Growing Up Online

Jun 21, 2021

Welcome to technology week. As an ex-child blogger from ages 6-10 and someone who spends 9 hours out of my 24 hour day on social media, I️ feel like a technology expert. Of course, not in the Apple Genius Bar kind of expert but more like Gen-Z internet burnout kind of expert.

I have grown to loathe social media, the internet as a whole, and the way we use technology. When I was younger, it felt like the whole world was at my fingertips and the possibilities were limitless. Yes, that is all true but I never thought about the negative parts that could happen. I was too busy posting about my American Girl Dolls on my blog. I was too busy giving room tours of my childhood bedroom on YouTube. I was a booked and busy girlboss who needed to update her friends on when she would be available to play Club Penguin by emailing them.

I was never thinking about the effects of reading fanfiction on Wattpad at age 11 or the effects of glamorizing my declining mental health at age 13 on Tumblr. I was exposed to reckless behavior from Skins UK that I wanted to follow like a bible so that Marina’s Teen Idle would hit extra hard.  Obviously, I didn’t follow it like a bible and became the stereotypical good girl but that isn’t the point here.

The point is the older I get the more I am realizing the effects of social media. The more I think about it, the more I consider pulling a Taylor Swift durning Reputation era and ghosting the whole world, besides my close family and friends. It is just that the more I think the more I grow into this anti-social media boomer.

It isn’t even that I am a boomer who hates all technology. It is more of me reflecting upon how social media has so many complex issues in my brain growin up. Lately, I have been having the biggest internal fight with my thoughts on Instagram. I used to love the social media platform. When I was 14 years old, I would shitpost on there like no tomorrow. I would post ugly selfies. I would promote One Direction albums. Any weird thought I had in my head was instantly posted there without a second thought.

I don’t remember when everything changed for me. I think as high school went along, I got so obsessed with what everyone else was doing. I wanted to start curating this perfect life for my followers. Especially with the rise of finsta’s, which was this new outlet to put all of my messier, more real content, I had made a complete switch. It was almost like an artform the way I was performing this persona there. Instagram had become a highlight reel that was simply unrealistic.

What was realistic was the content I would post on my private finsta account. I would post the most raw, vulnerable, and most importantly, unfiltered version of myself. You would find pictures of me crying that I found funny, videos that make me laugh because I seemed so ridiculous in them, and opinions about my life that I would normally only tell in my diary. It became a safe place on the internet.

Meanwhile, Instagram got the glamorized version of myself. I became obsessed with having a platform where you can manipulate your peers into seeing you as your desired reputation. When I lived in Los Angeles in 2018, I was so miserable. I didn’t want a single person to know. I was posting downtown fashion school content and positive quotes all over my Instagram like life had never been better. I developed an eating disorder I still am fighting and was crying my heart out every single night during this period of my life. My Instagram would never have hinted at that.

I am currently learning that Instagram isn’t supposed to be harmful to me. It is supposed to be a tool that I can share my photos on. I can post interesting quotes and silly videos on my stories. I can be genuine. I don’t have to be this perfect version of myself but a more real version of myself. (I hate wondering if there is even such a thing as a real version of any of us online or at all? I mean, at what point do we stop performing? Is this really an internet problem or a human problem???)

I spend a lot of my time now mindlessly scrolling on social media. I noticed that I spent a lot of time comparing myself to those who I follow. I promised myself I would now swipe with intention because my time and energy is valuable. I unfollowed almost 400 people from high school who I don’t have a deep connection with. I don’t follow any influencers or celebrities on Instagram now, except Taylor Swift. I, even, unfollowed all writers I used to be obsessed with. This gives me more room to be authentically myself without the addiction of comparing myself to those I admire.

As I reflect on social media for technology week, I can’t help but wonder:

Why do we let comparison be the thief of joy when online interaction is simply just a highlight reel of perfect online personas? How do we handle staying true to ourselves while balancing an online persona? Should I be posting all finsta content on the main? Is now the time to start embracing being vulnerable online or do we continue to ignore it as we suffer in silence?  Is it even that deep? Was Taylor Swift in the right by ghosting social media and creating her reputation album? Who’s to say?

All I know is that I hate the way that social media feeds into the ego and personas. I hate the way that the internet has the power to expose children to adult themes. Most importantly, I hate the way we will never know the full side effects of having all of this information in our hands at such a young age until it is too late.

For more on this topic, catch this week’s podcast which comes out Wednesday at 6pm (PST).

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