This is a picture of my room on a normal afternoon. I didn’t bother fixing it up before taking a photo. Didn’t bother putting on a filter either. I wanted to capture the reality of my Sunday afternoon in all its boring mess. This is what a lot of my days look like when I’m not at school or at the gym. Just like that.
But here’s what I posted on Instagram:
That was my room last Christmas. It’s only that clean twice a year.
The media fills us with extremes nowadays. The world’s best basketball players, the worst of politics, the kids who made it to Harvard, the victims of human trafficking, the fruitful experiences of exchange students in Vietnam, the great lives of Youtubers, and even the filtered, carefully-angled photos of your friends at the beach, brought to you by Instagram.
Whether we realize it or not, we subconsciously measure our worth using these extremes, because they’re the new “normal”, and if we aren’t exceptionally skilled at anything, or relatively good at everything, we suck.
Social media is amazing because we’re more connected and updated now than ever, but there’s always the popular downside of comparing our lives to that of others. We’re aware of this flaw, and while we think we don’t do this anymore, while we think we are “perfect just the way we are”, we don’t.
These extremes projected by the media have been pressuring us harder than we think. We read about 20-year-old startup founders, a 16-year-old who’s just found the cure for diabetes, our friends getting big in the local music industry, the success stories of the youth. We now feel the need to be constantly grinding, otherwise, we’re “lazy”, or “unproductive”. It’s created a generation where we have to always be accomplishing something to even have worth in this society. We feel the need to have our own little success story, because exceptionalism is the new normal. Gone are the highs of participation medals and consolation prizes, we want to make an impact in this world, something beyond ourselves, whatever that means.
Not only do we use exceptionalism to measure our self-worth, but also the quality of our lives. Instagram is the perfect example here, and get this, it’s now Snapchat and Instagram in one app, as if the latter alone wasn’t showy enough.
We scroll through photos everyday, each not seemingly, but definitely planned and filtered. The photo you liked of your friend earlier was probably the 8th out of 34 shots. We know this. We do this ourselves. We put our best photos out there, and why not, right? If a friend of yours looked at your IG feed as a whole, they’d think, “wow, she must be having a blast all the time” but are you, really?
Truth is, most of life is actually boring and regular, and it’s quite interesting how some people have to create separate IG accounts called “Finstas” just to post about what’s really going on in their lives. It clearly goes to show that their main accounts reflect only the best, and sometimes even altered parts of their lives, the great 5%.
Everyone looks like they’re having a blast, and social media makes it seem like it’s happening everyday, and it makes us think, “woah everyone’s at the beach this summer” “everyone’s going hiking” “everyone’s out of the country this break”. Our concept of “everyone” becomes the people on our news feed, on our social media. It’s a little screwed up, but that’s how it is today.
I always thought pictures were meant for milestones, or special moments in our lives, like our firsts and our lasts, but it’s the smaller, more day-to-day things that’ll make us remember what it really was like at whatever age, or point in our lives.
Sometimes, we forget that life isn’t made of extremes, but the mornings you wake up to, the hours you spend in lectures, the rides back home, the days you do groceries, the weekends you’re on the couch watching Netflix, the wee hours of the morning spent wide-eyed in bed, thinking of all the things you possibly messed up that day.
The days of our lives are nothing short of ordinary, humdrum, boring, but that’s the beauty of it. These days make us appreciate seasons like Christmas and Thanksgiving. They make the better days worth waiting for, worth celebrating. There’s a kind of thrill that comes with knowing that not all our days will be an adventure, that there will be bad days, good days, and okay days too. Imagine if it were your birthday everyday, or if it were Halloween everyday. That’d suck. Your actual birthday would then be just a normal day. Everyday would be absolutely spectacular, and before you know it, a drag. You’d always look for more, and life can only give you so much.