As I was deliberating on what to write about this week, for some reason, my mind kept going back to social media and how this ‘thing’, which did not even exist until a few years ago, has taken over our lives and irrevocably consumed us.
For some reason, we are compelled to be different people on social media. We feel hard-pressed to look perfect, happy and glamorous, the irony being that we do it for strangers viewing us on gadgets from miles away.
For women, and I should know, taking a photo for social media is a whole ceremony – we will dress up, wear make-up, go to the salon to have our hair freshly coiffed or buy a new weave, have a manicure and pedicure, and even pose in heels that we can barely walk in.
Once the shoot is over, we gratefully shed off the uncomfortable wig and thankfully step out of the tottering heels that were already giving us a backache, yet all we did was stand in the same spot. It’s a spectacle, I tell you.
As for the men, they will pose in the gym holding weights they have no intention of lifting, while some will pose next to a borrowed car or take a photo of an especially expensive whiskey and write something like, “…let the games begin.”
The fact is that many of us have phony online personas, and while all that insincere posting may be harmless, keeping up appearances denies us a chance to be ourselves, putting us under unnecessary pressure that just ups our anxiety levels.
That is why I get impressed when I come across people on social media who seem not to care what that virtual world thinks of them; people who have the guts to remain their authentic selves in and out of social media, the world be damned.
One such person that comes to mind is Lynda Nyangweso, the radio presenter.
Sometime back, she posted a photo on social media of her and her family on vacation, a photo that had tongues wagging for weeks led by a legion of internet bullies who trolled her for not looking ‘perfect’, for daring to post a photo that, to them, went against what a ‘celeb’ should look like.
She was in a swimsuit in that trending photo, a radiant smile on her face, totally at peace with herself, comfortable in her skin, thoroughly enjoying her holiday. Unbothered about looking perfect. Kudos, Lynda.
In the past, a number of media personalities have talked about the pressure society subjects them to (or do they subject themselves to it?); to look a certain way; to dress a certain way; live in a certain place; eat in a specific restaurant and drive a certain car.
The result is that many of them are head-first in debt, struggling to support an extravagant lifestyle they can barely afford just so they can fit into a certain box that was placed there by others.
The result is that they cannot afford to be themselves, at least not in public. But you know what?
You don’t have to squeeze into that box, it will only stifle you anyway.
You can choose to bypass it and walk into the unrestricted field ahead where you can twirl, run, walk or simply sit there and do nothing because you are not bound by any rules.
Or under any pressure to act a certain way. Here’s to living free.
The writer is the Editor, ‘Society’ and Magazines, ‘Daily Nation’. [email protected]