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Guess what? It’s OK to be single, feel sad or have a few pounds to lose

Social media keeps us connected to each another but disconnected from the truth.

Kate O'Shaughnessy

MICHELLE’S ENGAGED. Brian’s got a new job promotion. Louise and Mark are away on a luxurious holiday – AGAIN. Laura just got the keys to her new South-side apartment. Meanwhile, I’m sitting with a microwave meal, half-watching Big Brother, all the while refreshing my Facebook newsfeed page over and over again.

Everyone else appears to have it better – better relationships, better bodies and better jobs. I feel a pang of anxiety as I look at my newsfeed. I’m 28 years old. I’m single. I spent the last couple of years living abroad having experiences rather than focusing on career prospects or mortgages. I’m exactly where I want to be and I don’t regret much. Yet Facebook is making me wonder if should I be thinking otherwise.

Then I visit my own Facebook page. My beaming, carefree face stares back at me. I realise I keep secret what everybody else does too. Along with my Facebook “friends”, I also appear to live a charmed existence. Judging by my check-ins and photos, all I seem to do is travel, attend festivals and generally have a good time. There is nothing on there that reflects my arguments with loved ones, my insecurities or my money worries. My life is as airbrushed as my Instagram pictures; a sea of specially angled and filtered photos designed to live up to the high pressure environment of social media.

The dark power of social media

Social media channels have a strange power to influence your thoughts. When I meet somebody new, I feel compelled to check out their Facebook profile afterwards, to see who they “really” are. I begin to judge them on their virtual public persona rather than the actual person I have just encountered. I do all this, even though I’m fully aware that my Facebook page certainly doesn’t sum up the person that I am. Sure, you can see my interests, what music I’ve listened to, what films I’ve watched – basically anything superficial about me is there for the world to see. On the other hand, my beliefs, my closest relationships, my ambitions, my attributes or what defines my true character remain veiled.

Real life versus social media is often evident at social gatherings. The music is pumping and the drink is flowing; a glass in one hand and a smartphone in the other. An influx of selfies and statuses and tags pop up on your phone screen, informing acquaintances of who you’re with, what you’re doing and assuring them of how much fun you are having.

If you look around, though, more often than not, people are not interacting with one another face to face but via technology. Ironically, the times I’m genuinely enjoying myself and laughing – that really, really hard laughing you do with your nearest and dearest – Facebook is the furthest thing from my mind. I’m too busy having real fun and enjoying the moment, not just being perceived to be having fun. I update most when I’m feeling needy or bored; times I crave those likes, those self-assuring comments, those temporary ego boosts.

We all have different paths

So, there you have it. Facebook is doing a good job at keeping us connected to one another and an even better one at keeping us disconnected from the truth. Those insecurities are fuelled by comparing our closet lives to our peers’ public lives.

It is important to remember that we tend to only exhibit the most desirable version of ourselves. We need to learn to stop comparing lives as we all have different paths. The more attention we pay to what everyone has and does, the less focus we have on what matters to us. We need to know that it’s OK to be single, to feel sad, to have a few pounds to lose and not always be living a champagne lifestyle. Trust me, you’re not alone.

Now please share this article on your social media platforms – I need all the likes I can get! ;)

Kate O’Shaughnessy is a 28-year-old freelance contributor from Co Wexford. Follow her on Twitter @irelandadvokate or her blog at http://irelandsadvokate.com

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