Social media: A reflection of who you are, or who you want to be?
The popularity of photo dumps opens the door to discussion about how social media can increase gratitude and optimism.

As with all new technology, discourse around social media, both academic and casual, is never-ending. There are always new takes and understandings of the ways we use it and the effects it has on us. I recently asked a group of University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) students what their favourite types of posts on Instagram are. The group all agreed that the popularity of “photo dumps” was what they currently enjoyed most. 

“Instead of one picture of a person where they purposely look their best, you see a more holistic, casual view,” said third-year Life Sciences student, Lina Hasan. However, she brings up the drawback noting that, “The photo dumps are compressing a long period of time into 10 pictures which makes their life look exciting but doesn’t really show the boring or difficult side.” 

Often, when we talk about posting a selective view of our life on social media, it’s done so in a negative light. However, a large point of social media is to document and be able to look back at the better parts of one’s life. This leads us to the question, can posting the better parts help us in practicing gratitude? Can social media be used as our vision board? 

Vision boards are visual displays of an individual’s aspirations that are said to improve motivation. An article by Psychology Today suggests that vision boards help us self-reflect and practice self-awareness. They also mentioned that they may help us imagine a positive future which is a helpful way to increase optimism and create opportunities. 

What is the difference between a vision board, a gratitude journal, and an Instagram profile where we post the best versions of ourselves? Why does social media have to be a reflection of who you are and not who you want to be? 

We grew up being taught not to post too much of ourselves online to protect us from strangers but are also told that if we don’t share everything, we’re fake. Why does the kid in my chemistry class need to know that I lost my car keys? Why would I want to document and remember the day I got my parking ticket?  And as Lina questioned, “Why is the bad of our lives considered personal but the good considered free public knowledge? Just because someone shares their happy moments doesn’t mean they aren’t being authentic.” 

At the end of the day, how our social media affects us is largely based on how we let it. There are two things to keep in mind before embarking on your Instagram gratitude journal or vision board journey. Be honest with your claims. If you work out once a month and post, that’s fair, it’s not your responsibility to decode your posts for others. But if you workout once a month and talk about how you practically live in the gym, that’s a lie. 

Lastly, be mindful of your intention. If you find that you’re often posting with the hope that others will engage with the content and have a certain perception of you, then are you really using it for gratitude or self-motivation? 

Always remember that social media, while it may not always seem like it, is your blank canvas. You can be inspired by the work of others but there is nothing stopping you from using it the way that benefits you most. 

Staff Writer (Volume 48), Contributor (Volume 49) — Hamna is in her fourth year at UTM specializing in Digital Enterprise Management. Her love of reading and writing is only paralleled by her interest in random Space News and impromptu discussions about society, ethics, and technology. She writes for The Medium because she believes that one of the most beautiful elements of humanity is discourse, which she is given the opportunity to encourage through her work. In her free time she likes drinking chai, reorganizing her bookshelf, and reading complex technical books to her nieces and nephews.


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