The Mighty Logo

Just Because I Smile on Social Media, It Doesn't Mean I'm Healthy

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

What is a picture? It is a moment in time that someone is trying to capture. Someone is usually trying to get you to smile, say “cheese” or being silly to get you to look happy. If someone isn’t smiling, it is often referred to as a bad picture and gets deleted. People will take 10 pictures to make sure there is a “good one.” Sometimes people really are happy and may even ask for the picture to be taken. Other times you smile because you feel obligated or want to look good for the picture.

People see these pictures get posted on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or other social media. Sometimes they are shown on someone’s phone, in newspapers, magazines or if they are really lucky, an actual printed picture. These are usually the “good pictures” of them smiling, being silly and having fun. It’s such a small fraction of a second of your day/life but others will judge how a person is doing based on how they look in that picture.

Social media is a great way for a person to get positive comments and feedback. In some cases though, it can bring about negative thoughts and feelings because someone else got more “likes” than their picture. Some people compare their lives to how others live theirs and don’t feel like they are doing enough or are good enough. But how often do people post pictures of themselves hurting, crying, angry or not smiling? How often do they even post bad things about their lives unless someone has died or something significantly bad has happened? It seems not many people open themselves up to let the world know how they are doing on a daily basis.

Sadly pictures, especially on social media, are now often a way people feel they know others best, and may even believe they can vouch for how others’ lives are going. I have heard people say, “I saw ___ on Facebook or Instagram the other day and they seemed to be doing good.” I don’t believe they have bad intentions, but honestly how do they have a clue what is going on based on a post? Even 20 years ago, you wouldn’t think of assuming how someone was doing based on a picture without having a conversation with them first.

Now that social media is the norm and the easiest way to connect with people, it can also be the fastest way to misread situations and even judge others. The worst part is that it has caused some people to forget to check in and talk to each other. People have gotten so used to social media that they assume because it was “posted” people automatically should know about it. I have missed that people died because I hadn’t been on Facebook. I heard about it after the fact and was told, “They posted it on Facebook.”

Social media has taken away personal contact with others more and more. Often the most human contact people have is casually walking by someone and saying “Hi, how are you?” Everyone usually answers “good” because sometimes people don’t even wait to hear the answer if it was different than “good.” This has somehow turned into a polite norm rather than honest communication. It’s difficult and often awkward when this is the only in person contact people have with others, because if they aren’t doing good how do they respond. You don’t really want to say “good” because you aren’t, but don’t want to say bad because there isn’t usually time to elaborate. This is where an answer like “Living the dream” comes in handy.

Why do people try to portray such happiness and positivity if things are so bad? I think it’s more likely that it is nice to have some positive moments to post about than a desire to portray something fake or inaccurate. I know when I am not having good times in life, I still want my kids and family to remember happy and fun things rather than me hurting. It’s hard trying to find the best mix of sharing with others what’s happening, especially the bad times.

Please don’t fall into the trap of determining how a person is doing based on the pictures in the posts you see, the pictures where someone is telling them to smile. Next time, before you assume you know how someone is doing or you are wondering how they are doing, pick up your phone and give them a call or ask to meet in person. Remember a picture isn’t always as it appears.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by Goodshoot.

Originally published: October 2, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home