Beyond The Filter: Social Media In The Age Of Anxiety

Scarlett Curtis on turning self-hatred into admiration

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I've struggled for years with anxiety, it's something I've talked and written about a lot and something I try to be as open about as possible in a small attempt to stamp out the persistent strand of shame that still surrounds mental health. 

But I still find it hard to address the element of my anxiety that revolves around self-hatred. 

Whether you want to call it self-hatred, comparison or insecurity, it's a small voice in my head that tells me promptly and persistently that I am less than, not good enough, worse than others.

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That I am constantly failing in some very important way. 

I still find it hard to address the element of my anxiety that revolves around self-hatred

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I've been a hard and fast advocate for social media since the age of fourteen. 

I think the internet is a beautiful, warm space where friends can be made, stories can be told, and the world can seem a bit less scary. 

I've made some of my closest friends online, received a large proportion of my education online, and formed the beginnings of my career online. 

I never want to give up on the hope that wonder can be found in social media spaces. 

But in attempting to do that I need to begin by acknowledging the complexities that so many people face through their phones every day.  

It begins for me, as most days and trips to the toilet do, with Instagram. 

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It's common gripe that Instagram is a fire pit for self-comparison and jealousy. 

And it's true that among the various expensive bag-toting, cocktail-sipping, flat tummy ab-flaunting 'Instagram girls' that I follow, I can feel a certain level of nagging jealousy. 

But mostly these shiny, well-edited pictures leave me a little relieved that I don't actually have to eat avocados for every single meal. 

The place where my jealousy is really set alight is with the women and men who fall into the category I liked to call 'quite similar to me but just a little bit better'. 

It's over the 'quirky' girls, the writers, the people with an ability to caption a picture with a joke, that I obsess, that I fume, that I begin to self-hate. 

I'm nothing if not on brand at all times. The weekend of increasingly pink outfits has begun 💕💕🍰

A photo posted by Scarlett Curtis (@scarcurtis) on

Jealousy rages through my veins, beats at the doors of my insecurities, the pedestal has been built, the resentment sinks in. 

I had the chance to meet one of my Instagram jealousy sources last week. 

The place where my jealousy is really set alight is with the women and men who fall into the category I liked to call 'quite similar to me but just a little bit better'

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A fellow writer with 2x as many followers than me, seemingly 100x as many friends as me and certainly a lot more talent than me. 

She is someone I have always loved and hated online and we'd been private messaging saying we 'should meet' for years and it was finally happening.  

She's funny and gorgeous and edgier than me and as I've gone through my life observing her life for the past few years she's always seemed untouchable, awesome… perfect. 

The second she stood up to greet me the image shattered. 

The pictures were replaced by flesh, the pixels swapped for reality and the captions filled in with words uttered in an adorable English voice that cut through the Americans surrounding us in the lobby of the fancy hotel. 

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We sat down for lunch and she worried about what to order and I worried about what to eat and we talked and laughed and grew more comfortable as each olive was eaten and every sip of diet coke was slurped. 

By the end of the meal, as we split the bill and hugged each other, the jealousy had vanished. 

The sour emotion was eradicated and in it's place love, adoration, and friendship.

The real problem with this kind of self-hatred is that all it's really masking is admiration. 

It's the experience of witnessing the life of someone you think seems like 'one of your people' and turning that into a threat, a fear, something negative. 

No one is as perfect as their online world makes them seem. 

And no one is as cool as their Instagram pictures. 

But next time I find myself sourly scoffing at a witty caption, or fuming over an outfit I wish I'd worn, I'm going to try and turn that hate into love. 

The real problem with this kind of self-hatred is that all it's really masking is admiration

Instagram gives us the opportunity to find people we relate to when we thought we were alone, to connect with women on the other side of the planet who we would never have otherwise met. 

It's a dark, dangerous thought pattern that turns this unprecedented opportunity for connection into a twisted way to self-loathe, and it's something I'm personally going to try and fight one double-tapped like at a time. 

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