Editor’s Letter: On Being Social & the Truth Behind the FilterBy Angelica Malin
“So…. Can you stop?” my boyfriend asked, after I professed over dinner that social media was messing with my head and mental wellbeing. Stop? How could I stop? My whole job is social, I told him. I run a magazine whose whole world is Twitter and Instagram – our audience, readership, fan-girls and haters, are all online. Christ, 60% of traffic comes through Twitter alone. No, stopping was out of the question. But, how, then do you stay sane when your job is to be online the whole damn time? How do you detox mentally with all the information you’re consuming, day in, day out? Is it possible to thrive, to be nourished, online?
There’s an awful lot happening online at the moment which makes me uneasy. Truth is, never before has there been such easy access to a wealth of information about other women’s lives, eating habits, abs and bikini bodies. (I say women because, according to April 2016 data from comScore, 42 percent of Instagram’s 108 million unique visitors were male, while 58 percent were female*). Thousands upon thousands of pictures, captions and videos that allow us to delve into each other’s lives with no accountability – it’s like walking around the world wearing the Cloak of Invisibility, with the unique power to stalk other women’s obliques. It’s dangerous. It’s fucking dangerous – and we don’t say it enough.
Social media is more about psychology and sociology, than it is about technology. Our usage on social is huge. In the last year**, 76% of adults use Facebook daily, 51% of adults use Instagram daily and 42% of adults use Twitter daily. And yet, how often do we talk about how it effects us mentally?
I’m going to be totally honest with you, lovely readers, because honesty is at the core of what About Time is: I struggle. I struggle an awful lot. With body image, with comparison, with endless scrolling, with guilt. It would be impossible not to, when your Instagram home feed is full of other girls in bikinis, sweaty HIIT routines, chia seed pudding, defined stomachs and protein smoothies, and you’ve only just managed to get out of bed before 10am, haven’t been home in 6 days and are wearing odd socks. When your life is a box of receipts from 2015 that still needs to be filed, a parking fine that’s 3 months overdue and an office that is bursting at the seams with selfie sticks and aloe vera water samples, it’s hard not to feel guilt when compared to the perfectly manicured, glossy photos you see on Instagram.
Truth is, I have come to find comfort in the sheen of Instagram. And I’m going to tell you how. Once you come to accept (crucial) that isn’t Instagram isn’t real life – the people you see aren’t always eating brunch, or working out in matching marble-printed active wear or getting a blow dry – you can learn to love the photos you see, and welcome it, as a shiny, filtered and highly-edited break from real life. Real life is mortgages, tax returns, broken printers and missed buses, Instagram is all wide smiles, avocado toast, giant sunglasses and iced lattes – and I’m OK with that. Real life is tough, disorganized, stressful and busy, and I find comfort in the inevitably perfect, grid-shaped version of other people’s. No-one wants to see a Boomerang of you doing the dishes now, do they? They would much rather see wine, travels and sunsets.
But what’s my point? My point is that we all need a reminder, from time to time, that what we see online is a total performance of our selves – a sexed-up, romanticized version of our otherwise rather dull existence. We’re all in a play, and Instagram allows us to take centre stage, performing the best version of ourselves – when, in truth, we’re normally a walk-on part or the one that gets shoved in a donkey costume at the back of the stage. Don’t allow yourself to believe in the filter of social media. As someone who is often classed an “influencer” online (“WHO do you influence?” my other half always asks), I’ll tell you for free that I leave out all the hard bits, the sad bits, the boring bits, the un-sexy bits, because I don’t think it’s what you want to see. We’re surrounded by our own truth every day, and sometimes it’s nice to dive into someone else’s unreality, rather than our own. Accept. Nourish yourself. Grow.
You don’t need me to tell you that the only person who cares whether your thighs wobble as you walk, your tummy rolls when you sit down or you get you a drip of cleavage sweat on a hot day, is you. Honestly, no-one else sees what you see – they are too busy worrying about their own life stuff. Health is about what works for you – whether that’s lifting weights, going for a long walk or a deep stretching session in a park – there’s no “right” way to be fit. If you don’t want to splash out on LuluLemons, boutique boxing gyms or a FitBit, that’s A-OK. You’re doing fine, just as you are, take it from me. I give you permission to live your best life, whatever that looks like to you.