Instagram and I

Social media has a hold on us one way or another. Especially our generation, whether you are Millennial, Gen Z or Zillennial, we are integrated so intensely with social media that it almost has become a steady IV in our systems. Most people I know got Instagram and Snapchat as soon as the apps were made available (which was around middle school). However, I did not get these common apps because I was afraid of them and the power they held. Since I got the apps so late into the game, I found that I have had a weird experience with how they affect my daily life and interactions with other people and even my mental wellbeing. 

Woman looks at a photo on Instagram on her phone. Photo by Kate Torline from Unsplash

Unlike most kids, I spent all of middle school and most of high school social media free, not even Facebook (haha) because they were new and scary. I also had a loving yet protective mom who feared all the unknowns that social media held, especially for her young girls. My mom discouraged us from downloading any of the apps that were quickly becoming the rage, but I also was not dying to have Snapchat or Instagram. I was afraid of the app and what it meant for my social life (which was very quiet during middle/early high school) and I was afraid social media was going to push me over the edge. As I got older, I kinda liked that I was not addicted to my phone or felt the pressures of being involved and popular. Maybe I was just being ~ different ,~ but it felt good that I had some distance from my phone (it also probably helped that I did not get my first iPhone until high school) and I could actually focus on my homework and myself.

People sitting at table with laptops and laughing Photo by Brooke Cagle from Unsplash I loved that I did not have a needed connection to my phone, but I also realized how out of place I felt. I did not have anything to scroll on my phone when I was in a crowd or waiting, besides Pinterest. I hated that I was not sure the real happenings on my peers or could relate to the same stories they would share about late night Snapchat convos or stupid Instagram pictures. However, I felt the most alone because I did not have any socials that seemed to web all my classmates, friends and peers together. I was so far out of the loop that I seemed to be floating all alone. I wanted to feel connected, I wanted to feel appreciated and I wanted to feel known.

young woman holding phone on couch Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels I finally caved and got Instagram my junior year of high school after wanting to share how pretty I felt at my homecoming dance. I wanted to experience the hype and “love” from other people. I made my Instagram account and the entire process of creating it and putting myself out in the world was terrifying to say the least. The last thing I wanted to do was make a fool of myself and be judged by others. My first post was terrifying, but I did feel cute in it- though the feeling did not last long as soon I began to receive likes and comments telling me how pretty I was and how glad people were that I finally got an Instagram! The whole night I could not sleep as I lied in my bed watching the notifications pop on my screen. It felt like a drug and I wanted to experience again. I could instantly understand why people were drawn to the app and its experience. While everyone else had already cumulatively experienced social media and the highs of being recognized and appreciated the love, I was walking this weird little journey all alone. 

selective focus photo of a gold iPhone 6s home screen Photo by Benjamin Sow from Unsplash The biggest thing I wanted to share was the fact that just as quick as I felt the euphoria of being my own little center of the world I quickly realized how inadequate I felt. Since I joined late, I did not make connections with people from middle school sports, classes and programs the way other people had. I did not have a thousand followers and I was not getting 500+ likes on my images. It was stupid how small and insecure I felt, but it became consuming. In fact, it still is consuming I have to admit. I still plan potential posts in my head and I obsess over the numbers of likes and comments far more than I ever should. I feel guilty and ashamed but it is the honest truth. Social media has just been so clearly integrated into our lives, like a steady IV drip, that there is no way to not have it affect you. I wish I could be someone that never had it, but then I fall back into the cycle of feeling just as lonely and unconnected as before.  

selective focus photography of person taking picture of jelly donut Callie Morgan/Unsplash All in all, I can never say that I am sad I got social media, it has just become a fact of life. It has connected me to loads of people and opened a whole new world of learning and seeing the world, but it has also distorted my view on what it means to live life. Just because it did not get posted online does not mean that it did not happen. A picture with loads of comments and likes does not define who you are. You can still live life without it all being recorded in the most aesthetic and perfect ways. This is a journey I am still navigating and maybe one day I will find peace with what it means to be a part of social media, but until then it will be filled with highs and lows, good days and bad days, days I feel pretty and days I do not.