If you’re old enough to remember when social media consisted of cat memes and in-app filters, then you’ll likely also remember how simple things used to be, too. And that would also mean you’ve watched first-hand as social media changed over the years, too. Social media has gone from sharing whatever’s at the top of mind that day to perfectly curated highlight reels that make it challenging to identify what’s real life anymore.

Let’s talk about Khloe Kardashian quickly, as she was recently all over the news. While on vacation, someone accidentally shared an unedited picture of her, and the Kardashians worked quickly to have it totally wiped from the internet. This sparked a huge conversation about how fake social media is, and how easy it can be to use apps to nip, tuck, smooth and completely alter your entire body. Think of it as basically free plastic surgery in the palm of your hands, making the images we’re comparing ourselves to on social media likely not even real.

She addressed the controversy in an Instagram post that read,

“For over a decade now in photos, every single flaw and imperfection has been micro-analyzed and made fun of the smallest detail and I am reminded of them everyday by the world. And when I take that criticism to use as motivation to get myself in the best shape of my life and to even help others with the same struggles, I am told I couldn’t have done it through hard work and I must have paid for it all.”

Let’s talk about this.

Regardless of who you are, most of us have felt some sort of pressure online to make it look like we have life figured out. For some, that may mean you’re feeling the pressure to have a perfect body. For others, it may mean you’re feeling pressure to display certain milestones such as buying a house, having a family, or going on vacation. And since so many of us feel some sort of pressure to make it look like we have stuff figured out, our feeds can end up filled with seemingly perfect lives. 

The thing to remember is that social media is not real life – it’s (highlight) reel life. Meaning, anyone can curate any narrative of the life they wished they lived. Want to have a perfectly clean home? Simply move the pile of laundry out of the shot. Woke up with a pimple? There are apps to remove it for you. Social media also gives us space where we can share all of the good parts of life without including any hardships.

Also read: 10 Things You Can Do For Yourself Today

Most of us would probably prefer to share happy times because those are the ones we’d like to remember or be known for. For example, you’d probably prefer to remember a romantic date night with your spouse rather than an argument you had the night before over taking out the garbage. Or your graduation day, rather than a math course you failed along the way. Wanting to remember (or to show off) the best part of our lives is common, but it can mean our feeds are typically filled with everyone’s seemingly perfect lives. When we are struggling, it can be easy to forget that what we’re seeing isn’t the full picture.

Deciding what to do about this all can be extremely tricky or overwhelming too.

A lot of people have begun holding both influencers and celebrities accountable for their influence by calling out things such as Photoshopping or Facetuning, which is definitely a huge piece of the puzzle. Before social media, we would compare ourselves to highly photoshopped images in magazines or what we saw on TV – both were likely out of the control of the celebrity themself. Social media, however, has given influencers and celebrities the ability to finally share their own images themselves, and the hope is that one day they’ll use it as an opportunity to be authentic and transparent. And as amazing as it is to think about this, it is also a little more complicated.

We need to remember that we aren’t in control of other people’s actions. As much as we may want certain people to show more authentic images, it will ultimately be their decision in the end. What we do have control over, however, is our own social media experience. One way to improve it is through healthy boundaries. 

Social Media Boundaries

Follow accounts that make you feel good about yourself

We may not be able to convince the Kardashians to post unfiltered photos of themselves at this time, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there who are doing it. In fact, there are a ton of influencers and celebrities out there who are committed to being transparent with their own images, as well as encouraging others to love themselves as they already are, too. Unfollow or mute the accounts that make you feel bad about yourself, and instead, fill your feed with ones who encourage and empower you.

Allocate screen-free time

Do you ever end up scrolling through social media without even really realizing how you ended up on there? This is pretty common and isn’t necessarily something to feel guilty about. Social media companies want you to stay on their platform for as long as possible because the longer you scroll, the more ads you’ll see, and the more money they’ll make. So when you open your phone to check the weather and somehow end up on Instagram instead, you need to remember there is a team of people who designed the app for that exact purpose. But with that said, what you also need to remember is that without realizing it, we can end up spending hours and hours scrolling past edited (seemingly perfect) lives.

Setting limits for the amount of time you scroll for allows you to take back some of the control with your social media experience. Most phones have settings (or third-party apps, if you’d prefer) where you can set time limits for individual apps, or even set restricted times that you can’t use the app at all. It’s also totally customizable, so find what works for you, and go from there.

Turn off notifications

There can be a ton of FOMO (also known as the fear of missing out) when you turn off notifications for an app, but it can be a very healthy boundary to set. When you think about it, notifications are sent to tell you to log on, instead of allowing you to actively decide to do it yourself. While turning off notifications doesn’t necessarily take away all of the mindless scrolling entirely, it can take away one component of it. Plus, notifications are super easy to turn on and off, so if you need them on one day for any reason, you can turn them back on pretty quickly.

Don’t base your worth online

Have you ever planned an event, performed on stage, or have done basically anything that took a ton of work behind the scenes? There was likely so much that went into it (possible including some conflict along the way), but when the guests arrived or the audience is seated, everything seems to happen so effortlessly? Think of social media sort of like that. Social media is like attending a wedding: you get to enjoy all of the beauty without seeing the months of stress or problems that occurred leading up to it.

The reality is that social media is not real because nobody’s perfect, and nobody has it all figured out. So when we’re using social media for approval or validation, we can quickly feel disappointed or feel less than. This may feel tricky, but do not base your worth on social media, and do not look to it for validation. You may think you know everything about someone’s life online, especially if they’re posting a ton, but there will always be stuff going on behind the scenes, which is a good reason not to compare ourselves to.

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Get comfortable stepping away

Over the years, our phones have become an extension of ourselves – we notice when they’re not by our side, and it can feel downright scary or uncomfortable when we realize we’ve left the house without them. They’re our lifelines, and social media has become our main communication method. But sometimes, when we concern ourselves too much with the digital world, it can be easy to forget to live in the physical world instead. 

Get comfortable with stepping away from social media. Log off in the evenings to give yourself a break, or even step away for an entire weekend. The more you get comfortable with stepping away, the easier it’ll become, and the more control you’ll have over your own social media experience. 

Social Media Can Feel Toxic + It’s Okay If You Need Boundaries