Whenever a new notification appears on our screens, for a small moment, an hour of idly scrolling through social media feels almost worthwhile.
We feel validated knowing that someone, however briefly, recognised our online activity as worthy of engagement, and the little rush of dopamine it produces in our brains as a result is enough to tide us over and keep us scrolling until our next ‘hit’.
Personally, although some areas of my professional life mean I have to be here, a part of me always feels empty when sharing my activity online, and it seems I’m not alone in this thought.
Whilst social media on the whole continues to grow as an industry, so too has the usage of so-called ‘digital wellbeing’ apps, which contrarily aim to lower their users’ social media use in an effort to lower the negative side effects associated with heavy screen time.
Media outlets often like to push the idea that younger generations are completely ignorant to social media’s downsides..
However, a study in 2018 actually reported that 58% of young people were seeking relief from negative aspects of social media 58% of young people were seeking relief from the negative aspects of social media; a fact which isn’t really surprising considering that 68% of respondents to the same study said social media sometimes or often made them ‘sad, anxious, or depressed’.
This is perhaps why, in an age when we as a species seem determined on the whole to become ever-more reliant on the mainstream digital world for others’ approval, there is a growing social movement toward looking elsewhere for validation.
‘One of the greatest regrets in life is being what others would want you to be, rather than being yourself.’ – Sharon L Alder
If you’d asked me a few years ago what a ‘finsta’ was, I’d have probably stared at you blankly, before eventually admitting I had no idea.
Nowadays, the term (an abbreviation of ‘fake Instagram’) has become so widely used that you’d be hard-pressed to find someone digitally active and under 30 who hasn’t heard the phrase used somewhere.
These smaller Instagram accounts, usually locked and with a purposefully low number of carefully selected followers, are exclusively friend and family zone(s), arguably representing a truer and more meaningful version of their users than the heavily curated content usually posted to their main accounts.
The lack of unnecessary polish, and general disregard for the more conventional social media expectations of ‘rinstagram’ (‘real’ Instagram) mean that many people feel freer to be themselves in their dedicated finsta space, often using this secondary social feed to post content deemed unworthy or inappropriate for their main account (see: unfiltered photos, memes, and ‘ugly’ selfies).
Interestingly though, it’s not a hunger for a high number of ‘likes’ which drives an eagerness to post in these safe spaces (with follower counts often deliberately kept in the low double digits, this isn’t ever really an option), but instead is usually fed by a desire to record the moments where the user feels most in touch with their genuine selves.
Rather than attempting to build up followers, shares, and likes in the traditional ‘more friends, less friendly’ way, it’s about enjoying the freedom of broadcasting only to the people you already know and trust, and knowing that you can rely upon this inner circle not to judge you harshly for your unfiltered digital output.
Perhaps it’s not too surprising then to find that one in five young people now admit to having created finstagram accounts for themselves, in an effort to create a richer overall Instagram experience.
But using a finsta profile isn’t enough for many of us when it comes to finding self-validation. Most often, a finsta goes hand-in-hand with a rinsta, and that means still falling victim to the full force of societal expectations in at least one segment of your online presence.
‘Your focus is to improve yourself, without competing or comparing yourself with anyone. Our true comparison is with our own better or ideal self.’ – Lisa Leong
In a world where online life is becoming as influential to many people as their offline life, it’s never been more important to remember that finding validation in our lives outside of the internet is a crucial factor in protecting our mental health.
Separating our own wants and needs from the expectations of others has become increasingly difficult though, as internet-based communications have taken up more and more of our everyday social interactions. We’re suffering for it too, with Forbes having questioned recently whether social media addiction is actually even worse for us than cigarettes.
Last summer, I spent a few weeks overseas in California, during which time I explored San Francisco, hiked around Yosemite National Park, and took in views of the spectacular Golden Gate Bridge. It was a magical experience for my partner and I, and to say we enjoyed it would be the understatement of the century, but during our trip, I couldn’t help identifying within myself an overwhelming urge to be updating my various social media feeds with the ongoing events.
This is a feeling I’m sure we’re all now well familiar with when it comes to the more beautiful or emotional experiences in our lives.
Treating our most unique activities as something to be seen doing, rather than as something to be enjoyed in the moment, is a huge problem for those of us brought up in the digital age.
Being ‘very online’ undoubtedly has its advantages, but the constant negative comparisons we make between ourselves and others when scrolling a social media feed, particularly when it’s made up largely of the carefully selected snapshots of people’s lives they’ve chosen to share with us, can also prevent us from remembering what we actually do admire about ourselves already.
‘If any female feels she need anything beyond herself to legitimate and validate her existence, she is already giving away her power to be self-defining, her agency.’ – Bell Hooks
To reconnect with ourselves as humans rather than as the brand we have made for ourselves online, it seems many are now beginning to wake up to the fact that it’s increasingly important to switch off every now and again from social media, and actively engage in the world around them, without using real-world experiences as only a tool for embellishing their online presence.
Taking time for ourselves, rather than dedicating it to how others perceive us, can only be a good thing. For our own wellbeing, we need to be able to stay in touch with who we are outside of others’ expectations, and the first step to doing this is to recognise that we’re more than just an online brand. Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves that our self-worth extends way beyond a like button.
Writer | Digital Content Creator | DJ @ Josie Bee