Nobody takes a duck-lip selfie with a canker sore. We present our best possible self, our idealized image to the world. We take a photo of our filtered face with the perfect makeup, of the perfect meal, with the perfect pose (that hides our [gasp!] imperfections), and of the wonderful time we are having at the perfect party. And even though the rest of us know those photos don't truly represent reality, many of us still secretly believe that everyone else is living a better life than we are.
Rates of suicide among young people are creeping upwards. Even at elite universities, where the brightest and most accomplished students are enrolled, clusters of youngsters are taking their lives in quiet desperation. The reasons are, of course, complex and nuanced, but many point to the damaging effects of social media, our incessant obsession with presenting perfection, and that millenials, digital natives, are essentially the Photoshop Generation: never before has a 14 or 22-year-old been so easily deceived into believing that only she has pimples, that only he doesn't have six-pack abs, and that only they are friendless. Sadly, someone with a pre-existing vulnerability can be pushed over the edge by those deceptions.
Solutions are also complex and nuanced, but they have to include a collective willingness to present ourselves as we are and to begin to believe that who we are is enough. Canker sores and all.
Joel Nunez, Ph.D