Pics Or It Didn’t Happen

Pics Or It Didnt Happen

I recently listened to the latest episode of Emma Chamberlain’s podcast Anything Goes, which made me think a lot more deeply about social media and how it has consumed us. In the episode “Post it, or it didn’t happen?“, Emma recalls a Harry Styles concert, as well as a friend’s birthday party that she recently attended, and how she noticed the substantial number of people who spent a large amount of time recording or photographing the event, rather than being fully present in the moment. She goes into detail about her thoughts on this, and about her thoughts on the pressures of social media, and the common phrase “post it or it didn’t happen”. As someone who spends a fair amount of time on social media, this really got me thinking. Is social media controlling our lives more than we think? Does our online persona reflect who we are in real life? And how can we tell whether or not we are falling victim to the call of broadcasting our lives to the rest of the world? 


When Instagram first came out in 2010, it was intended as a simple way to share photographs online, and, in many ways, it still is. But it has also become something else. Since 2010, Instagram has become increasingly curated and polished, a perfect way to show our so-called perfect lives. Social media platforms give us a space to present our best selves, the manicured and carefully carved versions of who we are as people. Our social media presence becomes a persona, one that could be entirely different than who we are offline. It is easy to get sucked into the pretty pictures and aesthetically pleasing videos of social media, and it is easy to fall into the trap of wanting to seem consistently interesting and intriguing to our peers. This is when the idea of “pics, or it didn’t happen” comes into play. When we attend an event, whether that be a concert or a good friend’s birthday party, what are we thinking about? Are we thinking about seeing an artist we love perform, or about celebrating the life of a friend? Or do we find our minds wandering, thinking about which angle would be best, and how well this video might match our feeds? This is when things become muddled. Because, of course we want pictures and videos celebrating a friend, or commemorating something by uploading a fun picture online! Having pictures and videos can be a way to remember a moment, and it is important to be able to look back on past experiences.  However we have to be careful that we don’t let this overtake the moment, we have to be careful that we don’t grow to rely on the evidence of the moment in order to remember the moment itself.


This is not to say that all social media is bad, or that we necessarily need to stop presenting our best selves online. However, it is important to think about the connotations that come with what we post and how we display ourselves, and what the reasons behind these decisions actually are. It is when we begin to behave differently, in order to appear a certain way, that we need to take a step back and ask ourselves what our true motives are. It is essential that we investigate why we are attending an event, why we are doing certain things, or wearing certain clothing. Everyone wants to seem interesting. This is simply a fact. But it is how we go about this, how we behave in order to achieve this, that really matters. Just like Emma, there have certainly been times in my life where I have caught myself trying to find perfection in my online presence, and I have spent many a minute searching for any aesthetically pleasing  picture I may have recently taken that would suit my feed, and that would remind my followers of my existence, and, more importantly, how interesting I am. 


Going back several years to when I first started my Instagram account, I distinctly remember selecting an egg from the carton in the fridge, snapping a photo of it and posting it, captioning the photo “a perfect egg for a perfect breakfast”, before carefully returning it to the carton and going about my day, egg forgotten. My sister has brought this occurrence up many times – and it has become somewhat of a joke between us – but at the time, I just wanted something to post, and it felt cool to post about my breakfast, to make myself seem like someone I wasn’t, to make it seem like I ate a healthy breakfast which was really a raw egg returned to the fridge immediately afterwards. Already, I felt the pressure of wanting to fit in, wanting to draw attention to myself and my “interesting” life. As we become more involved online, this behavior becomes ingrained in us, and it becomes a part of how we think. The more we post the carefully edited snapshots of our lives, the more we come to rely on this satisfaction in our everyday lives. In some ways, that online presence becomes more “you” than who we really are. The more obsessed we become with that “perfect life”, the more we look for it in our everyday lives; creating scenarios and situations that are postable, that are deemed post-worthy. 


Feeling like we need to create a desirable life can very quickly translate into posing as having it. After a week of doing nothing but vegging in our pjs, we may begin to feel guilty, feeling like we need to do something interesting to remind not only our friends and peers, but also ourselves, that we are interesting and that we do interesting things. Throughout my early teenage years I had a habit of getting dressed up, putting on makeup and making myself look nice, just to take a few photos that I could post, in order to prove that “Hey, look! I do stuff! I’m awesome!”, when in reality it was solely for the satisfaction of seeming a certain way online. Even when we lift our phones up to snap a quick picture or take a cool video, we are immediately removing ourselves from the actual physicality of what we are doing. When we film our favourite artists dancing around on stage for several minutes at a time, we are no longer present at that concert; now, we are focused on that video and making sure that they’re in the frame, and that the lighting is right, and that our awful singing isn’t being caught on film for all to hear and see. When this becomes our reality, our reality becomes disillusioned, because it cannot compete with the perfection we see and post online. It is easy to let this consume us, to become our motivation for all things, to become the reason we go to events and participate in activities. “I don’t really want to go to this party tonight, but I’m excited for the photos”, can become “I’m going to attend this charity event because I want people to see that I care about helping people”, which is a clear sign of a very unhealthy online/offline relationship. Of course, we are still helping others even if we have ulterior motives, but the intention behind the action becomes tainted, and doing something good with bad intentions makes that action significantly less. Doing something for the benefit of others is far different than doing something for ourselves that also happens to benefit others.  


All in all, I challenge you (as well as myself) to take into account what the core purpose of your posts really are, what picture of yourself you are painting, and whether or not making yourself look a certain way online is negatively affecting your offline life. Emma advises us to take a step back and reassess these habits, and to take a look at why we feel the constant need to prove ourselves through social media online. How does it feel to really live in the moment and avoid capturing anything? Maybe you already have a healthy relationship with your online self, but maybe you feel those pressures to post, the fear of not seeming cool enough. Believe it or not, post it or not, it did happen. And you may be surprised at how much you remember without online evidence to prove it.