op-ed: no social media validation needed!

November 5, 2014

It was a Tuesday afternoon – probably around 2pm – and I sat on my parent’s couch in the big t-shirt I’d slept in the night before, and with a soup bowl’s worth of tea in front of me. Force of habit led me to check my Facebook on my laptop; I don’t know why I do it. I don’t update my statuses, I rarely ever check my inbox and nobody’s life interests me enough to make me want to check up on them. I literally have no reason whatsoever to keep Facebook except for event invitations, and even then a text message would suffice. You know, sometimes I think I keep the social networking site purely as a means of self-torture. I must do because here I was, completely uninterested in the people on my dash yet killing myself by taking in images of the best holidays ever, the strongest relationships since Bonnie and Clyde, and recent employments for banking giants and national newspaper publications.
My own life was a far cry from what I was seeing online. I can pretty much only afford one (European) holiday a year while my peers were going on several a year from Europe to Asia to the Americas. My last arrangement that was even close to a relationship ended more than a year ago and he is currently shacking up with one of my friends. Oh – and I’m still unemployed despite graduating with flying colours from a good university and a number of experience and credentials to my name.

By Tash Vals, AFROPUNK Contributor *

Of course comparing your triumphs to those of other people is always a dangerous habit to fall into, especially when you’re not taking into consideration the lengths that those people may have gone to in order to achieve said triumphs. Although you don’t wish misfortune on others (I would hope), it’s very easy however to feel a little bit “injusticed” over your circumstances especially when you know how much you’re capable of. If like me you’ve found yourself stuck in a rut and need some perspective/encouragement/a kick up the butt, then this article is here to deliver some home truths and hopefully we can remind ourselves that all is not lost.

First thing’s first: stop comparing yourself to other people! If you allow yourself to cling onto this habit there will always be someone with ‘a better life’ than you, and you’ll never be satisfied. Chances are the only reason you’re feeling some type of way is because social media is constantly rubbing your failures in your face. In fact – When you think about it, social media has become little more than a virtual window shopping experience.

It is exactly like strolling through Barney’s with a dollar in your pocket, because by logging in you are subjecting yourself to a world that you cannot afford to be a part of – a party you weren’t invited to. But bear in mind the age old adage that money doesn’t buy happiness. A Birkin bag doesn’t compensate for failed marriages and alcohol addictions and (stay with me here) similarly that girl who used to sit across from you in Chemistry doesn’t have a perfect life just because she managed to secure her bikini body in time for her Cabo getaway. The truth is, on social media we only show people what we want them to see. We may not mention that our brand new car is actually on loan, or that our luxury holiday has left us in a pile of debt. Yet we paint these pictures of perfection for our audiences and hapless souls like me find ourselves window shopping the lives of others.

What we don’t realize however, is that simply through blogs and Instagram almost every single one of us is guilty of browsing and coveting the life experiences of strangers.
We reblog all of these pictures of beautiful landscapes and art installations, fashion shows we aren’t invited to, celebrities we don’t know, beautiful boys we’ll never date and beautiful girls we’ll never be – what torture! Instead of living out these adventures, we settle for showing our anonymous approval of somebody else’s partaking by liking and reblogging. This is all while we work our 9-5s and seek ‘adventure’ for a week away every now and then to a tourist resort.

I think it’s time we either summon up the courage and means to make purchases on our aspirations, or choose to walk away and find them elsewhere.

Maybe once we’ve found pure satisfaction in our lives, we’ll learn to put aside the iPhone and just enjoy the moment. As empowering as the selfie is however, is it really empowering if you’re waiting on tenterhooks for the agreement of your beauty in the form of ‘likes?’ Is your hyper-opinionated statement of political activism only credible if it receives 50+ retweets?
Was your month spent trekking the Himalayas any less meaningless if your Instagram followers don’t approve of your visual evidence?

Nayyirah Waheed put it beautifully in her book Salt when she wrote:
‘Would you still want to travel to that country if you could not take a camera with you?’
Things may not be how I’d hoped they would at this stage, but I’m trying this thing where I pull my life away from the display window and close up shop. Life is not a show or spectator sport and it is not for sale. Most importantly however, we need to stop gazing at merchandise that wasn’t made for us. The goods at your own store are valuable enough and can become even with patience and hard work. No more window shopping.
It’s time to go home.

* Tash Vals on social networks: @ohlookitsTash