For a while, and even still now, I put a lot of stock in numbers: my weight, my number of followers, my grades, the number of calories I eat, the amount of likes I get on social media: you name it, I've counted it. Unfortunately, I don't think I'm alone in this struggle.
I really enjoy social media—I find it a great way to pass the time while I'm riding the bus, a place to share my fun experience and organizations and graphic designs, and a tool for my major and future career in public relations.
I especially like social media when it's Instagram and when my notifications are constantly buzzing with likes on one of my pictures, usually one where I'm "modeling."
Modeling is fun—I love watching America's Next Top Model, I modeled for a photo shoot in a school magazine called "Coulture," and one thing I certainly cannot deny is the opportunity for cute pictures. By no means have I done anything special or learned much about how to model, but it's fun to pretend.
However, when it comes to wanting likes and judging the amount I get for being too small, and then thinking about how many more likes other people get, and then comparing our followers, and so on, the real problem has already begun. I'm constantly comparing myself, but especially on Instagram.
I've heard this several times, but I find it hard to believe: taking the "perfect picture"—or anything close—takes luck and several tries, and people's lives aren't as perfect as their social media accounts say. For those who also struggle to remember this, check out a couple pictures I took this past summer. Guess which one was posted to Instagram and which one appeared on my camera roll more often than the other, along with others that were equally as (not) attractive.
Yep, you guessed it. This is real life, people. These are two of a gazillion shots. This is me trying to look cute and then realizing I have the upper body strength of an elderly caterpillar
After my friend graciously took pictures for my mini photoshoot, I contemplated two possible posting options: A) post the first one with a flirty caption, or B) post them both with the caption "Instagram me vs. the real me."
I wish I could tell you I posted the latter—and I was close to it, for sure—but option A won, and I don't really regret it, especially since I'm sharing this story with you all now.
I'm sharing this because I want you to remember it when you feel like you can't take a cute or model-ish picture for the life of you, or when you're feeling insecure over your amount of likes or when you can't figure out how someone looks hot in every single picture. For some people, good pictures they approve of may come easier, but for others, it can take a lot of tries, a lot of trying-in-the-mirror-firsts, a lot of luck, a lot of posing beforehand to figure out best angles and a very patient photographer. By no means am I trying to brag with the picture—it's nothing special—but it's also not me lying face-down on the concrete.
And sometimes, that's just too much work, too much concern and an unhealthy amount of care. I find myself wishing fairly often that I wouldn't care so much, and I don't always overly care, but when I do, it's frustrating. Logically, I know that the amount of likes or level of attractiveness in the picture doesn't make a person—and I know several amazing people who don't get as many likes, for multiple reasons—but it's hard. I think to some degree, we all want to be liked and found attractive and for people to look at our lives and think that we're perfect.
But that's not how it works. And that's okay. The amount of likes and attractiveness of the picture aren't what's important; what's important is the feelings and experience behind the picture.
Instagram and other forms of social media should be seen as a plus, not a necessary part. What matters in our lives is our relationships and our experiences. Our outings to the pool, dinners out, celebrating friends' birthdays, campus engagements, and the love and joy behind it all. Life is about what happens in the pictures, not the pictures themselves.
The pictures are for the memories, not the likes.