Musings on Social Media: Ain’t It Romantic?

I wonder why so many things are romanticized.

It’s almost like they have to be in order for our culture to perpetuate the ideas behind them, whether they are good or bad. I think the word has a negative connotation because people typically use it in association with unhealthy habits or behaviors. Proper nutrition, healthy relationships, simple living, appreciating what you have, an equal society…these things are not romanticizeable. But they also don’t sell or resonate with the masses like drug use, abusive relationships, excess materialism, or traditional gender roles do. These things, if marketed well enough, can slip through the cracks of people’s ignorance or indifference and become acceptable in our society. These ideas are seeds that have already been planted in mainstream culture for decades and centuries, so all that The Big Guys have to do is subtly alter them to make them appealing or masked and unrecognizable.

Here is one example that has bothered me for years: living a life of self-deprecation and indifference is NOT cute, but somehow it has turned into a romanticized inside joke, especially with my generation. I get that humor is a coping mechanism for some people, but this seems different. Since when is it cool to hate yourself and the entire world?! This has always confused me because I see passion in any aspect of life as the most attractive quality someone can have. So why are people afraid to show that they actually care about things?

I think that to hide these insecurities, we have become desperate to present our lives as the subject of ultimate envy. We romanticize the moments of the past as better than they were (like a perfectly put together Insta photo of you and your best friends from last night before everyone puked an hour later, but the sparkle and glam is how you remember the whole thing) and the future as a glimmering vision of what we hope will be. Obviously no one wants to share the real, deeply personal, or negative parts of their life on the Internet — and realizing this is key to not letting them heavily influence your view of yourself and your own life — but it is scary for me to think about how many of my ambitions, dreams, and opinions are shaped by the media I take in. I am guilty of looking at photos of my friends all dressed up for a night out and shaming myself for not having as much of a social life as they do. I remind myself that what I see online is only the tip of the iceberg, but it still affects me and leaves me feeling bad about myself. Hell, at some point after I graduate I want to travel the country in a Volkswagen hippie van and “be one with nature,” even though in reality a road trip is nowhere near effortless or idyllic. Where do you think that #lifegoal came from? It was informed and shaped by what I read and see on the Internet. How much of what I actually think and feel is completely original and free of influence? Probably nothing, and that is so disconcerting to me.

Every second of every day is saturated with images, videos, movies, music, and constant media, so much so that it’s basically unheard of to actually like your life as it is now. Why enjoy the present reality when you’re surrounded by messages telling you to reimagine it as something different and better?

Can I digest things at face value or do I need a layer of fluff to make them more palatable? Am I even able to take a step back and recognize the good, the bad, the real, and appreciate it all? Can I separate myself from the romanticism?

Can any of us?

I wrote this in my journal a few months ago and recently found it, and it’s brought up a lot of ponderings for me. I’m sorry if my thoughts seem jumbled here — I was just bursting to get it out! I hope my words make sense. How do you feel about romanticism in social media and our digital lives today? How does seeing other people’s lives on social media affect you? What does all of this mean? Leave a comment and let’s have a conversation.

Stay free! xo

— Morgan


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