Our standards are higher than ever: we expect the best from everyone at all times, and if one doesn’t rise to the expectations of their peers, they’re criticized.
This is not a new concept. No matter what, people are going to point out what’s wrong with someone else (and will go to great lengths especially if they don’t like you), casually ignoring their own faults.
But what I’m focusing on is this strange air of professionalism that’s permeating everything we do now. This is, in part, because of the internet and how easy it is to scroll through someone’s life. People become so afraid of having their pasts used against them that they erect a massive wall and hide under the shiny veneer of perfection.
We see this a lot on sites like Facebook, where people will often post only the good things that are going on in their lives. This isn’t necessarily wrong (who wants to air their dirty laundry out to the masses?), but it gives others a false perception of how life really is. We’re taught not to “judge a book by its cover,” yet day after day, we’re being trained into doing just that.
Let’s use the ever-ubiquitous YouTube as an example. In its younger days, homemade videos were the norm: “potato” quality, shaky camera, and gloriously amateur all around. Now, thanks to advances in technology and the growth of monetizing everything, we see more and more videos with crisp definition, image stabilization, and even dedicated studios. It’s become normal to evaluate a creator’s channel not by their content, but by their equipment. Even I find myself – whether subconsciously or not – silently judging the fruits of someone else’s labor on this warped scale.
Don’t get me wrong – there’s no issue with wanting to put your best foot forward. There’s nothing wrong with expecting the best… but only sometimes.
Speaking of monetization, I believe it’s a mix of the growing corporatism on the internet, as well. Almost everything we see is an advertisement. Not only are we conditioned to be the consumer, we’re also being conditioned to be the salesperson; the exception is that you are selling yourself. I can’t count how many times I’ve read the phrase, “Brand yourself.”
I get it, though. I do. In a world full of people from all walks of life, it’s very difficult to stand out as your own unique person.
At the same time, there’s a worrying lack of humanity behind the notion. In an effort to stand out, you eventually become another product lining the shelves. This, in turn, translates to how we see ourselves.
It’s normal to want to compare our lives with other people’s, but our standards now are set so high it’s impossible to reach them. We shouldn’t hide aspects of ourselves that don’t appeal to a mass market (or even our own friends and family; I’m looking at you, Facebook) because it’s not perceived as “perfect.”
We have to remember that we are not products.
(And if we’re products of anything, it’s of our environment.)
Not everything has to be perfect. Not online and certainly not in real life. Again, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to raise your expectations or to be your best. But perfection should not be the default or how we should approach our everyday life.