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October 11, 2019

My Instagram Alter Ego (is Total BS).

Have you ever thought about the detrimental constant comparison we live in thanks to our addiction to social media?

We are experiencing a cultural phenomenon of Impostor Syndrome.

Everyone I seem to talk to either feels like they are heartbreakingly far from “enough” or are cringe-worthily full of themselves. As an Enneagram type three, image is extremely important to me (one perk of Instagram is that endless information that may or may not be true about ourselves is constantly available for free at our fingertips).

It’s so easy to place blame on social media. So easy to say things like, “We’re all comparing our ‘normal’ to our friends’ ‘extraordinary.’”

But here’s the thing that’s been gnawing at me: If I’m happy for my friends and their successes, and if the majority of my screen time isn’t obsessing over what a friend I was once close to is posting, then does this explanation even cut it?

When I analyze my own use of Instagram, for example, my opening of the app always involves wondering whether I will be flooded with notifications—not about what others have posted, but about my own posts. Just because I’ve turned off app notifications doesn’t mean I’m any less addicted to seeing that a new stranger has followed me or that someone has “liked” an image I posted.

Instagram has made me obsessed with myself. Or, more accurately, obsessed with comparing myself to myself, not with the “highlights” of my friends’ lives. Of course, I’m not talking about comparing myself to my real, human flesh self.

At some point over the years, my addiction to Instagram has evolved into an obsession of comparing my real self with my online self. It’s no wonder I go around feeling like an impostor half the time. How could I ever live up to the impossible standards of who I pretend to be in perfectly planned, tiny squares?

My competition for perfection is the “me” in real life versus the “me” on my iPhone screen as I scroll through my own Instagram feed to make sure it’s portraying the best visage of “me.”

I am competing with an avatar version of myself—something of my own creation—a Sims version, IG-filtered life. My biggest competition, the fuel for my own Impostor Syndrome and constant comparison I put myself through, is not with the people I follow, but instead, with the lie I’ve created of who I am, portrayed in edited and curated 1×1 tiles.

Perhaps part of the beauty of social media is that it gives us the ability to create and portray the version of ourselves we think the world will find most suitable, the ideal that we wish to be. When I think about how I portray my life online, it’s no wonder that I always feel inadequate.

My alter ego, @yogicdossantos, is confident. She knows that beauty is a powerful gift, and she feels good in her own skin, believing that she’s been given grace in spades. She is not self-conscious, and especially not about her athletic body that she flaunts with yoga poses in bikinis, somehow always on vacation.

Alter ego sees loveliness everywhere. Her life is a mosaic of nature’s colorful botanicals, peace, love, and bliss.

All of the workshops and classes she posts about show how much is she is just crushing it professionally. Somehow, she’s always managed to be successful enough teaching yoga.  She’s probably never had to worry about money.

Alter ego is never lonely. Her moderately large following is proof of how many friends she has, probably always making plans with her and telling her how amazing she is. Not like she needs to be reminded!

She’s also so optimistic, with a positive quote to start each day. She probably meditates all the time and is super spiritual.

Alter ego must never get angry or jealous of anyone—how could she?! On top of that, she must naturally know how to maintain healthy boundaries. People see her and just want to be nice to her. She has attracted and manifested only the best into her life and doesn’t have to work to get what she wants.

Her life is full of ease. She even somehow gets to travel all over the world—that’s how lucky she is!

I want to be her. I long to be her.

Wait…am I not her?

No, definitely not. I am definitely not her.

She is made up of images of me, and fractions of my creativity, but she is a character on a screen.

I, on the other hand, am real. I am far from perfect, full of doubt, insecurities, fear, and shame. I scrutinize those pictures of my body until I’ve said every mean thing you can imagine to myself before mustering up the courage to slap a happy caption on it and post it for the world.

I spend a lot of time alone and long for true friendship. I come from an average place to live and grew up in a largely dysfunctional family. I’ve lived through trauma that for a long time I was too ashamed to share.

So no, I am not that false portrayal of a fraction of myself, and neither are you. We are not perfect.

We are, however, real. And we, with all of our flaws and experience and brokenness, are so much more than any screen could capture, or than the best writer could caption.

Our real lives are meaningful. Far beyond the reaches of the internet, we are doing great things in the world, showing up as ourselves, for ourselves and each other every day.

Friends come and go; business ebbs and flows.

We may not always be “liked,” but we are eternally loved.

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author: Cristina dos Santos

Image: @yogicdossantos on Instagram

Editor: Kelsey Michal