Digital Media As An Accelerator Of Perfectionism

Can you remember when you first heard of the concept, ‘mental health’? (I can’t.)

I don’t remember being informed about mental health, its examples and potential causes neither in primary nor in middle school. I don’t think that I could have defined psychology or mental health until taking a psychology class in 10th grade. However, I remember people joking around about psychological conditions before I even met the concept. 

Even today, I hear a lot of children nearly between ages 7 to 14, joking around about mental conditions. Asking and laughing at each other about being depressed, having anxiety, obsessing about somethings and so on. Such psychological terms became so integrated into our daily lives that we even hear and use them without noticing as psychology students, young adults or maybe even parents as well. There are an immense amount of topics that I can talk about related to psychological conditions, and careless and increased usage of certain concepts in everyday life. However today, I want to focus on the increased perfectionism and digital media’s interaction with it.

Toxic Of The Current Era

I believe that every era brings along a certain concept, a problem that comes to the fore; and the current era is perfectionism. 

Perfectionism is a trait that turns your life into an endless to-do list, in which you need to chase one accomplishment after another one. However, what we don’t recognize is that there are unhappiness, dissatisfaction, depression and another endless to-do list waiting at the finish line; instead of an award as some people want to think.  It can be likened to a toxic relationship in which you find yourself living the same things again and again while trying to avoid failure each time. It focuses the person’s attention on not losing instead of winning, therefore it results in procrastinating in both personal and professional lives, avoiding challenges and risks, lacking creativity and spontaneity and so on. 

I Am A Perfectionist And I Am Proud Of It

“I am a perfectionist and an overachiever.”

I used this phrase in every single interview that I had. Whenever they asked me about my weaknesses and strengths; I used to count perfectionism as one of my strengths. Because it helps me achieve quality with everything I do, is safe, improves my organization and planning skills, makes me determined and reliable. 

However, I found myself wanting to be ordinary and easily satisfied last week; because sometimes it is just a little too much. 

In a nutshell, it is:

  • Not being able to appreciate the things that you crossed over from your to-do list that day.
  • Not being able to take a break.
  • Constantly chasing approval which you will never get.
  • Triple checking assignments, and making sure that your friends and family triple checks them too so that you can make sure it is not bad. 
  • Asking for clarification between horrible, bad, not bad and okay. 
  • Asking if something is bad, instead of asking if it is good. 
  • Postponing all your dreams and procrastinating due to even the smallest chance of failure.
  • Ruminating about every little thing from the colour of your hair tie to a possible improvement in your latest conversation with someone. 

In other words, it is tiring!

Digital Media As An Accelerator

Digital media brings along a lot of things from useful, useless even to harmful. It gives us an opportunity for us to reach numbers, to communicate, practice certain skills, access to information, online shopping, certain tips and tricks and so on. However, nearly all the things that I mentioned here are properties of digital media that we mostly use and appreciate since they are making our lives easier. 

Aside from their benefits, certain digital platforms also provide input that we are not aware of the harms yet. Platforms as Youtube, Pinterest and Instagram promote this life image where people are following this perfect routine, have everything scheduled from snacking to shower time, achieving everything all at the same time while also promoting these as easily applicable in everyone’s lives by providing you with a bunch of how to do blog posts, free printable schedules etc.. However, we don’t realize that this just a digital reality, instead we idolize those lives and aim for them. Putting aside our own realities, our search history turns into “how to do everything all together, how to be the perfect A student, how to lose weight in 7 days, simple steps for the perfect routine, …” which then results in a complete failure. It is even the case with the recipes and DIY options on those platforms. Our trials don’t turn out to be the same as the photos or the promise of the post; we don’t end up being super organized and good at doing everything after reading to that blog post or watching that ‘how to’ video. In the end, we end up being disappointed. 

Such digital platforms promote perfectionism as something achievable and even worse something that we should aim for, which just accelerates the number of perfectionists that we have around currently while also accelerating the psychological conditions that perfectionism brings along with. 

After all, life itself is not perfect so why would we try and fail while doing so! 

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1 Comment

  • Amanda
    Posted October 14, 2019 at 10:46 am 0Likes

    I feel… very called out by this post, but what an excellent and necessary post it is. The funny thing is that at the end of the day there’s no true barometer to perfection, either; it’s all based on what our individual perceptions of perfection are, which sometimes makes it feels like you’re chasing an impossible dream (which in a way, you are). “It focuses the person’s attention on not losing instead of winning” – this is such a poignant sentence, and it’s a truth that hurts – personally, I’ve been procrastinating writing my thesis because I feel like whatever I put down hasn’t been good enough (and with it being my *thesis*, it needs to be *perfect*) but at the end of the day I’m losing more by focusing on its supposed perfection than actually getting it done. On your point on digital media as an accelerator, I’ve actually found that it’s the posts saying “You don’t need to be perfect! Your best is good enough” that push me to cling towards perfectionism, but that’s a comment for another time. Cheers on having written such a thought-provoking piece!

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