Essena O’Neill, a 19-year old Australian Instagram model and YouTube star with over 2 million followers, recently came forward with her decision to quit social media. “I told myself that when I have heaps of views people will view me, I will feel valued, I will feel happiness. I let myself be defined by numbers. I had it all and I was miserable," she said. We live in a world that revolves around numbers… number of likes, number of friends, number of followers, numbers on the scale, even grade point averages.
I’ve learned recently that certain people are meant to come in and out of our lives. Whether it’s a childhood best friend, a college boyfriend, or a guy you met at a party and hung out with just for a night, there’s a certain amount of time that people are meant to be around for. Not everyone can be around forever, but everyone usually contributes something during the time that they are. While they were around, they might have taught you how to be brave, or how to fall in love, or how to have fun in the midst of a rough couple of weeks, but eventually the lessons are learned and the memories are made and whether it happened quickly, slowly, amicably, or dramatically, your involvement in each other’s lives ends. The fact that it ends doesn’t marginalize what it was, it’s just the way that life works, people come and people go. Social media however, keeps everyone intertwined. Because of social media, at any given moment, with the click of a few buttons, so much unnecessary information can be known. With a little bit of scrolling I can discover that a girl from my fourth grade class just won her soccer game, an old boyfriend got back from an exotic vacation, and that a girl I went to summer camp with, whose name I barely remember, celebrated her birthday at a frat party with friends. Their role in my life is supposed to be over, yet all the details of their daily lives are on display for me to see.
Aside from being exposed to the personal information of people who, in terms of our lives, should be considered irrelevant, social media falsely depicts people’s lives. On social media you’ll see the wins, exotic vacations, and birthday parties. What you won’t see is that last week that same girl from fourth grade was the reason her team lost, or that the day before his exotic vacation the old boyfriend failed his math test, or that at that very same birthday celebration the girl from summer camp had her heart broken and ended the night in tears.
I think the surge of use of social media can be a wonderful thing. As a girl with a huge family spread all across the globe, the communication and updates made available by social media benefit my life every single day. There’s no doubt that relationships are formed, maintained, and rekindled all of the time, strictly because of social media. Inherently, and when used correctly, there’s nothing wrong with social media, but the next time that you’re feeling bland or boring as you scroll through the seemingly unending snapshots of the crazy parties that all of your friends are going to, remember this… People are going to post the picture of them wearing a birthday hat, champagne glass in hand, celebrating with a group of stunning friends. People will never post (or even take) the picture of them in XL sweatpants crying over the stress of finals or a bad breakup. By no means do I think everyone needs to hop on O’Neill’s bandwagon and completely delete all social media, but making sure that real-life moments aren’t compromised for the sake of your perceived life on social media is definitely a bandwagon I wouldn’t mind joining.