Fair warning, this post has references to depression and mental health.
It’s important that we speak about these things and this entry doesn’t delve too deeply into them, but not everyone is in the right place to do read about that right now. If this is you, bookmark it (if people still do that) and come back to it on another day, no drama.
We’ll start our story at Run Dem Crew housekeeping.
Charlie Dark was always adamant that social media obfuscated the truth:
Don’t do it for ’gram.
It’s just a highlight reel.
It’s a collection of freeze frames, moments in time that the poster as felt happy with sharing with the world (or at the very least those they have allowed to follow them).
In both of these photos, I was going through a really rough patch – whether it was coming to terms with leaving a city I adored, or struggling with a particularly challenging bout of SAD.
Neither of them show that…
I deliberately left out the links to the posts because if you read the captions, they do both talk about the underlying feelings, but how easy is it to miss them when you’re scrolling through? Double tap the like, and move on assuming that all is well in their world.
In March 2020 I went through a pretty tough series of personal challenges.
One of my first thoughts in this unfathomably turbulent time was how to portray normality on Instagram… Which is completely bonkers!
Was it that I wanted to reassure people that I was okay? Or was it that I was worried what people would think if they knew I wasn’t?
I’m not ashamed of anything that happened, but equally wasn’t going to post ambiguous messages on Instagram or Twitter (apologies if it sounds like I’m doing that right now). I reached out to my closest friends and lent on them for support, privately.
So why did my social feeds have to represent normality in a deeply abnormal time?
Because that’s the norm. That’s the expectation.
So I posted photos of me out on my bike, running, visiting Bristol like everything was a-okay. I probably posted more than normal, and I have 100% found myself mindlessly scrolling others’ feeds. I’ve seen the ‘you’re all caught up’ message way too many times.
Worse still I found myself checking who had ‘watched’ (because it’s easy to just flick through and soak up nothing) my stories. It started to feel a little unhealthy.
Recently I took a trip to the Lake District with two really close friends.
When the idea was mooted I was all for it as an opportunity to escape everything, but by the time it rolled round I was in a considerably better place – counselling is amazing and everyone who is in a position to make use of it should, but that’s a post for another day – and no longer felt the need to run away.
On the first day, I was chatting about this highlight reel phenomenon and the compulsion to show all was well, and it was suggested that I could just not post for the week. An Instagram embargo, if you will.
We made one exception for a deliberately cringey and poser-worthy photo of a couple of beers that matched the edge we’d just scrambled across.
As the week went on, I found myself less bothered about posting things to portray normality, but instead founding myself wanting to share the interesting and exciting bits of the holiday – I was, after all, having a great time.
By the end of the vacay I wanted to share a few highlights, but in a way that wasn’t chasing likes or social validation that what I was doing or how I was feeling was ‘normal’. I have friends and family members whom I don’t speak to often, and it’s nice for them to know what I’m up to. It has also sparked conversations about similar activities others have been doing, or places they’ve been visiting which are all positive things.
So, what then…?
If you thought that this was going to be a delete Instagram style post, then you’re mistaken. You’ll notice this post is peppered with links to photos I’ve posted and that’s deliberate. Deleting one network from your social streams probably doesn’t solve the problem. Understanding it and being in control of it does.
Perhaps this isn’t even a particularly compelling cautionary tale, but it feels to me like it’s something that a lot of people contend with every day with no easy way to talk about it. Engage on social media because you want to, not because you feel you have to represent yourself as something you’re not. I’m going to be making a concerted effort to be more honest on my social channels. It’s okay to not be okay, and I shouldn’t mind doing that publicly.
Try and keep in mind that even though life looks rosey on social media, under the surface it might be entirely different.