A few weeks ago, Australian teenager Essena O’Neill nearly broke the internet with her tearful plea urging others to open their eyes to the “contrived perfection” that some social media fanatics strive to achieve. Although the viral video has garnered more criticism than praise, there’s no doubt that the phenomena that is social media has directly affected the way most of us go about our daily lives. While I might not completely agree with everything Essena stands for (girl, why are you asking people to pay your rent and criticizing those who can make a career out of this?) I do think this young woman is wise for admitting her faults and highlighting the dangers of living an edited life.
Whether we’d like to admit it or not, we’re all guilty of living on the internet to some degree. Rather than welcoming a lull in a conversation, many people might find themselves immediately reaching for their pocket computers and clicking the Facebook, Twitter or Instagram icon without a thought.
We upload photographs of our lives onto various platforms with the hopes we will gain recognition in the forms of hearts, likes and comments. While it isn’t always the case, many of us feel slightly more validated when we receive this digital approval from our peers. It all seems quite silly when it’s broken down simply like that, isn’t it?
One of the industries where this type of mindset certainly prevails is travel blogging. We’re all guilty of it: posting photographs of ourselves in breathtaking locations accompanied by a caption prepared to perfection. We occasionally pick up our phones to check how many of our friends or followers have approved of our decision – the more hearts or likes it receives, the better we feel. Despite the fact that we are living adventurous lives and experiencing things we’ve always dreamed of, some may think it selfish and self-consuming to virtually shout, “Look at me! My life is exciting!”
Truth be told, any sane human knows that traveling is far more than a series of carefully selected and edited photographs. While it is thrilling, and perfect at times, travel is also beautifully frustrating at times and can be hectic, ugly and challenging.
To piggy back Essena O’Neill’s quest for authenticity, I figured I would share a few photos of myself and reveal the real stories behind them.
This stairwell used to be the background on my phone before I moved to Korea. I had no idea that it was in Seoul until I moved here (funny how the universe works like that, huh?)
When I discovered this I obviously had to take a photo sitting on it. James and I spent a lot of time waiting for the crowds to move so we could each get a photograph without any foot traffic or people in the background. This day was extremely hot, humid and there were people EVERYWHERE – it was certainly not as peaceful and effortless as it looks. It took a lot of dedication for one photograph!
I don’t know if I’ve ever been as miserable traveling as I am in this photograph. The zipper on my coat had burst the day before, my hands were frozen solid despite the fact I was wearing thick gloves, and Beijing’s air quality was at an all-time low. I remember my feet being cold, hungry, wet and ready for a nap. The smile and love for the Pittsburgh Steelers is real, though!
I’d just finished hiking Korea’s tallest mountain wearing SNEAKERS and it was covered in SNOW. I hadn’t eaten in about 8 hours, was slightly hungover and lost literally all of my friends on the way up the mountain. However, the smile is genuine because look at that view!
This is 100 percent staged. ~*Candid momentz on Chicago boat parties*~
As you can see, it’s hard to tell what’s going on behind the scenes. I don’t think Essena’s revolution will affect the social media realm in the long-term, but I do think it’s important for people to remember that social media isn’t always an honest portrayal of someone’s life. Don’t compare yourselves to others and don’t ever let social media determine your self worth.