Instagram vs Reality: Which One Are We Living In?

Instagram versus reality. It started as a trendy movement but poses a very real question: what world do the majority of us live, or think we live, in? 

You don’t have to be a 20-something influencer to fall victim to the arising mistruths of social media. Politics are peddling agendas on platforms for their own personal gain, which is nothing new. Except now they, along with dedicated supporters, are using outlets like Facebook or Twitter as a petri dish for spreading false or slanted information. Former president Trump has become the poster politician for the wave of internet inaccuracies. His Trump tweets spread faster than a California wildfire, and proved to be just as lethal. In true hypocritical fashion, his unverified statements were the exact thing he tried to warn Americans against: fake news. To his followers, these statements were regraded as fact, thus creating a particular narrative. 

Fast forward to 2021, the rise in concern triggered Twitter to clean its birdcage. Twitter is scheduled to roll out phase one of a new program called Birdwatch, a community based initiative that allows users to flag posts they feel are misleading and have them add contextual notes with additional information. But who is qualified to “identify information…they believe is misleading and write notes that provide informative context”? How can we vet against targeted bias? 

Social media is not the source of misinformation, it’s the scapegoat. However, it does give rise to falsified realities. In December 2020, Hilaria Baldwin (wife to well-known actor Alec Baldwin) made entertainment headlines when it was speculated, and then revealed, that the entire Spanish persona she created (including her accent) was a fabrication of half-truths. It turns out, the Massachusetts native is more American than apple pie. Yet, through a meticulously crafted online presence, Hilaria (Hilary) was able to stage her own reality. And her followers applauded, without question, furthering confidence in her identity. Did it hurt anyone? No. But, like politicians and influencers, it became part of a public narrative, both on and offline.

Hilaria Baldwin in East Hampton 2017

Hilaria’s situation isn’t all that unique. How many of us prefer the personas we’ve created to our every day lives? If we’re really being honest, to an extent, aren’t we all living in a fantasy? Even during COVID19, social media is somehow still flooded with vacation photos, fit bodies, and well-dressed individuals surrounded by friends. With travel restrictions, gym closures, and social isolation these images are somewhat unbelievable (unless you really are that fine during COVID, kudos) but they also provide us with an escape from our pandemic reality.

If we take a look at ourselves, who are we? What narrative are we creating versus the one we are actually living in? How different are the two stories and will they ever completely line up?