Let’s get real on social media right now


Pretending that the lockdown is an #amazing opportunity for personal growth is destructive.

Because it isn’t.

It’s a global pandemic.

It’s awful.

And pretending that it is actually a time for making #banana bread, spending wonderful meaningful time as a family, learning to macramé in Japanese or writing an inspiring novel about making gluten-free treats with home-grown coriander, can be downright harmful.

Because, no matter how hard people are pretending that they are not fighting with their family members, worrying about how they will pay their mortgage and wrestling with anxiety and depression — the reality is that they are.

In fact, the more that people pretend that these things aren’t happening, the surer we can be that they are. When we pretend (and we all do it) that this isn’t the case, we do everyone a disservice. Because it makes us feel even worse about ourselves. And when one is in the middle of a global pandemic/economic collapse, the last thing one needs is to feel worse about things.

During an actual, real, total crisis, we need to acknowledge that just surviving it is something of an achievement. As my mother is fond of saying: “Sometimes, survival is victory”. Which is true. 

It’s not as if during the World War II Blitz that Londoners, who were being bombed every night, made themselves feel bad because they weren’t doing Tai Chi with their children every morning or baking tasty vegan treats as the V2 rockets destroyed Islington. That gritty bunch was what everyone calls the “Greatest Generation” — so it seems a bit ambitious to hold ourselves to that standard.

Social media has, as we all know, been a well-documented cause of anxiety, depression and low self-esteem over the past decade. When we place the best 1% of their lives (or an entirely imaginary 0% of our actual lives) online, our friends/network mistakenly assume that our entire life is something like that. And, as has been documented hundreds of times over, then feel worse about their own lives.

Psychologically it is poisonous at the best of times and, it seems reasonably safe to say, right now is not exactly the best of times, making behaviour like that doubly destructive.

So, perhaps one thing that can come out of the disaster/debacle/horror show that is coronavirus, could be more honest use of social media. Maybe we shouldn’t only be uploading the best 000.1% of our life, or the part that we desperately want to pretend is true when it isn’t. Maybe we should be sharing what our lives are really like – the good, the bad and also the ugly. Especially right now.

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John Davenport
John Davenport is the chief creative officer of Havas Southern Africa.

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