The Problem With #Goals

Social media is a powerful tool. It keeps us entertained, enlightened, and informed. It gives us the ability to stay connected and let our voices be heard. It can even allow us to generate inspiration and “dream big”. Yet, despite the positives, there are elements that continue to present problems. For me, there is one in particular that has stood out as of late.

That problem: #goals.

A quick summary before I proceed. Basically, #goals is a 2015 phenomenon that has been exasperaed by social media platforms, namely Instagram. It is a comment or response to an attractive photo for which the viewer feels a particular sense of envy, obsession, or inspiration.

What’s the big deal? Isn’t goal setting important? 

Okay. Here are some examples so that we are all on the same page here:

First of all, no offence to any of these people. I have selected their photos purposfully and have even followed a couple of them on Instagram, myself. They are simply doing their jobs and maintaining a social media presence. The problem isn’t them. It’s us.

#goals is not about realistic and healthy goal setting. Instead, what we are dealing with is a social phenomenon fuelled by self deprecation and jealousy, which can easily snowball into the dissatisfaction with one’s own life. It is a glorification of the sometimes unattainable and oftentimes impossible. And it needs to stop.

To date, there are 11, 411, 918 photos on Instagram tagged with the #goals hashtag, and unfortunately, that number is increasing by the second. Now, I realize that many would argue such a comment is totally innocent. A witty or cutesy gesture, simply meant to induce flattery or praise. Friend to friend. Partner to partner. Certainly this is the case in many circumstances, but evidently, the majority of instances do not fall into this category, and the consequences are worrisome.

We are all impressionable to some degree. We see photos of polished outfits, perfectly decorated homes, kissing couples, smiling children in designer clothing, flawless selfies, sculpted abs, vacations to remote destinations. We see perfection. Interestingly, this dreamy flawlessness used to be akin and specific to celebrity life. Pop culture magazines would highlight the lives of the rich and the famous. Did we look? Of course. Did we replicate? Sometimes. Did it make us feel dejected and below par? No. It did not. We equated celebrity lifestyle to an unrealistic, fantasy world. A little bubble culture that is surely entertaining, but highly fictitious. We accepted the fact that for most people, this way of life if not real.

Then along came Instagram.

People suddenly became overnight sensations. Thousands, even millions, of followers peeking in for a glimpse into the life of a seemingly average and everyday person. Someone who wasn’t walking the red carpet at the Golden Globes or topping this week’s Top 40. Someone who was closer to the norm. To the rest of us.

Cue the “#goals” phenomenon.

#momgoals, #relationshipgoals, #lifegoals, #hairgoals, #bodygoals, #pregnancygoals, #friendshipgoals, #couplegoals, #futurekidgoals, #fitnessgoals, #familygoals, #bootygoals. And those are just some of the ones that have 100,000+ photo tags. I don’t know about you, but reading most of these creates a knot in my stomach. #futurekidgoals? Are you kidding me? From a mother’s standpoint, I will say this is incredibly heart wrenching.

What we tend to forget is that social media provides a platform for people to showcase their highlight reels. The edited and perfected versions of one’s life. That’s not to say people are creating totally false representations of themselves. I’m sure most of what we see from our friends and family and many popular figures on social media is accurate, and it’s a beautiful thing to share in each other’s happy and delightful moments. Although, like infamous Instagrammer Essena O’Neill has outrightly stated this week, a lot of what we do see is fabricated, simulated, and contrived.

As viewers, we tend to turn a blind (or ‘innocently ignorant’) eye to the paid advertising, the sponsored travel opportunities, the staged home, and the 100 selfies that were taken just to acquire the perfect one. We don’t see what goes on behind the scenes to capture something that is seemingly “picture perfect”. Do you ever wonder where these “goal people” are when you go out to the grocery store, on your work commute via public transportation, at church, or anywhere else where large masses of people congregate? We don’t see them because, more often than not, they do not exist.

It is rare that we publicly display the mundane, painful, or unglamorous features of daily life. Everyone needs privacy and simplicity isn’t overly entertaining.

There are people whose career depends on social media marketing and the presentation of flawless and exaggerated life moments. And that is fine. It is part of our culture and it’s a form of entertainment. Drawing inspiration over it is one thing. Drawing self-shame and inadequacy is another.

Hopefully with time and awareness, goal setting will continue to exist without the influx of negativity and unhappiness stemming from this ridiculous, trending hashtag. Besides, commenting with “she is goals” only makes us look like we didn’t pass the 6th grade literacy exam. Let’s get it together.

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