The 7 Monsters of Unhealthy Phone Use: Monster #2: Inauthenticity we looked at the first monster: The Red Monster of Anger.  Today, I would like us to draw our attention to the Orange Monster of Inauthenticity.

The dictionary described Inauthentic as “not in fact what it is said to be,” “not genuinely belonging to a style or period” and “lacking sincerity.”  The word the majority of us would use to describe something or someone who is inauthentic is “fake.”

Through the years, social media has experienced various phases of inauthenticity or “fakeness.”  Here’s a classic example: young women taking down pictures of themselves when they haven’t received enough likes or comments.  There was even a fad for a few months in Europe where people would spend money on holidays, clothes or accessories which they otherwise could not afford to create a certain persona online.  These individuals would occasionally buy a new dress or suit for no other reason than their new profile picture.  There were even some individuals who “faked” holidays by posing at a local beach and claiming that it was abroad because they simply wanted to fit in and not be left out.  And then, of course, there is the obvious elephant in the room that we can’t ignore “fake news.”  
Social media outlets lend themselves to what North Americans would call “Keeping up with the Joneses” a snappy way of saying “trying to fit in with neighbours and others around us” and what many of us know as “Imposter Syndrome.”  A common phrase we hear is that many use social media to impress people one doesn’t know intimately and who likely don’t really matter or at least are not the ones we need to impress.

People can get caught up in how many followers, friends or subscribers they have on various platforms.  It can almost become a popularity competition.  And yet, as someone who has well over 1,000 friends, I know that I only hold the ability to be emotionally connected and share everything about my life intricately with a handful.  It is an oddity of our time that while someone may have thousands of friends or followers, loneliness and isolation have increased.  I overheard a 20 something say once “I have so many ‘friends’ but I have no idea who I can call to go out for a coffee with.”

Facebook and social media can also give us the wrong impression that everyone’s life is better than ours.  There were once two mums in lockdown. Mum number 1 was a nurse who was working on the frontlines daily and came home exhausted to her two children.  Mum number 2 was a stay at home mum who spent lockdown doing crafts, activities and nature walks with her children.  The two mums were best friends.  One day Mum number 1 wearily called Mum number 2. “I feel so jealous” she confided “your life is so great.  You’re always finding the best crafts on Pinterest, making the best recipes from TikTok and you still have time to blog.” “Are you kidding me?” Asked mum number 2. “I was thinking that you were such a hero for going to work every day and still making a classy dinner for your family at night.” The problem is that Facebook and Insta only show the highlights of our lives.  They show the good points of a friendship, marriage, parenting or pet owning, they don’t show the reality of day to day life and how difficult rather than idyllic it can be.  As a single person, I remember those hours scrolling Facebook seeing “all” my other friends getting married.  They were having fairy tale weddings and seemed to be having an amazing life and then the honeymoon pictures followed by the baby pictures.  It filled my heart with jealousy and envy.  What I didn’t know is that first of all not all of my friends are married (it gives a false perception that was the case) and secondly, within a few years many of those people got divorced.  Facebook made it appear that marriage was all about holidays and concerts.  It didn’t highlight the fights, the messiness with the inlaws, or the truth. In fact, it is a proven statistic that couples who DO NOT share everything about their personal lives online tend to have happier marriages as they feel there are some things which they are still able to keep private between them.  I will never forget the day I once heard a woman who recently went through a divorce confide “the truth is, my husband and I posted all those pictures of us out on trips and events and socializing with other couples, because we simply could not stand being alone with ourselves.”

And fake news is a whole other area which I won’t get into, but suffice it to say, with all the topics floating around in our world, especially topics which many of us have found scary and confusing lately, it becomes a real challenge to sort out the fact from the fiction. 

If you are struggling with being your authentic self on social media, here are a few  tips adapted from a podcast entitled “7 Ways to Have a Healthy Relationship with Social Media” by Nils Smith:

1) Be the authentic you (don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, this could include photoshopping pictures or posting just to impress when it doesn’t add value.  Simply share your life)

2) Don’t play the comparison game (unfollow/hide friends or celebrities who you find triggering)

3) Listen and think before you speak (it’s easy to get a fake confidence when posting or texting and attack people or act cruel when behind a screen rather than in person)

4) Create accountability structures within your life regarding social media (be particularly careful with DMs because these can often have the potential to lead us further into temptations)

5) Set Limits (primarily with your time.  Most phones have a screen time app you can use to help)

6) Encourage, Encourage, Encourage! (Encourage people with a like, a positive comment, or a DM. Try to encourage 1 person a day for 10 days and see how you get on)

7) Have fun! (If you’re not having fun on social media, you’re not doing it right)

Looking forward to writing tomorrow’s lesson on the Yellow Monster.  Any guesses?

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