Status Update: Alexa is … Feeling Insecure.
As much as it pains me to admit, I use social media for validation. This truth doesn’t make me a shallow teenager; in fact, it’s the reality that most Millennials confront. Watch us for a week, count the hours that we put into our posts. We feel as though we matter just the tiniest bit more for every Like we receive. I never stopped to see the deception behind each carefully chosen photo that scrolled over my screen. I allowed social media to supersede the real world, seeking out more followers, more Likes, and more ways to show that my life was picture-perfect, instead of looking at the bigger picture.
The smallest setback drove me to seek comfort by re-reading compliments on old posts. In ninth grade, for example, several kids created a group on Facebook and posted an unflattering picture of me, commenting on it with taunts. Although I put up a good front, I wasn’t impervious to their insults. I tried distracting myself with various activities and hoped my Instagram documentation would discredit my bullies’ efforts. I was stumped by my inability to lift my spirits because social media had always acted as my security blanket. I used social media to see how well I was measuring up to others. I spent many hours that summer staring at Instagram posts of friends on teen tours, envying their exciting adventures while I worked from nine to five. I was so caught up in my peers’ apparent perfection that I hadn’t stopped to realize how fortunate I was to have been selected for an internship at The History Channel. Instances like these led me to resolve to no longer liken myself to these carefully curated, yet ultimately impossible, standards. I decided to delete all of my accounts and spend the next week without access to social media.
Status Update: Logged Off.
On the first morning of my digital detox, I woke up and scrambled for my phone. Then I remembered: no Instagram for me today. I checked my phone by habit countless times, but only found empty holes that screamed at me to re-download my favorite pastimes. As I sat through my free period, I anxiously awaited the arrival of my friends so they could offer me distraction from my barren screen. However, once they joined me, we spoke for a few minutes before they proceeded to catch up on missed posts. With nothing else to do, I tried peering over their shoulders to peek at what I was missing, but I still felt disconnected. Literally and figuratively.
Status Update: Alexa is … Feeling Cleansed.
As the week dragged on, something inside me began to change. My obsession with checking for notifications decreased and my FOMO (fear of missing out, for those who don’t keep up on social slang) seemed to evaporate. It was liberating to recognize that the negative feelings I got from scrolling through Instagram could be evaded with willpower. Hours that would have been lost to staring at my phone are now spent running in the park and listening to music. Conversations with friends have become more genuine, and we enjoy our time together rather than just documenting it for others to see. I’ve realized that posting a picture won’t lessen the feeling of being unloved. In fact, the whole process is so disingenuous that it makes you feel apocryphal and ultimately disposable.
It would be unrealistic to entirely remove myself from the social media stratosphere but I’ve resolved to use it less. I now keep notification alerts turned off, reducing distractions and allowing me to focus on my studies. I hope to lead by example and show my peers that limiting social media usage allows one to appreciate life’s experiences more fully. I am more deliberate about the way I spend my free time, rely less on how others perceive me, and can confidently say that social media is no longer a defining aspect of my character.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.