How social media created an image of me that was far from the truth.
About four months ago I packed up all of my things and moved to Israel to become an English teacher. This decision was very last minute, and almost no thought was put into it. I knew that I had never really done anything impulsive in my life and now was my opportunity. I had a program in front of me that would allow me to move to a beautiful country, live for free, do something that would better the country, and look good on my resume. The sell was easy and so was committing.
I announced that I was moving to Israel on Facebook and people weren’t shy to hide their excitement for me. I had comments, likes, and private messages all congratulating me on this accomplishment. People kept repeating to me how amazing this experience would be, how it would be the greatest time of my life, and how jealous they were of me. It felt as if people had already planned out what my experience was going to be like in their heads and were making assumptions before anything had happened.
When it came time to leave I was finally forced to think about the decision I had made. I was deeply saddened to leave my family and all the people I loved. I had never been this far away from family for this long and I was scared. I cried… A LOT! I cried at home, at the airport, on the plane, in the airport again, and all while I was crying I kept thinking about the Facebook posts. I kept thinking about how amazing people thought this was, so I felt like I needed to live up to their expectations. So I forced down my emotions of leaving all my loved ones and the anxiety of moving to a new country and tried to go live this spectacular life.
It was easy at first. I lived in a boujee apartment in an extremely photogenic country. I would go to the beach everyday and post pictures of me in my bathing suit with my fresh tan. I made sure to dress my best when we went out to make sure people knew how good the Israeli lifestyle looked on me. I would go to restaurants just so I could post it and make people jealous of the food I was eating. I would make sure that people saw how much weight I had lost and how skinny the new Justyn was. I would take pictures of everything and post it everywhere making sure people saw what I was doing, and convince them that I was living this amazing life. I tried so hard to spin my life on social media so it fit the image of what people thought my life was like in Israel.
These photos tell a narrative of a girl who loves her life. These photos show a giggly girl, with friends, and a flourishing life in Israel. These photos show a girl who is traveling the world and having those life changing experiences. These photos convince you that I am happy.
This strategy worked for a long time, and in reality is still working today. I am constantly getting messages from people back home telling me how amazing my life is and how I must be having so much fun. I would lie and tell them I was. I would tell them about the people, places, and things that I have seen and met. I would tell them exactly what they wanted to hear and play into their narrative, and people would eat it up. People wanted to believe that my life was so amazing, and so did I. I got good at knowing what people wanted from me and I would post exactly that. I was living the life other wanted from me on social media because I desperately wanted to really be the girl in those photos, but I was far from it.
Although I was smiling in those photos, when the camera wasn’t on me I was usually crying in my bed. I was skinny because I wasn’t eating because I was sick and depressed. I would call my parents crying because I felt so out of place here in Israel. I went to restaurants mainly because I feared missing out on things, not because I wanted to go. I had anxiety about fitting in with the people around me, and I took photos with them to prove that I had friends and was popular. I posted myself at the gym and meal prepping to make it seem like my life was in order, when in reality I became broke from the gym and stopped meal prepping after 3 weeks. My life was not glamorous, and keeping up the lie on social media was driving me insane.
On New Years I finally lost it. The night before I had gotten all dressed up, more for the photos than anything, and went out with some friends. I had a great time with my friends, but I noticed I was so desperate to post snaps, and photos that made my life seem spectacular. I wanted people to send me comments about how beautiful I was and how much fun it looked like I was having. Because I was always on my phone stressing about taking the perfect photo and capturing the moment that I wasn’t in it having real fun. The next day posted photos and people again came flocking to me with love, comments, and again the same praise of my amazing life. It was in this moment that I snapped. I couldn’t take it. I looked at the photos and hated what I saw. I couldn’t keep up this lie anymore.
So I have decided to be honest with you, and myself. I have been in Israel for four months and I spent a large part of those months in tears. It was very hard to adjust to Israel and being away from the people I loved. While Israel is an amazing country, it is not my home, and as a homebody it has been hard to be away. I am not always as happy as it appears I am on my social media, but then again I never have been. No one is. Social media is designed for us to put our best selves forward. This struggle I am facing is an everyday thing for a lot of people.
However, there is a happy ending to this confession. Although I have been sad for a long time, I am much better now. Everyday life here gets a little better, and being honest with my story is helping a lot. I don’t sugar coat my experience here anymore, but rather lean in to my reality and make the best of it. Instead of trying to fit into a mold of what people wanted my experience to be, I am fitting the mold of what my experience actually is. Not putting that pressure of perfection and happiness on myself has made me so much happier. I am real with myself, and am finding humor in my situation. At the end of the day I am grateful that I am going through these challenges because it has allowed me to learn a lot about myself. But I am going to be a lot more honest about my journey, and reclaim it as my own.
Note from the author:
For those of you worried about me after reading this article I need you to know I am happy now. Life is full of struggles and what defines us is not the struggle but how we react to it. I am deciding to stop being the victim in my journey and making the best with my life. I appreciate all the love and support from everyone on my journey. Couldn’t do this without you.