"We are little fishies in a rather big pond, so maybe we need a shameless selfie or two to reassert our existence in the world."

Shut Up, Selfies! Pressure, Competition and Showoff Culture

We live in a society of showoffs. Some say that sexual freedom defines our generation, or tech-savviness, or pure and realized laziness, but I respectfully disagree. In my (extremely un-objective) opinion, I think it is the shameless need to boast that plagues today’s twenty-somethings. It’s this constant desire to prove ourselves: look at my clothes, look at my hair, look at the high-paying job I landed, ENVY ME! The enablers: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and all other variations of the aforementioned.

Obviously, I am not the first to express like frustration.

I understand the fixation. There is something to be said for having a piece of virtual real estate that is unmistakably yours, down to the very last hashtag. We are little fishies in a rather big pond, so maybe we need a #shamelessselfie or two to reassert our existence in the world: totally harmless. What I think is the bigger problem here is the way these platforms that harbour our #shamelessselfies further intensify the pressure put on the twenty-something generation.

We are more competitive now than we have ever been, and this competition is now on full display, all of the time. It was one thing when our overachieving peers only had their big fat mouths to boast with, but now there’s ten other platforms that allow them to shove their false bravado in our faces. And further, everything is documented, and therefore can be seen and referenced and remembered ten times over. It’s all a little much; and it’s misleading; and it’s unhealthy.

It is hard being a twenty-something right now. I say that because I am a twenty-something and I feel especially privy to this shit. I turn on my phone, or my computer, and I see my one friend who uses his Twitter account to document his budding career as a sports reporter, then I scroll down and see that girl who sat beside me in my first-year journalism lecture, and she’s using her Facebook presence to advertise the fashion label she started. It’s not just limited to academia, either. There’s that girl who seemingly has perfect hair, every goddamn day, (or so her Instagram claims..), and those two best friends who’s best friendship is more love-filled and wonderful than any of my relationships can ever be, (or so their wall-to-walls of ridiculously transparent inside jokes would have you believe). Pretty much everything is fair game. It’s a full-on brag-fest, every single minute of every single day, and unfortunately for those of us who haven’t mastered the whole entire world at 20, it’s kind of a lot of pressure. It’s not like we don’t factor in room for slight hyperbole, but at the end of the day its still completely unnerving.

I feel so much pressure, on an hourly basis, and I know I’m not alone. I am not ashamed of my accomplishments and where I am in my life, but how can I possibly be satisfied with what I have achieved when I have to constantly compare it with every other person we’ve ever connected with on the internet? In that regard, I will never be good enough. Nobody ever will.

I’ve read that our parents’ generation has fostered this necessity for perfection in their children. They prospered during the economic boom, and that we now have this (sometimes) unrealistic expectation to trump their accomplishments—no room for failure—makes sense. But let’s not peg it all on our parents, because let’s face it, as things currently exist, we spend more time staring at our phones than we do at actual people (parents included). It’s all relative.

Follow Zakiya on Twitter @zakkassam. 


  1. amy teill
    April 11, 2014

    I have to say this post maybe applies to maybe 10% of my social network.
    However I think this might be misguided and a bit cynical. Maybe the generation your judging isn’t “showing off” (some undoubtedly are) maybe they are “sharing”. As someone who moved away from my hometown for school right as Facebook got big, and Instagram followed soon after, seeing what my friends are up to across the country are up to in their daily lives makes me feel connected to them and I hope the same is felt on their end. Plus it shares ideas/tastes/new places/events I may not be able to find on my own. For example I’m planning a trip to Peru, oh I remember my friend posted a bunch of pictures there I should hit her up for advice! 
    The fact that there is a large sect of people who see others accomplishments and their immediate reaction is to relate it to themself and their own perceived or real inadequacies is what this story really seems to be hinting at…

  2. OneEyeWalker
    May 6, 2014

    So people shouldn’t be so keen to share the photos and accomplishments that make them feel good about themselves because people who are insecure, or haven’t achieved their goals yet might feel bad about themselves? 
    There would be pressure to compare yourself to others without social media too — by real people in real life conversations, magazines, television, school reunions etc. The same pressures have existed as long as people have. 
    Guaranteed, there were cave-women looking at the cave across from them thinking “Tonk has a bigger rock pile than me. Am I worthless?” “That bone always sits perfectly in her hair like mine never does. What a shallow twat she must be.”    

    The idea that “If I didn’t have to know people had better job, looks, stuff, than me I’d feel happier about me” makes it sound like the key to confidence is never having to compare yourself to someone better. That’s like saying “I have great self esteem; so long as no one ever says anything bad about me”.
    We have a lot more people to compare ourselves to now, but the problem isn’t that people are sharing too much, it’s that people are taking it way too seriously.

  3. whatwhat
    May 8, 2014


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