I'm 19 years old. Barely an adult. Barely a child. Caught between two worlds, desperate to fit in. I used to try and piece together fragments of lives I craved to form my own. It became perfectionism. Anxiety. Depression. Raw feelings brought on by a facade.
But I'm only 19 years old. I'm hoping this means I've just barely struck the surface of my lifetime, but truth is, I don't know. So why am I living by a timeline I didn't even set? I don't know who and what and where I want to be when I've only dipped my toes into the ocean of choice, of freedom, of adulthood. I have a life ahead of me - hopefully a long one - and I don't want to live day to day, thinking "I just have to get through today." I just want to live.
So I started over. I let myself explore. No timeline, no boundaries, no followers, no one to impress. I put down the phone. Gasp. A teenager? A sorority girl? Off the grid? Crazy, I know. Here's what my experiment taught me:
I used to get bombarded with pictures and videos, all taken from slightly different angles, at slightly different moments, of the same exact things. I never had to wonder what my friends were up to or how they were doing; I could tap on their story to get the first person experience. I felt like I was everywhere with everyone, all the time. No need for communication or connection, just streaks and quick response times.
That's not right. I want to SEE you, I want to hug you and ask how you've been - how you've really been - and talk about it. The good parts, the bad parts, everything. A face frozen on a screen for 10 seconds will never be enough for me.
"Unlock phone. Open app. Scroll aimlessly. Find something better to do. Repeat." My routine.
I'd like a few posts, each time probably thinking, "their life looks so fun," as I lie on my bed, scrolling and scrolling and scrolling.
Instagram is a world in which you get lost in the fake, smile-laughing-candid-not-at-all-posed picture you spent an hour editing and texting all your friends about the perfect caption for. I mean, did you really go to the beach if you didn't take pictures? Of course not. I've since learned to seek discomfort. To take mental pictures with emotions, and share them in words to those I care about. Stop crafting the perfect one-liner to describe your day. Nothing worth sharing can be boiled down into a couple of words.
No longer an efficient method of broadcasting information, the Twittersphere has exploded into literal cyber wars about religion, gender, politics, and so many topics that cannot possibly be maturely discussed from behind a screen. For so long it has been said that actions speak louder than words. We preach about these causes and tragedies, ultimately voicing support but rarely attempting to make a difference.
Get off the phone and do something.
Whether it's a simple conversation with your partner rather than a passive-aggressive subtweet, reaching out for a heart-to-heart with a friend when you feel the need to retweet that sad song lyric, or even writing a letter to an official about a political issue instead of publicly and ineffectively degrading someone's well-deserved opposing opinions - what you do and what you say are very different, but how you choose to act and speak can make a difference if used in the right way.
We as a society are so well-versed in the art of ignorance, of distraction, of turning a blind eye to anything that makes us even the slightest bit uncomfortable.
Social media has outgrown justification by the need for self-expression and has since manifested into a desperate search for validation from, might I add, people whose negativity really shouldn't matter. If you're like me and the little voice inside your head tells you something is missing, be brave and stop fighting yourself. Stand up to your doubt, anxiety, depression, fear, whatever demon holds you captive. There are enough evils in the world trying to tear you down without your fuel in the fire. Open your eyes and understand that your only purpose in life is to live. There's nothing more to it; it's simple. Put your head in the clouds, feet on the ground, hands in the air, whatever you want to do.
The revolution begins within. I'm going to fight, and I hope you choose to do the same.