What Exactly Is the Highlight Reel Effect?

Alaina Stanisci


January 19, 2022

Dear reader,

You are not alone.

Have you ever looked at somebody’s Instagram or Snapchat and thought, “Wow, their life looks perfect,” or “their life looks like so much fun?"

So many of us are falling as victims to these falsified realities: that everyone else is living happy and perfect lifestyles. Of course, it is so easy for people to paint the picture of these ideal lifestyles on social media.

Social media and the curation of the highlight reel effect- the idea that people will almost always opt to represent themselves, their lives, and their experiences in the best light possible is the driving force behind this concept. As a highlight reel, social media is only showing us the best moments, success stories, and victories of somebody’s life.

However, what social media is not showing us is virtually everything else. It is not showing us when somebody loses their job, gets a divorce, or fails a test. It is not illustrating arguments with friends, anxiety, insecurity, depression, loneliness, frustration, and so much more.

Since social media is not capable of illustrating these things, comparison and negative feelings are often generated as a result. The highlight reel effect of social media, where everybody is only sharing the best moments of their lives, has a lot of potential problems for our society.

Until we start to become more vulnerable and open with each other to our audiences on social media, the curation of the highlight reel will only become worse. Showing these picture-picture lifestyles is worsening the mental health of our teenagers among our generation. It is impossible for somebody to feel that they are not alone or the only one who is unhappy when they constantly see hundreds of posts illustrating people living the happiest moments of their lives.

We need to start exemplifying reality. We need to exemplify our differences, interests, and what makes us unique. We need to exemplify our stories, our struggles, and the lessons that we learn from them.

What we ought to consider is that every single person has their own story and they can make it seem however they want for people looking in on the other side. It’s easy to look and judge, but merely impossible to see who people really are and what they are struggling with.


Someone who cares

The views, opinions, and stories expressed in Promly Garden articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policy of Promlyapp.com. We aim to give Gen Z a voice and welcome articles and opinions from Gen Z contributors who want their voice to be heard. Please send any articles, poetry, or artwork you’d like to see published on the Promly Garden to heypromly@promly.org.

With immense gratitude, the Promly Team.

Alaina Stanisci

Laina (she/her/hers) is a senior in high school. In her spare time, you can find her on the soccer field, skiing and eating belgium waffles, or going on hikes with her dog Ella. As somebody with mental health experience, Laina wants to someday help others become the most authentic, happy, and genuine versions of themselves.