Let’s face it. Social media can be really depressing. You could wake up in the morning and feel great, but after a few minutes scrolling through your Facebook feed, you can easily see something that irritates you, makes you feel pangs of envy and sometimes even inadequate- like you’re a few steps behind everyone else. Why? Because you have just felt the negative affects of ‘Peacocking’ on social media. Another person’s bragging about their academic success, exotic holiday, hot boyfriend or new job has left you feeling somewhat, deflated.
According to a study released earlier this year; under 25’s are more likely to show off, have inflated self-esteem and exaggerate thanks to social media. A third admit to exaggerating in status updates- with women more likely to show off than their male counterparts.
Peacocking is a term referring to the incessant parading of health, wealth, beauty and good fortune on social media. Posts are often bragging in nature, exaggerating in tone and posted in the hopes of it gaining a plethora of likes and comments. We’re all guilty of it, we’ve probably all made a status after great exam results, a gushing ‘thank you’ status after your birthday, a picture of you and your friends looking like a girl band on Instagram. But more than likely, we have also been the receivers of bragging posts on our newsfeeds, and whilst these all-consuming stunning posts are addictive, they also do us damage. It leaves us feeling as though we don’t quite make the cut. So how has ‘peacocking’ come about? And more importantly, how can we stop if having such a negative affect on our lives?
Will Bentley, a Geology student at the University of Southampton says; ‘It’s okay to post self-indulgent pictures and status’ every now and again, but people who do it everyday just look vain and self-obsessed.’
The emergence of reality shows based on opulent lifestyles and celebrity status such as Keeping Up with The Kardashians’ and ‘Rich Kids of Beverly Hills’ only promote the ideals of leading a materialistic and glamorous life. The obvious rise in social media is a factor in the rise of ‘peacocking’ because now we can share every ‘#blessed’ moment of our lives, but omit the mundane, or down right depressing. It’s as though we feel obliged to ‘showcase’ the best parts of our lives in order impress our follows. We’ve probably all heard it said; ‘if you didn’t take pictures on your night out, did it really happen?’, and it’s true. If you cannot prove you had a great night, at a good club in a hot outfit with all of your fit friends, then was there any point in going out. It’s as though we live to impress those around us rather than to exist in that moment alone. The rise of ‘The Squad’ brings forth the likes of The Kardashian/Jenner clan and Taylor Swift and her A-list Posse- leading us to believe that we’re not normal if we don’t have sixteen meticulously dressed, size 4, A-list celebrity best friends to go out with.
Furthermore, the rise of style bloggers on sites like Instagram have fuelled the ‘peacocking’ hype, often promoting expensive make-up products, clothing and lifestyles. One of note is Sarah Ashcroft, a blogger hailing from Hertfordshire, who now has a contract with Boohoo to model and showcase their collections- often in idyllic, exotic locations. Our insight into her life is addictive and voyeuristic- a millennialls’ equivalent to ‘Keeping up with The Joneses’. We want Sarah’s seemingly perfect life/hair/body. What is significant to this obsession with bloggers lifestyles is that we believe them to be obtainable- the fact that such bloggers started out as ‘normal people’ and now earn a living leading extravagant, glamorous and incredible lives is nothing less than enchanting.
What you must remember in these moments of self-doubt and comparison is that ‘peacocking’ on social media is an illusion, it’s not reality. Just like most of us wouldn’t share the most depressing, darkest and mundane parts of our lives, so too, do most others. What you may see from a Facebook album is a perfect couples holiday in an all-inclusive luxury resort in the Maldives but the reality could be that the couple in question spent everyday arguing, day five and six were brought down with a severe case of food poisoning and the return journey included an intense stand-off with BA cabin crew over lost luggage.
Amongst the beautiful images, the carefully constructed status’ and well versed tweets, it can be easy to lose sight of one fact. That is, that life isn’t perfect. Anything you see on social media leading you to believe in the existence of perfection is false. It is a construction. And after all, isn’t that the beauty of life? It’s amazing, and then it’s awful, and then it’s mundane, and then it’s amazing again. It can be heart-breaking and testing and wonderful and terrifying and surprising but that, ultimately, is what makes it truly beautiful.