"MRS. PALMER! You have an Instagram?!" One of my students exclaimed in pure shock. The poor kid thought I was ancient. This frightens me considering I am a 22-year-old student teacher; what will they think of my age in five years, 10 years, 20 years?
"Pah-leeeeease. My generation invented Instagram. You should be thanking us," I retorted in pride, "How old do you think I am?!"
For my own sake, I will skip his response.
This exchange, regardless of how small, impacted me. By the end of the day, I had downloaded an app that allows one to mass-delete Instagram posts. I have been a member of Instagram for such a long time. I remember signing up for the app my sophomore year of high school, never turning back to the prehistoric days of my youth. Adoring the fun, innovative form the social media platform provided, I completely lost my chill, posting all I did each day to my profile. The frightening realization my students may discover these embarrassing square photographs became the driving force behind my need to delete them. As I sifted through these obnoxious posts, deleting them 50 at a time (this is all Instagram allows for), my shame overwhelmed me due to my incessant need for attention, approval, and my desire to brag about all I did.
I have changed since these not-so-humble posts. Instagram, previously utilized for showboating my life, is now an optional, small facet of life I use primarily to share photography and blog post links. I am no longer bound to my horrible, disgusting need to be seen or adored; in fact, I have developed a need on the opposite end of this spectrum. I need privacy. I need a separation between my daily, real life and what I post online. As much as I love the connectivity of social media, I despise the large and addicting narcissism that roots itself within the users of all social medias.
This distinct shift of thinking has taken place recently. My heart changed throughout the last couple of months, and I am unsure how it could ever return. Our generation is insightful and inventive. During our short existence, we have brought about an intense shift in how relationships function through our invention and embrace of social media. I admire this; however, I find myself longing for the days of the 90s.
This beautiful time period was a perfect combination of technology and human interaction. As a society, we embraced the Internet; however, we did not reach a place of complete immersion, preventing us from losing precious social skills. This equilibrium was a fantastic balance: a marriage of efficiency and personality. I long for this decade, not because the fashion of 90s kids and teenagers was so great (although, I would argue that adult fashion in the 90s was amazing--hello, Rachel Green). I do not desire jelly sandals, bowl haircuts, or sticker earrings. Instead, I desire the cultivation of genuine relationships; the authentic memories carved from a block of time; and the beautiful, vivid conversations that came with ease. I picture the romanticized images of Chandler, Monica, Rachel, Joey, Phoebe, and Ross enjoying jokes, stories, and the general company of one another. I want this, and for the most part, I have this; therefore, it is my job to protect these friendships from the prying eyes of social media and my own inner pridefulness. This specific and unique time of in-person communication is the foundation of my desire to slowly forgo social media.
I stepped back, evaluating my motives for posts, and saw that what I was looking for by way of strangers' comments and likes on Instagram, could have been provided through authentic interaction. My desire to have positive attention for my accomplishments could be given via a friend congratulating me as we spent time with one another; my desire to have approval and advice for my decisions should have been received by means of in-person conversations with friends and family; my pictures from vacations and trips could be printed or saved on my phone to show those who are actually interested; and my desire to brag about my lifestyle should have been smothered by the audacity of the sin. Who actually goes around saying, "Look at what I'm eating. Look at what I'm wearing. Look at me because I have a beautifully edited self-portrait. Look at my talents. Look at me, me, me,"? This is obnoxious behavior that would never be appropriate in face-to-face interactions. This is proof that social media is only a cheap imitation of socializing directly with other humans.
Although these are pillars of this thought process, the most foundational motivation for stepping away from this fast-paced world of posts, statuses, and updates is surely the eagerness to possess the intimacy stemming from living in privacy. In terms of marriage, two become one unit, sharing all that they are with one another physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and financially. The union of two people is far more intricate and complex; however, this simple illustration will suffice for this particular explanation. When a person is married, they keep these parts of life private, out of the reach of the public. By sharing themselves physically with another human, someone not their spouse, they break the intimacy their relationship once bore. Are friendships no different? We create an element of intimacy between friends as we go about sharing life with them. How do people expect to create lasting and true friendships if we are sharing all of ourselves to the entire world on a daily basis? What is left of us to give to real people? I wanted to save myself for my physical, real friends. I wanted them to receive the best of me. My friends are far more valuable than any random follower ever will be; they deserve the intimacy that comes with the privacy of a life outside of social media.
Upon accepting this realization, a decision is required. Do I continue posted out of pride and a ridiculous need for attention? No, I stop the cycle of narcissism. I want to begin collecting special moments of life and share them with real people. I want to cultivate true, lasting friendships. I want to save my heart, thoughts, memories, hopes, dreams, and ideas for the authentic humans with whom I choose to share my life. This transition to a life with fewer social media posts is personal and specific to me. That being said, I still urge those diligent enough to reach the end of this post to step away from the virtual world in which we are all intertwined.
If you need me, I'll be dreaming of the '90s.
Disclaimer: I have nothing against social media as a whole. I continue to use all social medias; however, I use them in smaller doses. This was a very personal realization. Therefore, you may not struggle like I did. There are huge benefits to social media: we can connect with people from across our country and the world; we can create businesses which would be nonexistent otherwise; we can share life with family and friends who are in different locations; and we can chronicle our own life in pictures and posts. The benefits are real, but so are the negative effects to our mentality.