Since I haven’t formally written in this blog in about a year, I felt it time to first explain what brought me back. As many of my friends know, my relationship with social media of all forms is very, very unsteady.
I had Facebook throughout high school and for half of college, until I deleted it in a fit of, “I’m sick of feeling insecure/inadequate from watching others post about how (seemingly) perfect their lives are.” This is a bit exaggerated, but you get the point. I knew that I was spending way too much of my time watching (and being envious of) the lives of others instead of seeing the beauty in my own life circumstances. During my sophomore year of college, I took an amazing course at NYU titled, “Media & Identity” which both fostered and facilitated my hunger to talk about the effects of our online identities on our real-life identities. After one lecture on how social media enables communication and connection, I frantically made a new Facebook account. It took me only two days to realize the reasons why I had left the site in the first place and I deleted the second profile in a huff of angst and relief. I actually wrote a paper titled, “If I’m Not on Facebook, Do I Even Have an Identity?” as my final project for this class which was extremely fun, fulfilling, and cathartic to write.
I have had an Instagram account twice – this was definitely a favorite of mine since I took both digital and film photography throughout high school. But in this, too, I couldn’t shake this feeling of envy over the photographs on my feed. And further, I always felt a bit superficial when I would post a perfectly styled photograph of an everything bagel next to my new Kinfolk Magazine. (This actually happened once, don’t judge me.)
I have created and deleted Twitter profiles more times than I can remember.
Finally (and maybe most shockingly) I’m all about Tumblr. This is the one site that I have found the most inspiration and gratification from. So thank you, David Karp.
Maybe I’m too thin-skinned. Or maybe I am just hyper-aware of how social media fosters this sense of lifestyle voyeurism (a lovely term I found in a New York Times Magazine Article titled, “Look Out, It’s Instagram Envy“) that I am unable to not feel negatively affected by. Why is it that the number of ‘likes’ on a post feels like a drug of sorts? We all know the rush of self-confidence and “go me” points that come with those notifications, fleeting as they may be. This has always begged the question to me, is the confidence we gain from the online world just as real and lasting as the confidence we gain in real-life situations? To this, I am still unsure.
Maybe it’s awkward and embarrassing to even admit to these internal feelings, but I feel as though I must.
People are often quite taken aback when I tell them that I am not on social media. I went on a date recently where I was respectfully asked for my reasoning behind my lack of internet presence. I responded by explaining my reluctance of being bombarded by the details of others lives and casually left out the detail that the insecurity that social media brings is sometimes too much for me to bear. He understood my ambivalence, but said that social media has become so much a part of our culture and the way that we gain knowledge about news and media. This comment reframed my all-or-nothing attitude about being present online and I am very grateful for it.
A few days ago, while on Tumblr, I stumbled upon this quote:
Food doesn’t taste better or worse when documented by Instagram. Laughter is as genuine over Skype as it would be sharing a sofa. Pay attention. Take in nature, hold someone’s hand, read a book. But don’t ever apologize for snapping a photo of a sunrise after a hike, or blogging about the excitement of having a crush, or updating your goodreads account. All of these things are good and should be celebrated. Smile at strangers on the sidewalk and like your friends’ selfies. It’s all good for the human spirit. (via cogitoergoblog on Facebook)
This quote makes so much sense to me, and has ultimately pushed me to get out of my own way when it comes to social media. Further, it explains the importance of balance between the virtual and non-virtual, which I clearly need help with; There is clearly a time to unplug, but also a time to plug in.
The reality is that everyone in life goes through ups and downs, and that as perfect as a profile may seem, there is a human behind it with innate beauty and flaws. I am a recovering perfectionist (as Brené Brown would put it) but I am fighting my primal urge to “not do something at all just because it can’t be done perfectly.” I am fighting the urge to not post just because I won’t get 20 likes, 50 favorites, or 75 reblogs. I am stepping into the space where I can express my essence as a person and connect with others without fear of judgment. I am actively pursuing an attitude of appreciating the content that others produce without feeling utterly inadequate in comparison. I am bringing with me to the table the truthful notion that (as my cousin once put it) “they cry too” when referring to the seemingly perfect Facebook’s of girls that we know. I am doing this because I, too, want to catalog my life and connect with friends old and new, and because life is too short to spend it sitting on the sidelines because I’m too afraid of not measuring up to everyone who’s already on the field.
I have already made a new Twitter, and will follow with Instagram soon (I genuinely miss photography). Pinterest saves my hard drive from being filled with all of the things I find inspiring, and allows me to collect things in themed mood boards – how awesome is that? 8tracks enables me to curate music mixes that I will be able to look back on in years to come and remember how utterly obsessed I was with Blind Pilot my junior year of college. One can argue that these things are contributing to our downfall as a society. One can also argue that they have the ability to make us more of who we want to be and expand our knowledge and taste. This is all possible if we choose to view them in that light.
I think what we as humans (or maybe just I) need to learn how to do is take the positives from as many things as we can. The Internet can be seen as a deterioration of “natural” connection, or as a breeding ground for connections that could have never formed otherwise. I cannot count how many times I have come across a quote on Tumblr that I so deeply needed in that moment. We have a choice of how to frame things, and as I get older (and hopefully more mature and secure in my identity), I am learning how to make that frame one of positivity rather than negativity.
So if you miraculously made it all the way to the end of this enormous post, I thank you. I hope this finds you well and that you could relate to or understand my feelings on some level.