Social Media. Love it or hate it, it is here to stay, along with the seemingly endless articles about its damaging effects, such as bullying, depression and misinformation.
I want to think that it is only a lower percentage of social media users who intentionally set out to entrap and bully others, and that these few keyboard warriors cause most of the damage as they cowardly hide behind their screens.
Then there are the “influencers”, labelled as proud and selfish, and blamed for many drastic actions taken by their followers – at times with a devastating end result.
Yet as I found myself getting rather worked up recently over 'baby belly' glamour posts that appear to be ever-so-prevalent in this generation, I had to ask myself if the people posting are entirely to blame. Do we not have a responsibility to be humble and maintain a balanced view of ourselves so that we don't become ensnared or enraged by social media comments and posts?
Social media jealousy is officially a 'thing'. It is described as the feeling of envy associated with reading what people post and share online. This world where everyone seems ecstatic - apart from us - is blamed as the reason many followers feel bad about themselves every day. It is labelled as the cause of low self-esteem, competitiveness, self-loathing and even suicide. But is it really?
The concept of only putting the best photos of yourself and/or your family on display is not new. Before the invention of cameras, sketch artists and painters would provide portraits depicting 'the best self' for display on everything from castle walls to soldiers' pockets on the battlefield.
It wasn't that long ago when we would have our photos developed at the local Kodak store and sift through the many still shots until we found one we liked for a photo frame or album. Rarely was a photo chosen that didn't reflect a person at their best.
Yet, there was no such thing as photo-album-jealousy or wall-painting-envy. In fact, photo albums were a way of bonding with family, friends and guests to generate stories and bring back memories. It was a nostalgic moment, not one you walked away from with low self-esteem or self-loathing.
Comments such as 'You look beautiful in that photo' or 'I love that photo of you' would be heard instead of 'oh, she definitely used a filter for that one!' or 'that is so photoshopped'.
Today, it still isn't considered boastful to display your best photos or highest achievements. People don't have to consciously limit the time they spend looking at your family photo album or that photo on your fridge so that they don't make pointless or unhealthy comparisons. Tell me, what is the difference between a home/office wall, a photo album book and photo albums online?
Could it be that we, as followers, need to take some responsibility for our social media envy? Our compelling need to read through all the posts or flick through all the photos as we spiral downwards into a pit of despair?
Personally, I find the latest fad of glamour pregnancy photos repulsive - one more way to exploit a natural process for money. Those of us who have been pregnant know full-well you don't look and feel like that. Those who have never been pregnant get the wrong idea of what pregnancy is really like. I could rant on forever on the subject because I am passionate about it. Why am I passionate about it?
If I was truthful with myself, it is because I drew the short straw regarding happy, uncomplicated pregnancies. So when I see these posts, I am envious. That, my readers, is my problem. The women who post these photos have no responsibility for me feeling this way.
After viewing what I called a 'pornographic pregnancy photo' of my best friend on her social media page, I paused in the middle of a very emotional rant and asked myself, 'If I was shown this in a family photo album at a person's home, what would my response be?'
The reality is, I would have genuinely said, from the heart, 'What a lovely photo of you. I wish I had done something similar when I was pregnant.' The interaction would be positive, bonding and nostalgic. So why is a social media photo any different?
We need to stop blaming everyone else for making us feel bad with their social media posts and take responsibility for our emotional reactions. Our self-esteem is not their responsibility. Not everything is about us.
If a post suggests that someone is more successful or having more fun than us - good for them! No one puts a photo of them at their worst on display. Okay, so they use the toilet too! But do you really want to see a post on that?