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Instagram, a popular social media platform

#YouDidNotDoThat: Are We Overdue Calling Fake Social Media Platform Users Out Or Is It Doing More Damage Than Good?

Anyone on any type of social media platform will attest to the fact that reality has become an obsolete concept on the internet. Do I publish the glossy, loved-up selfies of the long weekend I spent in Paris with my boyfriend? Of course, just think of the number of likes I could get. Do I post about the damp, drizzly weather we encountered or the fact that we drunkenly bickered for hours on the Saturday night? You bet your bottom dollar I don’t.

However, in recent years, the curtain has been pulled back on social media users' dishonesty; Instagram accounts @youdidnoteatthat and @youdidnotskatethat both aimed to speak the truth in a world filled with social media fraud; @youdidnoteatthat targeted bloggers who uploaded pictures of them posing with food, but didn't actually eat it - or so the site claimed - and @youdidnotskatethat was the short-lived account which focused on skaters who appeared to do more posing than skating. Both accounts were started with the same idea in mind - to call people out on their social media poppycock and, in all honesty, they did a pretty good job of it, keeping their audiences amused with posts from models, photographers and "average Joe" users.

But just when we all thought the #YouDidNotDoThat storm had come to its end, in 2017 the latest embodiment of the #YouDidNotDoThat craze came; @youdidnotsleepthere is the Instagram account which calls out travel bloggers for posting photos that suggest they slept in some pretty precarious places. While it's true the pictures posted are phenomenal, it's also fair to say that if the photographer really slept where they said they did, they were often in immediate danger of plummeting off the side of a mountain.

Yet, with the revival of the idea of authenticity on social media, the question is, are we overdue on calling out Instagrammers for abandoning reality and trying to pass off "fake" scenarios all in the name of a decent picture? Or are we just punching below the belt by mocking people for simply posting a few picturesque images online?

It appears each separate #YouDidNotDoThat account comes with its own unique set of questions. Take the @youdidnoteathat, account for example. Although it was the first one to point the finger, it was turned right back around when the page, which boasts 125,000 followers, was heavily criticised for thin-shaming.

The creator remained adamant that her account was all in good humour, saying: "This is not me making some huge social commentary about what size somebody is and what they're eating. This is more like, Come on, we see the formula. You look awesome! Don't lie about how you got there! It's fine."

However, critics fired back saying that just because the females in the pictures were skinny, it did not mean that they didn't eat the fatty, greasy, sugary, calorie-packed food they were photographed posing with. They insisted that, regardless of whether or not they actually ate it, by calling them out on it and uploading a picture of them online, the account creator had crossed a line and was shaming women and creating even more of a stigma for them around food.

Rather than lightheartedly poking fun at people who fake it on social media, the account had become just as bad as the media who demonises women for being too fat, too thin or too whatever else on a daily basis. After all, critics asked, how fast would an account who shamed larger women for eating be attacked and shut down?

Ultimately, @youdidnoteatthat raised the question of, which was worse? Mocking people for taking pictures with food they definitely didn't eat, or taking pictures pretending to enjoy food you didn't eat?

Perhaps the same cannot be said for the other two accounts @youdidnotskatethat and @youdidnotsleepthere. These social media platforms remain more controversy free, people around the world mostly on board for throwing shade at people who thought they could get away with "sleeping" in ridiculous places or showing off their "skating skills". From reading the comments, one can determine that most viewers found the two pages hilarious and expressed delight that someone was finally calling these people out for their "fake" social media posts.

Despite this, both accounts did receive some mockery from audience members who believed that if you were going to the effort to create an Instagram account to make fun of these people, you were in all likelihood more pathetic than the picture-posters themselves. Perhaps they had a point? But then again, maybe they were missing out on the hilarity of the accounts.

Regardless of who is in the right on this one, all accounts point to the wider issue of sincerity in the world of social media. There's simply no denying it anymore: We are all liars when it comes to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and every single one of the other social media websites out there. We upload only the very best of our lives onto these sites and we don't give a damn whether it tells the truth.

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But as the social media landscape changes, the question to ponder is, is it time for us all to just accept that a lot of the images we are confronted with online hold a tenuous link to reality?

In the beginning, the concept of social media was real people to share what they were doing with their real friends. But as social media flourished, its mission statement changed. Nowadays it's not to reflect reality, but instead it is much like a glossy magazine, designed to show those rare perfect moments in life, whether they be genuine or manufactured - one after another on a production line. However, what's really wrong with putting the best parts of your life online? After all, who would honestly want to show the bad parts?

These days, social media has become an art form - and perhaps by not playing along we are getting left behind. If sites like Instagram are no longer a place to impose benchmarks of reality on, should they instead seen as something like a movie or magazine? Ultimately, is it time to recognise that social media has become fake and accept it for what it is?

Recent studies seem to suggest we should do the opposite, telling us exactly what we knew already knew: Going on social media is damaging. A 2016 study from the University of Copenhagen endeavoured to assess how much it affected our happiness; recruiting 1,095 people it asked half of them to continue their Facebook habits and told the other half to abstain from logging on for a week. Users who took a week-long break from the social media site were found to be more satisfied with their lives and rated their own well-being as higher than people who remained online. In addition, another 2017 study showed that four of the five most popular forms of social media harm young people’s mental health, giving them feelings of anxiety and inadequacy.

Both studies show that, although people turn to social media platforms to seek external validation, the feeling of getting a large number of likes on a picture is fleeting; the happiness that comes from it is short lived and counteracted soon after when you see someone you think to have a better life than you.

And of course that's exactly what the #YouDidNotDoNot accounts are there to reflect; just because someone posted a gorgeous picture online, it doesn't mean that that is what their lives are like on a regular basis. No one's life is the glossy, filtered image that you see on their Facebook page. And as a society we need to try acknowledging that more. We need to recognise that just because we had a bad day at work and then saw someone post an idyllic holiday picture, it doesn't necessarily mean their life is better than ours.

It's undeniable that the #YouDidNotDoThat accounts come hand-in-hand with problematic issues, the skinny-shaming of the @youdidnoteatthat account the most salient of the bunch. But if you put them to the side, all of the accounts together pose an important question: Where is social media going to go from here? Is it destined to become even faker or will something change? Are we going to continue to validate our lives through the "like" button or is something going to give?

With more and more research confirming that social media is bad for our mental health, it's possible we will see more people turn away from it in the future. Either that, or our social media counterparts will continue to live the high life online while we cower in crippling self-pity behind our screens. Who knows, but whatever happens, I know we'll all be there to filter it.