'Real Simple' Strikes a Blow Against Fake Perfection On Social Media

One of the most annoying things about social media is the way people use it to project an unrealistic, idealized image of themselves. Others take it at face value, making them feel crappy about their own less-than-perfect lives in comparison.
It’s just human nature, of course. It’s entirely understandable that people would want to present themselves in the best light possible on social media. This is, in effect, what we do all the time anyway: combing your hair and putting pants on before you leave the house, driving a fancy car, sending unfailingly cheerful family Christmas cards -- it’s all part of the same process of image-crafting.
But there’s something especially insidious about the idealized images people create on social media. For one thing there is the sheer volume of it: you’re not just seeing one person’s apparently awesome life, but hundreds, nay thousands, of awesome lives.

Then there’s the intimacy of it: you can be skeptical about, say, a carefully posed family Christmas card, but it’s harder to dismiss dozens of photos of awesome family vacations -- even if these are actually just as carefully composed.
Confronted with this uniform awesomeness, a reasonable person might guess that something fishy is going on: I mean, what are the chances that everyone has a perfectly awesome life except you? But it’s easy to lose perspective, and real psychological harm can result.

Last year, researchers from Humboldt University’s Institute of Information Systems and Darmstadt’s Technical University surveyed 600 Facebook users in Germany and found that one-third felt worse after visiting the site. The most prominent negative outcome was a feeling of dissatisfaction with their own lives, which was most commonly triggered by other people’s vacation photos. Another study by the University of Salford in Britain found negative outcomes from social media use including feelings of insecurity or lack of confidence when users compared their achievements to their friends.
That’s why the good people at Real Simple have declared this “Get Real On the Internet Week,” encouraging everyone to share some of the less flattering aspects of our day-to-day existence. Kristin van Ogtrop explains: “For every day until Friday, we’re encouraging people to be completely honest when they post on social media,” with Real Simple staffers leading the way. To take part, people can post the unvarnished truth about their lives with the hashtag #rsgetreal.
The Real Simple Web site is also hosting a caption game “where you can tell us what’s really happening in those annoyingly perfect Facebook pictures,” as well as a photo album of “Kodak moments gone awry.”



5 comments about "'Real Simple' Strikes a Blow Against Fake Perfection On Social Media".
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  1. Martin Pratt from Unidad Solutions for Marketing and Media, January 13, 2014 at 1:47 p.m.

    This may be completely different experience among class/socioeconomic lines... I spend 16 hours per day on social media maintaining and promoting events, authors, creating buzz for activism and writing articles on politics, tech and racial issues. One of the main thing that i see is the exact opposite so much discontent, heartbreak and sadnesss. I would definitely advocate for LESS REALNESS please!!! But then again i am one of the 99% versus one of the 1%

  2. Steve Sarner from if(we), January 13, 2014 at 2:20 p.m.

    Erik - I tend to agree with Martin here...while there are plenty of people trying to "look their best" my experience is there are an equal if not greater number who define TMI and NOT in a flattering way. I think a week of post nothing would be more refreshing. :) Happy New Year

  3. Martin Pratt from Unidad Solutions for Marketing and Media, January 13, 2014 at 2:58 p.m.

    Good idea Steve i love that.

  4. Erik Sass from mediapostpublications, January 13, 2014 at 3:11 p.m.

    Ha ha, absolutely! Let's see how many people can abstain from social media for a whole week.

  5. Kate Hutchinson from EMC, January 14, 2014 at 12:15 p.m.

    I have two thoughts on this:

    If all you're seeing on Facebook is perfect friends and perfect lives, maybe you need new friends, or an attitude adjustment. Try remembering that stuff on the Internet isn't necessarily true, and nothing should be taken at face value. And then consider how much perfecting you do to your own content.

    Second, for Erik, I took a two week vacation over the holidays, designated someone else to cover my day job social, and didn't get on a social network at all. I was really, really sorry to have to come back to it.

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