Early last year, Ditch the Label, a pro-equality and anti-bullying international charity commissioned a tell-all video clip titled; Are you living an Insta lie? Social Media Vs Reality.
In the three minute clip, the lie we live on social media is vividly portrayed vis-a-vis our real lives.
In the opening episode, a girl wakes up from bed, heads to the washroom to freshen up, and cleans her face with a towel, before returning to bed to take a selfie. She immediately posts it on Instagram with the hashtag; Woke Up Like This.
In the next episode, a young man drives his car to the countryside, pulls out a bike helmet and wears it, before taking a selfie with the caption; “30 km bike ride done.”
Another young man buys a green juice drink from a store, rushes with it to a trendy bar, takes a selfie and immediately posts on social media with the caption; Super healthy breakfast. “New me. #Juice cleanse.”
In another episode, a guy is working on his laptop when he suddenly decides to apply women’s makeup, turning instantly into a “woman”. He posts the picture on his network and it immediately elicits a torrent of “oohs” and “aahhs”, with comments like; ‘Looking fab’, ‘gorgeous’, ‘hot hot hot’, to ‘absolute babe’, ‘can I come over’, and ‘you are my queen perfection’.
It goes on and on.
In all the clips, the actions of the characters are influenced by feelings of envy, or F.O.M.O (Fear Of Missing Out), after seeing a post from another person.
Why envy? Well, because every day, social media jams us with unsolicited reminders of the seemingly perfect lives that other people are living. With each passing day, it becomes increasingly harder to recognise that social media presents an augmented, edited version of people’s otherwise ordinary lives.
In a world where everything is increasingly on show, keeping in touch is no longer the only motivation for logging on to social media. As society gets ever more inter-connected, social media is taking the lead in facilitating human interaction beyond the traditional confines of close family and friends. The virtual world is getting ever more real, so to speak.
Psychologists argue that social media (Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat and etcetera) taps into the innate human desire to be heard. It has given us all a voice. As such, it is no longer just about keeping in touch with friends, family and peers, but sharing intimate tid bits of our lives for the world to see.
Most importantly, it gives us the power to construct an ideal identity, and over which we have total control. Social media makes people obsessed with aesthetics and keeping up appearances, not matter the cost.
This has given rise to a whole host of online applications through which one can completely alter their look to taste. At the mere click of a button, one can change the tan of their skin, one can acquire a thick moustache where there is none, or even a six pack even for those known to have pumpkin bellies.
As such, most of our social media profiles become augmented realities in which people embrace their ideal persona.
The practice of keeping up appearances on social media has given rise to a new term: Insta-Lie. An Insta-Lie (from the word Instagram) is “an intentionally false representation of real life on social media”.
This often manifests in different ways.
Posing for pictures in airplanes and at airports to create the impression that one is a frequent flyer; taking a million photos before choosing just one to post on your timeline; to posting internet pictures of fancy food and captioning them ‘lunch is served’ or ‘dinner is ready’ and such.
Placide Mutegeki, a social media user, argues that the notion of keeping up rosy appearances is neither new, nor exclusive to social media users.
“The need to present a glossy image of oneself or to put the best foot forward has always been there; when meeting a new date, when going for job interviews,” he says.
In December last year, while visiting the gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park under the Tember u’Rwanda initiative, I came face to face with the downside to this social media frenzy.
No sooner had we entered the park, than everybody whipped out their smart phones, in readiness for the most important occasion during the tour – a selfie moment with the gentle giants.
Ordinarily, the gorillas are a feared lot that many people would rather watch from a distance, even though they are known to be peaceable.
But the need to take intimate and make-believe selfies near the animals ensured that everybody threw all caution to the winds.
Pleas by our park guides to keep a safe distance from the gorillas all fell on deaf ears, as everyone sought the closest shot with a gorilla.
Needless to say, few of these people could wait for the two-hour gorilla trekking tour to end before they could share the images on their timelines.
For our guides, the biggest challenge was in holding the attention of the group, as many people had their heads buried in their phones, either editing, filtering pictures, or posting them and looking out for likes/comments.
Is the pressure to keep up with social media worth it?
For someone to compare their lives to my life on social media isn’t right. I would never advise anybody to compare their lives to what they see other people post on social media, never ever do that, many people hide behind those beautiful posts, behind those beautiful love stories that they post on social media. Just be yourself and don’t feel guilty or left out, instead let it inspire you but don’t let it make you feel left out because what you see may not be a true reflection of the reality on the ground.
Eugene Anangwe, Media personality
No it’s not because whatever we see on social media is not the reality of it all. People post what they want others to see and it’s not real. Social media is not worth someone’s entire attention, this is why a person should not want to be like what they see because they don’t know what that someone had to go through, for example right now everyone wants to be like Meghan Markle but they don’t know what she had to go through for her to be where she is, so people should focus on living their own lives.
Vestina Kalisa, Photographer
Social media is something I barely give my time to. I don’t understand the fuss around it because all I can see is people getting depressed yet they have the power in their hands. I am not saying they should quit because I mean it has its relevance, but they should have some control and not get addicted to the extent of wanting to become like somebody else.
Simon Kalisa, Entrepreneur
It is definitely not worth it because it is not all real and it is exaggerated. We shouldn’t compare ourselves to what is posted on social media because we don’t know what happens behind the scenes. People can’t post when they are broke they only post happy moments, they can’t post when they are on a moto heading to Nyabugogo but when they fly, photos are everywhere. Everyone’s journey is different; I can be broke but happy, or rich but unhappy. At times social media can be informative, for example, some people like George Ndirangu or Makeda Mahadeo post about their work and their lives at times but not every single detail which I think is good. So it all depends on us but what’s most important is people knowing that every one’s journey is different.
Alexia Mupende, Model
Compiled byDonah Mbabazi