The Phenomenon of the Instagram Highlight Reel


Amanda Black

Social media only gives people an idea of the perfect parts of a person’s life, hence the name, “highlight reel”. However, it is not an accurate representation of a person’s life, where there are imperfections.

I know I’ve reached the end of another episode of “Black Mirror” when the music dies and the credits start rolling. I sit there, bewildered, imagining futuristic scenarios in which technology consumes the human race, ruining life on Earth as we know it. Insane, right? But then I wonder…how far off are we today, really? Is technology not already consuming us?

Closing Netflix, I promptly answer my Snapchat streaks and proceed to open Instagram — typical defaults of lazy mornings. I allow my thumbs to mindlessly scroll, my eyes to glaze over, and my brain to fall for a common notorious internet trap: the “highlight reel.”

Glowing up at me are people smiling with their friends, dressed in their best outfits, at the most amazing destinations.

They’re so happy. They have it all together. They are thriving.

Meanwhile, I’m at home. In bed. About to eat breakfast for the third time today.

They are better than me.

While exaggerated for an attempt at comedic effect, these are actual thoughts that subconsciously run through my brain when I spend too long staring at my Instagram feed. They look ridiculous when typed out but indicate the sad truth of a phenomenon many people deal with, whether they realize it or not.

We all compare ourselves to others sometimes. That’s nothing new.

However, when social media is added to the picture, any previously existing self-conscious thoughts are taken to a new level. They move to the back of our brains, where we don’t completely realize they’re happening. As we analyze picture after picture of other people’s perfect moments, our perception of the world is harmed. We begin to believe that their lives are perfect all the time.

But this is not reality. Not even close. Everyone spends days off in their pajamas. Not to mention you never know what people are going through. Life is messy. Instagram places people on self-created pedestals, leading us to believe that they somehow don’t have problems, that they’re above us and all of humanity.

Social media feeds are sugar-coated versions of our whereabouts, like electronic scrapbooks; we upload our best memories so we can remember, cherish and share them. It’s a literal, highly visual way of representing oneself, with filters and catchy captions. It’s all good fun, letting people stay connected and express themselves. But the blaring issue I have with it all is the toxic lack of authenticity.

There’s no way a person’s life is as exciting as their Instagram leads others to believe. We all do tasks that aren’t glamorous and consequently, aren’t Instagram-worthy, just like every other human. These include breathing, sleeping, eating, studying, working and driving. Sure, these activities are publicized on occasion, but, of course, only under society-imposed limits. We post about eating, but only when our food is notably photogenic, exotic or healthy. It’s typically not an accurate representation of one’s diet on a regular basis, hence the lack of “realness.”

When you put your phone down and step away from the flashy falseness of social media, you realize the majority of people’s time is spent doing mundane life activities. Exciting memories like surprise parties and new puppies are plucked out of the plethora of ordinary times and immortalized through online posts simply because they’re the special ones that make us happy.

So, there you have it: the highlight reel debunked. It’s crucial that everyone understands this underlying truth — that social media pages don’t accurately display reality. Don’t buy into the myth that people’s lives are perfect, because that’s never the case, no matter how true it may seem. Even Kylie Jenner gets pimples. Tom Holland goes grocery shopping. And the “coolest” of your peers even stay home in bed sometimes.

Whether you’re a frequent poster, mere follower, non-Insta user or confused grandmother reading this story, I think we can agree on one thing: being human, we’re all equal and no highlight reel can change that, no matter how aesthetic the filters are.