Beyond Instagram, there is real life

There is life beyond Instagram and Facebook. There are real people behind the profiles

Last week the 28-year-old DJ Tim Bergling, also known as Avicii, died in a villa in Oman. A few days ago, his family spoke of the difficulties Tim had been facing.

“He really struggled with thoughts about meaning, life, happiness. He could not go on any longer. He wanted to find peace. Tim was not made for the business machine he found himself in; he was a sensitive guy who loved his fans but shunned the spotlight. Tim, you will forever be loved and sadly missed. The person you were, and your music, will keep your memory alive,” his family said in a statement.

I cannot say I followed his music closely but the issue is a mesmerising one. From what one can see, Tim was a good-looking, wealthy young man with his life in front of him. A lot of young people today aspire to the accomplishments he had achieved. His success brought him a great life of travelling and playing in sold-out arenas around the world.

What is there not to like in being in California one day, Ibiza the next and God knows where the following day? It was an Instagrammer’s dream. But it’s all a reception by the viewer. Which is why this came as a shock for many people, but like him there are many other cases where we think we relate to someone through his or her social media posts and yet it’s only the best bits that we are seeing. Instagram is the director’s cut of the best parts of one’s life. And everyone buys it, and nobody questions it.


The reality was very different, as more light is shown on this case. The reality was of a 28-year-old who was over-worked, tired and stressed out. While his music brought him success and wealth, it also stole from him any form of normal life. It turns out that travelling and working every single day – such is the life of an international DJ – also means an absence of any healthy sleep patterns and a heavy strain on one’s lifestyle. The toll on the shoulders of this young person was excruciating.

I do think that there are lessons to be learnt from similar situations. Social media has changed the way we perceive things. A popular quote comes to mind: the reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.

Television started this altering process, which is why we identify with the people who are on screen and feel like we know them. But we don’t really. What social media has done is alter this idea that we know people even more closely and we’re ‘connected’, but we aren’t really.

We’re only connected to the realities that are showcased. It’s not the same. Facebook is great if you have a cousin living on the other side of the world, but it doesn’t replace family gatherings or simply going for a coffee with a friend.

This is a very important distinction which I believe we must work hard on as a society to understand more. You help someone, be it a family member or friend, by reaching out on a human level. By helping or calling. Not by ‘liking’ or ‘sharing’ a post.

Darts have been thrown at social media because of privacy issues and data security. However, there is a deeper challenge at stake: the reconquering of the human aspect of life. Just look at families at dinner tables in restaurants, all deep into their phones or tablets. There is life beyond Instagram and Facebook. There are real people behind the profiles. Some might even need a helping hand. We just have to raise our heads to see it.


Evarist Bartolo is minister for education and employment