Award-winning South African rap artist Cassper Nyovest took to Instagram to caution his fans against being sucked into the often disingenuous world of social media. Nyovest reflects on how dangerous social media can be and how it breeds anxiety while perpetuating fabrications about the lives people lead.
Deep insecurities, anxieties and episodes of depression are masked by the gold veneer of constant streams of people living their best lives at wine estates, elite parties and high-end restaurants. The culture of voyeurism ushered in by our social media-saturated lives has become definitive of modern society and encourages unhealthy competition in addition to dishonesty.
A study conducted in Austrailia found an alarming mismatch where two-thirds of women in their survey felt that it is wrong for magazines to alter their pictures to make women look thiner and smoother, and yet more than half of those respondents admitted to using editing apps or software to edit their own pictures before posting them on social media. With the rise of apps such as the ModiFace Photo Editor, Photowonder and Perfect365, photo-editing has become commonplace.
Another study carried out in 2012 by Anxiety UK found that more than 50 percent of their respondents who are social-media frequenters saw their behaviour change negatively. The study found that those who saw their behaviour negatively impacted cited factors such as comparing themselves to others, having difficulty being able to disconnect and relax, as well as becoming confrontational online that were causing problems in their relationships and affecting their work. The study also found that 45 percent of people who were unable to access their social networks (one in one of the experiments) found that they felt worried or uncomfortable as a result. In a similar study, "The Facebook Experiment: Does social media affect the quality of our lives?" by the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark, researchers found that participants of their study who abandoned Facebook were more decisive and enthusiastic, and were less worried, lonely and stressed compared to those who were on Facebook.
In an interview with The Local, Meik Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, said that "Facebook distorts our perception of reality and of what other people's lives really look like. We take in to account how we're doing in life through comparisons to everyone else, and since most people only post positive things on Facebook, that gives us a very biased perception of reality." This warped sense of reality applies to all social media platforms including Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, which are used to broadcast both highlight reels as well as everyday activities like eating and going to the gym. Often the video and photo reels we're bombarded with are not even close to their reality.
A teenage girl struggling with anorexia wouldn't broadcast to the world that the picture of her neatly arranged plate of raspberries is a depiction of the only thing that she has eaten the whole day. An upload of an Instagram photo at bar captioned "having a great time with my friends" might have been followed by an episode of depression, and a Facebook Live broadcast of a wild party might have been followed by a drunken fight with hospitalisation consequences.
Things are often not what they seem, as Nyovest points out.