Ethics in Content Creation
The social responsibility of transparency in social media
I was talking with a friend the other night about the importance of transparency on social media. Not because it’s what’s likely to get you the most “likes” or the most “follows,” but because it’s a social responsibility. As a content consumer, yes, it’s inspiring to see people who have their lives together. But having nothing but perfection shoved down our throats is not sustainable.
If we happen to catch a “perfect” influencer’s story or post while we are emotionally in a good place, it may spurn us into cleaning our bedroom. Or exercising. Or hell, even just taking a shower. But we are all going to have days where we just don’t feel like enough. A constant barrage of perfection from any single creator, is going to underscore those feelings that we are less-than, or sub-par, because (according to them) someone out there does have a perfect life, in which they have their shit together all of the time. And that person is just a drop in the bucket, because there are hundreds upon thousands of content creators cashing in on that very idea.
The fact is: NO ONE is perfect all the time. Imperfection is the most normal thing about us. “To err, is human,” am I right? So, in the midst of all of these new discussions about social media and mental health, I say: It’s not just on the consumer to limit their amount of time on social media platforms. I say, that there are also ethics around creating relatable content in this age of digital interaction.
Exclusively making posts claiming to “embrace imperfection," “celebrate mistakes,” or “look on the bright side,” DON’T. COUNT. To me, that falls under the category of toxic positivity. Yes, part of life is about how we recover from hard moments. But another part of life is that THERE ARE HARD MOMENTS. Sure, it’s great to talk about working through them. Talk about how good it feels to be on the other side. But it is irresponsible to talk about ALL of them in a way that fails to acknowledge that something truly sucked, will suck, or is currently sucking.
While we’re here, let’s discuss humble-bragging as a form of “relatability.” Five dirty dishes in your sink does not, “a mess,” make. While I understand that everything is relative, if you can giggle about it in the moment, it doesn’t count as a true reflection of harsh reality. Show me the corner of your house that has been sitting in disarray for 3 weeks because every time you look at it, it makes you want to crawl into bed. If that corner does not exist, that’s amazing. Or, maybe that corner IS those five dishes in the sink. But, before you post, take a close look at your intent, and decide whether this a genuine example of a moment of difficulty, or if you’re using what’s actually a minor inconvenience as a juxtaposition that insinuates to viewers how “perfect” the rest of your house/life is.
I could sit here and say that these ethics only apply to true “influencers,” or those who are looking to build a “brand,” or those who are famous enough to have thousands or millions of followers (and, to be clear, I fall into the second one of these categories. I’m not an influencer, but it is part of my job as an actress to maintain a presence on social media). But, even if you are one who just casually engages on social media, I challenge you to consider your audience. Do you have impressionable teenage family members who follow you? Do you have friends who you know for a fact struggle with depression? Social media is not JUST about sharing your life, it’s also about connecting with others. I would encourage anyone/everyone who is on social media to connect through hardships, as well as successes. We have an opportunity to normalize ups AND downs, and I think we should take it.