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Do you really like me? Is it, is it real?

Why are we so obsessed with being “liked”?  

The way we look.

The way we live?

Our relationships?

My 15  year old son recently complained that his latest Instagram post had “only” got 28 likes in the first hour. Who cares, really? 

More often than not, girls, and perhaps, as I’ve now realised, to some extent boys too, crave likes on photos so heavily filtered and edited, they are almost unrecognisable from reality. The likes they do get are based on a false, fake image.. It’s got me thinking…. Surely it’s better to get real likes based on the way we really are? Why do we care if a guy we knew 10 years ago, who at the time was only the mate of a mates brother, likes our pictures or not? A guy who, if we passed in the street, probably wouldn’t recognise us without our alien proportions or dog ears. And it’s not just our selfies. It’s photos of where we are, what we’re doing. Are we really that bothered about what each other get up to? Is it a desire to be liked? Or an inner goal to try and make people jealous of our lives? A portrayal that life is way more interesting or exciting than it is?  Think about it, that’s just weird. Are we really all big show offs?

I’m not a hypocrite, I freely admit that I’m guilty of it too. Going for a drink somewhere fancy, post a picture of it, but in reality, by the time I’ve posted the photo, I’m already at home in my PJs watching Netflix. I suspect, every day life seems so mundane in its routine, perhaps even boring, we grab onto anything “different” in an attempt to make better memories.  Everyone else seems to be doing so much more. The selfies are enhanced to feel better about ourselves. The rare drinks out are exaggerated to make our lives seem more interesting. If we’re all doing it, how do we know whose, if anyone’s, social media profile is a true representation of their lives?

It’s scary that we live in a world where the majority of us don’t feel like being real is good enough. In a world where we almost feel like we need to compete, keep up, or even out do each other. 
As I said, I’m guilty. Not to the extent of heavily filtered or trying to induce jealousy in anyone, but, in my case, I think I do it to prove to myself, and a handful of others, that I’m doing ok. Doing great, actually.  I’ve wasted too much time in the past not liking myself very much. Too much time sat at home doing nothing. I’m not the same person I was then and my desire to post the good bits, the edited highlights of my life, is fuelled by pride. Pride that I’ve picked myself up and moved myself forward to a point where I can say, I like who I am and my life’s ok. 

I want to delve firstly though, into the editing of selfies. Being totally honest, from a personal point of view, I don’t edit to unrecognisable proportions. I don’t use feature altering filters, and if I do its usually described as “messing with filters”. I tend to use instagram filters to lighten an image, to fade away the dark circles under my over worked eyes. Paler tends to hide my laughter lines. Nothing good lighting and better make up skills couldn’t do.  I don’t give myself bigger eyes, flatter stomach. I worry for the girls who post photos of themselves with a squiggle through their face, or over the tops of their arms, or across their stomachs, scribbling out the bits they don’t like.  Focusing only on the favourite parts of themselves, rather than being happy with themselves just as they are. Girls wish for bigger boobs, lighter hair, fuller lips, social media includes all the tools to make that a possibility. Editing out what makes them unique. Creating a generic photo of a “female”, a hoard of filtered clones. The fluffy eyebrows that softened beautiful eyes, replaced with straight stark lines which offer no character. The roundness of cheeks that rise when you smile, substituted with high cheekbones which cut oddly into the natural shape of your face. Narrow lips suited to a fair English Rose edited to look full and pouty, turning your look from whimsical to unnatural. Why can’t we post real? What validation do we get from people liking fake images of ourselves? I genuinely don’t know how these people leave the house without the comfort of their filtered mask.  It’s creating a delusional generation with unrealistic expectations. Although saying that, it’s not just the younger generation. 41 per cent of adult women told a recent survey that selfies make them “feel more confident.” However, 46 per cent described how, overall, “social media makes me feel more self-conscious about my appearance.” So the fake photos make us insecure and in return make us post our own fake photos…. vicious circle, much?

Now onto the social life that we fool our followers into thinking we have.  The average Facebook user now has about 338 friends, Out of those, we probably could count on one hand how many we see on a regular basis, leaving over 300 others we can lead astray with glorified versions of what we do day to day.  I’ve come to the conclusion that the biggest motivator behind exaggerating a lifestyle is to target an ex. Show them you’re happy without them, better, even. You don’t need them, look what I’m doing now you’ve gone. It’s bordering on ridiculous. Surely, the best way to show you’ve moved on and that you’re happy without them is to show that you are happy doing the normal stuff, you don’t need to distract yourself with nights out, fancy meals etc. You’re just happier regardless. It’s tit for tat, Ex posts a picture with new partner on holiday, you post a picture of a table full of fancy cocktails. Pan out from the square cropped image, to see the ex and his new partner standing next to a run down pub down the road from where they live, which happens to have an exotic looking tree in its beer garden, everything looks better when the suns shining, right? Your fancy cocktails, they were on a buy one get one free offer that you and your friend took advantage of in the bar nearest where you work, and you were both heading home half an hour later. Nothing is ever as it seems. A clever crop can turn a Wetherspoons meal into gourmet cuisine. A clever angle can hide an ugly building to give the illusion you’re in a fancy city. Fake, Fake, Fake! 

Over the years, I’ve done a couple of 100 happy days challenges on Instagram. Some days were easier than others to photograph something that made me happy, but it did play a huge part in making me realise that the little things,, the real life things, are the ones that make me the happiest. Is it the fancy cocktail that makes me happy? No, not really. Having the money that I’ve worked hard to earn to buy the cocktail is far more important. Would having big eyes or dog ears make the meal I’m able to buy for myself taste any better? Time to  focus on what’s real.

Maybe we should all stop focusing on fabricated looks and existence, and take a step back to look at the real parts of our lives. Concern ourselves only with those that see us bare faced and natural, tired and grumpy and disregard the opinions and validation from strangers. 

I think we’d all be a lot happier if we just stopped caring what the world and his wife think of us. 

*Images/memes used were all found via Google search and appear on several Pinterest boards and are being shared on multiple social media platforms.