Reel Life vs Real Life

Hi there, I’m Claire. I joined the Harmless training team in November to support Harmless with their vital work raising awareness of self harm, suicide and mental health. Despite being here such a short time, I’ve already had some very interesting and thought-provoking conversations. One of these inspired this blog post.

I’ve read lots of articles and blogs about how we portray ourselves online, some making me think hard about “reel life” vs “real life”. I read somewhere that our Facebook posts are like our life’s highlight reel. We rarely show off the boring and hard side to life, instead focusing on our best bits. In our ever-growing comparison and celebrity-inspired society, this can make things pretty difficult, especially for children and young people.

I know that for me, I don’t post pictures where I’m makeup free, exhausted, upset, anxious, stressed or depressed. This is a personal choice as it would make me feel incredibly vulnerable. I don’t want to feel more vulnerable than I already do.

Anyone growing up with social media around them is surrounded by images of people at their “best”; a filtered, altered version of reality. Issues around young people’s self-esteem plummeting to an all-time low, and anxiety at an all-time high are very apparent and problematic. Back in my school days, you compared yourself to those around you at school, then went home and got on with life before repeating the same the following day. I’m not sure what I would have done if I’d had social media, smart phones, apps and an image-filled world of eyebrows on fleek, contouring, vloggers and the high life thrown at me 24/7.

The way we compare ourselves to others has changed. The online world is focused more and more on images, pictures, selfies, snapchats. Growing up comparing your “ordinary” life to someone else’s highlight reel can enable an inwards-spiral downwards into incredibly low self-esteem and issues around identity. This can and has resulted in some young people turning to self harm and even suicide.

The late, great Maya Angelou said “if you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude”. Maybe we need to apply this to online life. We should take everything we see online with a pinch of salt. Reel life can look fabulous, care-free, exciting and filtered. Real life on the other hand is challenging, draining and sometimes very dull. There is no “edit” option. There’s nothing wrong with this, but for all of the children out there growing up in our online world, we need to remind them that life has ups and downs. We need to build resilience, critical judgement and emotional wellbeing.

Now let me go and take a selfie whilst I’m feeling cheery…


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