Beyond Paradise, Beyond the Surface | The Unrealistic Expectations of Social Media

Thursday April 23, 2020                By: Dr. Abeer Elgamal

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Via USA Today 

You open your eyes yawning and the first thing you do is reach for your cellphone on the bedside table.  You surf social media to see what is going on in the world you are about to face in a few moments.  You start with Facebook, or maybe you prefer Instagram and you scroll. What a lovely world!

First post:

D1234_6_894_1200You see your favorite actress doing yoga in an enchantingly garden, her body lean and ideal in a brand outfit that costs a fortune, her hair tied in a long ponytail the color of chocolate, smiling to show off her Hollywood teeth.  Unconsciously, you pity yourself:   you are still in your bed, tired as hell; the headache you slept with is still persistent; you’re sweating and your disheveled hair sticks to your face and the back of your neck, and worrying about the hundred things you have to do today.

Second post:
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BBC Indonesia 

Your friend from high school who migrated twenty years is on a vacation in the Caribbean. She wears a sheer vibrant colored dress, latest brand sunglasses and shiny lip color, soaks her bare feet in the water while her hair flies in the air. She is surrounded by beautiful children building huge sand castles. Your feeling of lack intensifies.

Third post:

30fdf0e2d958fa23f93df483f2235020You scroll down and a few posts later, you see your neighbor showing off a wonderful cake she has just baked and commenting “Made with Love” and you wonder why you cannot bake anything without burning it!  The cake lady has a hundred likes and tens of “wows” and comments begging her to write the recipe.  The disappointment and indignation that started two posts above build up and you wonder, self- disapprovingly why cannot you cook meals that amaze others and make you proud on social media.

Fourth post:

An old colleague looks surprised.  The manager of the company she works for has left a bouquet of daisies and a chocolate box on her desk to thank her for her efforts.  “That’s it!”  You cannot take any more of Facebook and you jump out of bed.   The famous comment of comedian Hala Sidky in one of her movies rings in your ears,  “ What about the gangs of good for nothing people I work with? Why cannot anyone appreciate my hard work?!”   You feel depressed and underappreciated at work.

You decide to switch to Instagram for a quick view only to find your cousin in Canada in a classy restaurant with a group of good-looking friends savoring a dish of lasagna. She looks thin and the mounts of cheeses that ooze out of the dish seem not to bother her in the least.  You feel an urge to go devour all the cheeses you can get hold of and wish you can have such gorgeous friends to take you out to fancy restaurants in foreign lands.

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Via Hermenhill

The “fake” paradise you see on social media makes you feel miserable; the message your subconscious gets out of all the above posts is a message of lack. To be happy, you must have what this actress has:  a large house with a garden, a great body, expensive brand clothes, a private trainer, a daily hairdo and new teeth!  You also need to travel abroad on your next vacation and buy overpriced sunglasses. You must find new outgoing friends to take you places and treat you like a queen. You must find another job where you are given more credit for your work.  You might also want to change your children and get new ones who look as beautiful as the ones surrounding your friend on the beach. In other words, you need to be someone other than yourself to be happy.

Under the colorful surface

What if you look beyond this blissful paradise on social media before you allow your mind to drift away to compare your real life with that of others? Before you are carried away in a cycle of never ending dissatisfaction and disappointment about your own circumstances try doing this one thing:  imagine the back stage.  I have tried it and it shifted my thinking one hundred eighty degrees and I strongly recommend it to family and friends all the time.

Backstage peek

In all the sights of happy and joyful people in the above posts, you see only the end result. You do not see the moments of pain and hard work that preceded the final look presented on social media.  Your favorite actress surely did not become in great shape in her seventies without having to sweat for hours every day in the gym her whole life; she did not have photos showing her body under the knife of a surgeon or at least having Botox and filler shots all over her face and neck to maintain her younger look. Nor did she photograph herself while the dentist worked his puzzling painful tools in her mouth.  After all, you should be grateful you are not like her; you are not to be judged by millions only by your looks.

Chocolate box valentine days flowersYou did not see the backbreaking work that your old colleague did before getting the flowers and chocolate. Maybe she had been working for months, sleep- deprived, drinking tons of coffee to meet deadlines that other colleagues failed to do.   You did not see the backstage of all the stories, and you cannot compare yourself to them unless you do. Are you willing to go through hell for a few moments of eye-catching bless on social media?  Are you ready to pay the price of a post that gets likes and wows?

Let’s not be deceived by social media which presents only a segment of a story; let’s see the whole story.  Let’s look beyond paradise and be thankful and grateful for what we have.

82305267_10218380864245960_4585144984553914368_nDr. Abeer Elgamal, Associate Professor of English Literature, Department of Foreign Languages, Mansoura University.

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