Plugged In- Column by Bitsy Mammel

I first downloaded social media when I was in sixth grade, when during Christmas break my younger cousin insisted that I needed to get this app called “Instagram” as soon as possible. I didn’t really think about it much as I complied and started my first social media account, and soon after I posted my first picture of my cousin and I with a caption about Christmas and some historic emojis.
What was interesting about that day is that even though I didn’t think much about downloading the app, which was soon followed by Snapchat and Twitter, after the download I thought a lot about what I should post and what others were posting. When I saw that other girls were posting pictures with their friends at the Northeast football games and selfies of themselves standing in front of a mirror, I thought I had to do the same thing. I thought I had to send my friends each picture with three different caption options to have it proofread and accepted before I could post it on my account. I thought I had to have the same amount of followers as everyone else. And for likes? I’d see girls’ selfies easily garner hundreds of likes in an hour or two, so I thought my selfies should get the same amount. I thought I had to look like-no, be everyone else. Right from my clothes, to my accessories, down to even my body shape and size.
My entire confidence was a roller coaster. It went up with each validating comment or like, and went down when I saw another post of a girl who would always be skinnier, prettier, and better than me.
Social media hurt me in middle school, when there was a lot of other things that were hurting me too. I couldn’t depend on myself to be happy, and whenever I thought I felt happy, I was just happy to have someone else think I was. When people post online, many times that post is, really, just a posed snapshot of someone’s life. It would be cool if my entire existence consisted of laughing with my friends or outlooking a sunrise over the ocean, but, sadly and realistically, it’s not. It took me until freshman year to realize that.
After a particularly rough day of wishing I could be other people, I decided to be done with hating myself for things I couldn’t change (yes it really was that sudden). I went through my following list, and unfollowed every single account that made me sad or self conscious. I started to post less on my accounts, and didn’t put pressure on myself to always try to get the perfect picture. I started to just live, while still enjoying life as I scrolled through my timelines.
I don’t think social media as itself is a bad thing; I’ve been able to keep in touch with my long-distance family and friends much easier. Although, I do think that if we have social media without recognizing the potential negative effects, there’s going to be a lot more people who were like me before freshman year. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel the same way that I did then.
Now, my social media accounts are only pictures and videos that represent me the best: a person who doesn’t take much seriously, and who surrounds themselves with people that make them a better person. Before I post, I ask myself, who am I posting this for? Myself? My friends? My followers who I wouldn’t recognize in real life? If the answer isn’t “myself” I don’t post. Life is short, and the only opinion of yourself that matters is really your own. Why waste it with social media that isn’t social?