Keeping up a perfect social media image is a difficult task that we all can admit to trying to maintain at least once in our online lifetime. Those filtered vacation pictures on Instagram look great but they don’t show the mountain of debt it took to pay for that wonderful trip to Italy. Scrolling quickly past your distant relatives posting #AllLivesMatter and “burn you Nike shoes if you love America” is probably less stressful than explaining the racist history of this country that continues to thrive but we’re constantly making decisions that will hopefully put us in the best light to our peers on and offline.

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Some people feel so pressured to seem so together online that they make Finstas (private Instagram accounts) to create a safe space to be who they truly are. It’s weird to think that even with five different social media platforms, you can still never exactly know who someone is and for a strategic segment of the internet that’s the goal. If you gave up on MTV in the early 2000s when they stopped playing music videos, you might’ve missed the network’s breakout series Catfish, a reality-based documentary show based on the sometimes sketchy world of online dating. People create fake profiles for a variety of reasons to lure unsuspecting lonely souls to give them attention, start doomed relationships or use them for material gain. While the show can be entertaining or heartbreaking (depending on your level of compassion) Catfish has put a spotlight on the consequences of trusting strangers online. But having a catfish bae could be the least of your online problems.

Cyberbullying continues to be a significant issue especially for young internet users but this toxic activity doesn’t discriminate. Anyone can troll on Twitter or Instagram with anonymous hate speech without dealing with the very real outcomes of attacking people online. From a decline in mental health to suicide, the impact cyberbullying can have depends on who’s seeing the hateful words on the screen and if these trolls aren’t trying to tear people down with words, they’re also trying to manipulate others for their personal gain.

Fake Instagram pages are made all the time with pictures of beautiful models enticing their followers for money, luxury items or a simple follow which has become a source of currency in the world of online influencers and clout chasers. There are so many pitfalls to find when the internet becomes more appealing than real life. Basing your self worth in the amount of people that follow you. Comparing your body, clothes and life to verified accounts that aren’t as flawless as their facetuned pictures make them seem. The drop of dopamine you receive when you’re phone gets a notification always tops the draining feeling when no one has hit you up for hours. It’s easy to fall into a vulnerable place when the internet can be so fake. But you’re also probably fake yourself?

Don’t get lost in the digital illusion of social media. We gain so much validation from having followers and exploiting real life moments for online praise that’s sometimes we forget how good it feels when living in the real world feels better than posting about it later. Sure, that promotion at work will receive plenty of likes when you post it on Facebook and everyone will gush over your “single” status changing but most of the struggle, pain and bullshit that makes life worth living gets lost within the 280 character filled tweets, lost Snapchat stories and filtered Instagram posts. Sometimes the weight you put on your online persona isn’t truly felt until someone or something makes you ask yourself: how’s my real life? So I’m asking… how’s your real life?

Article By: Marcel “The Messenger” Jeremiah