Behind the screens: Social media’s empty images are hurting our mental health.

Allie Sutton
·3 min read

Your version of heaven-on-earth displayed through the model-status and dream-destination photos of others is an illusion. What you really consume through social media are filtered images tailored to fit your mind’s unrealistic expectations of perfection.

Every dream you envision, every goal you wish to achieve, everything you aspire to be is all in the palm of your hand, inside the screen that welcomes you into a kaleidoscope of individual worlds lived by those across the globe… or so it seems.

A snapshot of someone’s life displayed on social media could never reveal the reality behind the screen.

To her 47,000 TikTok followers, Kayla Kahn, 20, is known as a beloved Walt Disney World entertainer and cosplay creator. To me, however, Kahn is a dear friend whom I know has endured and conquered more adversity than one her age ever should have to.

“Someone looking at my social media wouldn’t know that I struggle a lot with mental health,” Kahn told me in an interview. “I have depression, anxiety, and ADHD. They also wouldn’t know that a lot of my anxiety and depression stems from the trauma of my younger brother’s death from cancer in 2018.”

Kahn is one of many who escapes her reality by utilizing social media to show the world only what she wants it to see.

“Social media is essentially a highlight reel,” said Kahn. “I want people to see the best parts of me.”

Many social media users create content with the intention of portraying the best version of themselves. However, the footage that shows life’s harsh realities rarely makes the final cut.

According to an August article written in the Digital Marketing Blog, 3.96 billion people across the globe have social media accounts and use them for approximately 144 minutes every single day.

Active social media consumers continuously search for a level of perfection that doesn’t exist. Their idea of a perfect world is driven by a facade plastered all over a digital platform they believe can be trusted.

Members of Generation Z have never known a world without the internet and social media. A survey conducted by the American Psychological Association concluded the mental health of Gen Z is less likely to be good as compared to other generations.

The myriad of mental health concerns among young adults can stem from the isolation, loneliness, and fear of missing out which social media often initiates, according to the Center for Mental Health.

“Social media tends to negatively feed into harmful social constructs that are not realistic such as perfect skin and slim figures,” said Sydney Amos, 21, a student at Eastern Kentucky University.

Not only is it important to recognize the unseen reality of imperfections that social media hides, but it is imperative to understand how one can be affected by the unrealistic standards social media content entices.

“I think a lot of body image issues that we are seeing are coming directly from the media where comparison is encouraged,” said Grace Gorby, 21, a student at Asbury University.

Images and videos shown on your feed can be deceiving. As a college student and social media user myself, I would never suggest cutting yourself off completely from the world of social media. However, it is imperative to recognize that social media posts only represent a small piece of a larger, imperfectly raw reality.

Understand your worth. Your dreams, goals, and aspirations are still within reach. Do not let the illusion of social media’s alternate reality convince you to work toward an unrealistic level of perfection that will never truly exist. Instead, maintain your focus on what successes can be your reality.

Allie Sutton is a senior media communications major at Asbury University and station manager of the school’s radio station.