OK, I'll admit it. Like 99 percent of people my age, I'll confess that social media plays a big part in my life (the other 1 percent? They're liars). My problem is that I just love to be in "the know." I like to know everything about everyone.
That's why my hair is so big, it's full of secrets. I generally know about major celebrity events well before they're even on the news, and by the time memes finally make their way over to Facebook, I've already known about them for weeks. When iPhone released all the emojis, the one I identified with most was the little private investigator character, because honestly? Same.
In my defense, I want to write for a living. That means you basically have to know every detail about every event that has ever occurred, ever. You can't make headlines with old news, after all.
Everyone uses some kind of social media now. Even old people have their own section of Facebook where they share baking memes with minions on them and comment about how pretty you are on photos you're tagged in because they don't understand that just because you're tagged in it doesn't mean the picture is yours. Heck, millions of dogs have Instagrams. In today's world, it's simply impossible not to have some kind of social media. I mean, you could go without it if you really wanted to, you'd just risk everyone assuming you were, like...dead. If I can't find you on Facebook, you basically don't even exist.
Recently, one famous teen Instagram model made headlines for "quitting" social media (except that she still...you know, uses social media).
I have mixed thoughts on Essena O'Neill. On one hand, it's really admirable that she's posting photos that she formerly tried to pass off as real, with captions that show what actually went into taking the photo:
I have two little sisters in middle school. They're growing up in a world that glorifies Instagram models like Essena, and they're comparing themselves to these girls and mentally keeping tab of every way they don't measure up. I know they're doing this, because when I was their age, I did the same thing. Honestly, I can legally vote and drink, and I still do it now. It's impossible to see photos like the one above and not wonder why I don't look even half as good.
I'm picturing my 6th-grade self, the one with frizzy hair and glasses and braces, the one who wore knee-high socks (thanks, Catholic school) and spent her lunch break reading "Harry Potter" in the bathroom. I'm picturing the 13-year-old me who secretly read Cosmo magazines when she wasn't supposed to, and who cried because she would never be as beautiful as Hillary Duff.
I spent my preteen years wishing I was as "naturally" beautiful as the girls on America's Next Top Model and Disney Channel, and that was before it was normal for every middle schooler to have an iPhone, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat, and whatever else kids these days are using. I can't even begin to imagine what my sisters are going through as teenagers in today's world. I'm pretty sure 13-year-old me would have had an aneurysm had my 2006 Motorola Razr had Internet capabilities, giving me a way to compare myself to the cooler, Abercrombie & Fitch-wearing kids at every moment of the day.
I only wish that when I was a kid, that I had known that everything is not what it appears to be online and on television. I wish I had known back then that even the people famous for being "perfect" use Photoshop and filters and lighting and special angles to look the way that they do. Case in point, even Kim Kardashian, one of the most famous people on our planet, feels the need to straighten a ponytail and reshape her neck every now and then.
Not even Kim Kardashian is as perfect as "Internet" Kim Kardashian. But my younger self would never have known these things. My younger self would have only seen Kim's "perfection" and used it as more ammo to hurt myself with when I didn't feel like I was pretty enough.
So yeah, Essena gets full respect from me for this. I hope my little sisters see these Instagram models and celebrities for what they are, instead of quietly comparing themselves and internalizing their self-hatred. It took years for me to learn to love myself, and I still have a long way to go. I think self-love is a journey every person has to go through, and I pray that my sisters have an easier time at it than I did. If stunts like Essena's smooth the way for them, and make it even the tiniest bit easier for my sisters to feel comfortable in their own skin, then I am all for it.
However, part of me (probably, you know, the part of me that thinks of witty tweets in the shower and then rushes to tweet them before I forget) thinks that Essena's "Social Media Is Not Real Life" campaign takes it a little too far. I mean, Essena's social media wasn't "real" simply because she chose to make it that way. While I agree that social media can cause people to compare themselves to others, that's not all it's for. With social media, I see my baby cousins minutes after they're born, since college makes it so I can't be there in person. With social media, I can snap my friends who live in other states and it feels like we're together again. With social media I can post photos so that years from now I can show my kids the shenanigans I was up to in college and they can roll their eyes and, I don't know, fly away on their jet packs or whatever. With social media, I am never too far from my friends, family and the people I love. Just because I don't see them in person, it doesn't make our connection anymore or less "real."
Social media will always get a bad rep. There are entire songs dedicated solely to making fun of how misleading the Internet and television-famous people can be:
I don't think anyone is 100 percent genuine on social media. It's human nature to want to show the world the best sides of ourselves. If editing out a pimple or using a filter makes you feel more comfortable, then do it. Who really cares? As long as your use of social media isn't stopping you from living your actual life too, then I think it's only as good or as bad as you let it be. Next time you make a Facebook status or post an Instagram, ask yourself why you're posting it in the first place. Are you posting it so that years from now you can look back and remember exactly how you were feeling at that point in your life? Or are you posting it to humble-brag to your friends and make it seem like your life is perfect? Are you tweeting that joke to make people laugh, or are you tweeting it so that people think you're funny?
Essena chose to use her Instagram to deceive millions of people and to make money from it. That doesn't mean that everyone else is out to do the same thing. For most people, it's about having fun, making memories and staying connected to the world around them. Social media is what you make it.
So, is social media "real life"? Honestly, it's all up to you.