Social Media and Perpetual Self-Improvement

Last week, I decided to go low-carb. It was an attempt to finally get ‘bikini-ready’ (even though it’s December). The experiment went swimmingly – for about three hours until I saw someone eating pasta, and my willpower crumbled like freshly ground parmesan cheese. My following crisis over how little resolve I had shown during my quest to become thinner brought me to a realization that is as true as it is harrowing: There is something very wrong with the way we cope with failures in our quest for self-improvement.

Where did things go wrong?

I often try, with very little success, to remember a time before the advent of Instagram. This particular social medium has changed the game profoundly when it comes to beauty standards and how we portray ourselves on the internet. Nowadays, running a successful social media account is an actual job that people are paid handsomely for.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with that. People have always gained a certain satisfaction in being quiet spectators of others’ lives. Using social media is a way to connect with people; and who doesn’t want to feel connected? 

The problematic aspects of social media, however, are being talked about more and more. Many have criticized the harmful side-effects of excessive social media usage. Some have claimed that social media has the potential to ruin one’s life, as Katherine Ormerod illustrates in her TEDx talk. The hamster-wheel of self-improvement and self-fashioning is highly destructive to some, she says. The rift between reality and online spaces is considerable. While some influencers have battled this by sharing their experiences in a more realistic way, others have made the decision to stop posting completely.

Where do we go from here?

We live in a world where we must constantly strive to show others the best version of ourselves that we possibly can find. We need to work harder, become skinnier, run faster. But in times like these, it is instrumental to realize the importance of being content. 

Of course, being satisfied does not mean giving up the need to be better – in order to live, we must constantly adapt to our surroundings. However, being satisfied does mean to accept the status quo as the place whence we started our journey. In order to be better, we must always first know what our starting point is.

It is perfectly fine to be disappointed when we don’t reach our goals – like I was when I had that huge bowl of spaghetti – but we must remember that to fail is to be human. After failures in our quest, however, it is always important to pick ourselves up and try again.

Social media are the hub of our modern cult of self-optimization. They are also here to stay, and nothing we do will make them disappear. Which is exactly why we should learn to live with our failures and use them as a springboard for success, instead of letting shame and fear guide us.So what if I ate pasta today? I can have a salad tomorrow – one slip-up doesn’t mean that I have to give up on achieving my goals.


Header image credit: Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

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About Marie Krebs

Marie is an English student with an interest in anything to do with culture. When she's not writing, she likes to read, cook and dance (preferably not all three at the same time).

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