesh.

Even the most stunning photos aren’t always from ‘the best day ever’. Have a look through your own Instagram profile – have you ever taken an amazing photo at a subpar event? Or an adorable candid of yourself and your best friend on an exceedingly average day? Or a beautiful photo of the vacation that you actually couldn’t afford to go on but did anyway? What did your caption say? Was it honest or did it hint at a more extravagant reality? I’m certainly guilty of the latter.

We all want to feel worthy and accepted and admired. We want to show the good and hide the ugly. But no matter what we see online, every single person has their own struggles. Remembering this helps us to be kind and stray from bitterness and envy.

We have to change our attitude about social media. Instead of falling into the comparison trap, let’s keep our ‘critical-thinking-cap’ on and be inspired by the beautiful images, but be fully aware that that’s all they are. Images. Not reality. Not life.

And remember that Instagram does not equal friendship. We can’t act like just because we’ve ‘like’d a friend’s recent posts that we know what’s going on in their lives. Pick up the phone and call/text them. Spend time with them. Ask them how they’re really doing. Build a relationship face-to-face and share your struggles. It’ll help destroy the comparison game.

Don’t be afraid to take breaks from social media. Spend more time being present in the messy, wonderful, authentic life you’ve created. You’ll find that the more time you spend being present with your friends and family, the less you’ll want to scroll through Instagram. You might even feel relieved.

Keep inventory of your own accomplishments outside of the online world. Have you paid off a debt? Has your marriage improved? Did you finish that big project at work? Be proud of the things you’ve worked hard for! Remember that your worth does not come from the number of likes you get on a post. Your honest, authentic behind-the-scenes is way more beautiful than any online highlight reel.

“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate” – Oprah Winfrey