One of the most courageous things that any of us can do today is to be genuinely honest about who we are – for “real”. Most of us present the “highlight reel” – those parts of our lives that we want everyone to see, while the true and whole self stays safely tucked away. This is typical social behaviour and, although we could all benefit from being more honest about how we feel, it hasn’t caused extreme problems until the increase in social media.
Anyone engaged in social media may find themselves comparing their whole life to the “highlight reel” of other peoples lives they see on social media. We compare our appearance, the friends, social life, trips and other aspects and assume that this is their whole life – free of the problems, stresses and lack that we may be experiencing in our own life.
This has a serious impact on youth and is contributing, along with many other social factors, to heightened anxiety. Their developing sense of identity is greatly influenced by how they measure themselves to a standard set through social media. This isn’t about trying to determine if social media is good or bad because it is an integrated part of our lives and it’s not going anywhere. This is about creating ways to work with it to ensure youth develop a sense of self that includes a feeling of belonging, self-acceptance and self-love.
There are a couple of key things we can do to help: one is to create safe spaces within our environments where children can voice their feelings to a friend, parent or teacher. This, along with validating their feelings and provide support if needed, is empowering. Often the very expression of feelings itself is healing and helps to calm anxiety.
This simple act also creates a ripple effect in that, one person sharing a small vulnerability, ultimately creates a safe space for others to do the same. Secondly, as the adults in their lives, we need to be mindful of striving to be honest about our own feelings. For many of us this is difficult, however when this kind of sharing of feelings becomes the norm, it will be met with a positive response from others.
When the “highlight reel” that is posted on social media is viewed from the backdrop of a deeper understanding that we all have stresses and worries in life, we will all be more empowered, compassionate and experience greater well-being.