Be real? Social media still lacks authenticity

Illustration of an Instagram post of a windsurfer on the ocean and a person standing on the shore.
Halcyon Orvendal / The Mossy Log

Nowadays, it is very easy to take out your phone or camera to snap a photo to keep. Only a short while ago photos were taken on film and put in photo albums, but in the new digital era, social media profiles are the new album. Instagram especially is a way for people to easily post and share their favorite photos to close friends or the entire world, but it is changing the reasons why we take pictures and share them online.

Social media has evolved from a place where people can share photos and videos that they have taken, into a platform where people shape their lives both consciously and subconsciously around what they might be able to upload online. People do more reckless things when they know they are on camera, artists curate their feeds to posts that are easy to make and everyday people only post when they feel like they have something unique to share, such as vacations. 

Even though social media came from a place of interest for other’s activities and keeping up with friends, it has turned into a competition on who has the most interesting life, breeding a toxic environment where all you do is compare yourself to others. It is common, now, for people to only post things when they feel like they are equally as interesting as the things that their friends are doing, such as concerts, festivals, hanging out with friends and traveling. Even when we take a picture with the intention of sharing it, it removes us from the moment and consistently feeds our sense of jealousy where we must prove to everyone else that our lives are more entertaining. 

In order to fight this generation’s tendency to be inauthentic on the internet, an app called BeReal has gained popularity. It encourages users to post unfiltered photos of themselves and what they are doing at unknown and random times of the day. Users receive a notification on their phone, telling them that they have two minutes to capture what they are doing. Most people have a small audience on this app, lowering the need to falsely perform. Even though what you post might be another picture of you studying, your friends will likely be posting something equally as irrelevant. This is helping to dismantle the idea that our lives on other social media platforms are true.

However, even BeReal cannot break the cycle of wanting to perform for the internet. Despite the app’s intention in trying to foster authenticity, it has become a trend to capture the “craziest” BeReal picture or fake it altogether. Even within social media apps that aim to destabilize the idea that we must only post pictures of our vacations, our generation has become so obsessed with performance on all social media platforms that it is impossible to engage in social media without an acute awareness of the lives of others. For example, BeReal still allows those who can take many vacations an opportunity to showcase their wealth, despite its good intentions. 

Social media has drastically impacted our lives by the manner in which we desperately seek validation by hundreds, if not thousands, of people we barely know. It is up to individuals to recognize their own subconscious beliefs that they must always perform for a camera. It might seem impossible to be authentic online, but that does not mean we should stop trying.

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