Main content

Are too many of us pretending to be perfect on social media?

Jamie Jewitt has worked as a model for more than a decade, for brands like Calvin Klein.

Last year he took part in Love Island which he partly credits with changing the way he sees social media.

He's been investigating how we portray ourselves online for BBC Radio 5 live.

If you picked up your phone and started to scroll through Instagram or Facebook would you see people socialising, chatting and sharing a true representation of their lives with each other?

Or would you see something different? Perhaps a collection of moments that represent a polished caricature of the way we would prefer our lives to be?

I spent the majority of my working life from the age of 16 in the fashion industry.

My job was to be the focal point of a contrived and false imagery, carefully put together to make the products I was wearing sell.

Every imperfection was removed and every prop imaginable was used to show perfection, or the industry’s ever-changing idea of it.

But how did something we used to only see in magazines, commercials and on television become so commonplace?

How did we all become slaves to a digital version of ourselves, constantly posting, updating, sharing, keeping our online persona happy and looking his or her best?

The images I saw of myself throughout my career certainly were not and are not an accurate representation of me, but now we are all constantly using the same tactics to ‘advertise’ ourselves to one another.

Is advertising to blame?

You would always 'talk up' a product to make it sell - that's effectively what advertising is.

But after years of having so many companies selling competing products, and having to make bolder and bolder claims about each one, it was almost inevitable they would start using falsified images of people with the perfect skin, bodies and lives to sell these products - eventually leaving us the consumer feeling permanently inadequate.

When I spoke to GQ’s Dr Nick Knight about this on BBC Radio 5 live, he agreed that airbrushing could have a negative effect.

A familiar character in western films is the 'snake oil salesman', a travelling doctor making bold claims of elixirs of strength and prosperity or beauty in a bottle.

Imagine the edge he'd have over his market if you slung him a Mac loaded with Photoshop and special effects, as well as the boom in sales that would follow him plastering these images around his local town and finally how many of the poor unsuspecting public would fall victim to this new wizardry.

We have learnt this technique over the decades and are now doing it to ourselves on a daily basis.

People say social media is harmless, but I’m worried that it's not.

Yes I agree, adults may have the ability to take these images and false representations with a pinch of salt, but kids are signing on younger and younger.

During the most difficult years of a teenager’s social development how damaging could it be to see countless falsely perfected images of their peers?

How are they supposed to accept themselves?

And then there’s the ‘internet troll’.

I see ‘trolling’ as a cry for help from a generation affected by our own negative societal pressures"

I have to sometimes, contrary to my own anger, keep reminding myself that there is nothing, I mean nothing, mysterious about this new web creature.

It’s actually quite fitting that we name it after a mythical creature you hear in story books as it probably helps us not to see it as a real manifestation of this world we’ve created.

I see ‘trolling’ as a cry for help from a generation affected by our own negative societal pressures, a generation who have grown up with their social world existing in an online reality.

It is hard at the worst of times to lay down our judgement and remember that these people are victims of this insanity just like the rest of us.

Bullies in school could be understood when we took the time to do so, yet we continue to create and prolong the environment which creates the need to troll.

Most of us barely acknowledge their existence by writing them into the realm of online folklore

We give them the ammunition by judging each other day in, day out, on the things that are least important - and when we really think about it - damn near irrelevant.

Is this a phase?

Is it damaging?

Should we wise up and sign off?

Strangely one of the most profound lessons I learnt from Love Island was from doing exactly this, putting down my phone and learning how to socialise again.

Jamie Jewitt: What I learnt from Love Island

Model says giving up his phone to take part in ITV's reality show sparked an 'epiphany'.

But we don’t need to remove social media completely.

We just need to make sure the message we send on these platforms is of acceptance, so we can teach our kids to love the true versions of themselves.

Jamie Jewitt: Are too many of us pretending to be perfect online?

Jamie Jewitt on social media, mental health and the search for perfection.