“I’ve spent the majority of my teenage life being addicted to social media, social approval, social status, and my physical appearance”
I read an article today, that seriously blew my mind. The quote above is from a girl named Essena O’Neil.
She is an extremely famous instagrammer who recently decided to quit social media all together, because she believes it is not a true depiction of real life.
She now uploads the same pictures she used to post, but with different captions.
The beauty of it is, the captions describe the effort it took to take the perfect photo, or the constant battle she had with herself just to look pretty to others.
“Social media is contrived images and edited clips ranked against each other. It’s a system based on social approval, likes, validation, in views, success in followers. It’s perfectly orchestrated self- abosorbed judgement.”
This quote brought me to a place of not only understanding, but honesty.
My mom calls me a ‘people pleaser’.
I tend to go out of my way to make other people happy, and I will often sacrifice my opinion for the benefit of others.
But the opposing problem of being a people pleaser, is having the constant need for people to like you.
I spent a good majority of my childhood and teenage years not liking myself.
I was extremely self-conscious, unhappy, and was constantly wishing I could look like someone else, or talk like someone else, or be loved as much as someone else.
It wasn’t until the past few years that I finally decided that people pleasing can kiss my ass.
Because so long as I continue to people please, I will be perpetually putting myself second, and trusting in others before I trust in myself.
I recently had a conversation with my boyfriend on the phone.
I said to him, ‘I uploaded so many great Halloween pictures of my costumes and my friends makeup, why haven’t you commented on anything??’
Andy responded with “What do you mean? Why do I need to like your pictures? You know I love them already, why do other people need to know?”
This dialogue made me both disappointed and proud of myself all in the same breathe.
I will tell you why.
I was disappointed in myself that I felt the need for other people to know how much Andy loved my costumes during Halloween.
But I was also proud of myself.
I was proud of myself because I realized that I really didn’t give a shit about how many people liked my photos, or who told me my costume was great. Because at the end of the day… the only opinion I cared about was Andy’s.
I think it is absolutely insane what we can do with social media.
It baffles my brain that we can create a ‘new life’ for ourselves for everyone to see.
That we go through our days being unhappy and miserable, but if we can convince others that its great, then maybe we can get some likes or compliments that will make my miserable life a little less pathetic.
Now obviously not everyone’s life is miserable, I’m using creative writing to make dramatic effect. But we can seriously up the ‘cool points’ on how people view our lives by just tweaking our accounts to become a little more appealing. Add some solid filters, a little bit of air brushing, multiple shots, bullshit captions and we go from a Neville Longbottom to a Cedric Diggory in an instant.
I thought I’d take a note out of Essena’s book, and show you how.
I had brutal acne in this photo. I managed to stand in front of a big window with bright sun, and used a filter that essentially drained out every imperfection. Even after this photo was taken, I still had to remove some blemishes.
In this photo I am performing in a singing competition. This was one of the worst nights of my life. I didn’t make it into the finale, I felt uncomfortable on stage because my dress didn’t fit because I had gained weight. I didn’t even stay to hear the winner because I was so disappointed with the whole process.
I decided to get professional photos taken to add to my Theatre resume just in case I wanted to audition for any future shows. My acne was photoshopped out, and when the photoshoot was over I was given almost 100 pictures of myself to chose from, and I had to get my mom to choose because I hated every single one.
This is when I played Brooke Windham in the broadway show ‘Legally Blonde”. My hair took two hours, to complete which then took a month to actually brush out all the knots from teasing it so much. On top of that, although I managed to lose alot of weight for the show, my abs are contoured on with theatre make-up.
This is a photo of me and my boyfriend the day that we decided to get back together. Although we were happy with the decision we made, the weeks prior were awful and miserable. I’m glad that we were able to get to this point, but sometimes my social media portrays us as perfect, and were not.
I cropped out my gut… need I say more?
My face was RIDDLED with acne in this photo, but I got rid of as much as I could because I really liked the picture.
This photo was taken at my boyfriend’s going away party. Although we are all smiles in the picture, the days leading up to him leaving were some of the hardest days I’ve had in my life.
For those who know me, you know 99 percent of the time I’m blonde. In first year of university I had gone through a brutal break up, so I kept dying my hair to ‘re-invent’ or ‘find myself’.
We were not together in this photo. During this time, I was still mad at him for so many different things. But there was a small part of me that just could not let him go. He stayed the weekend, and we tried to figure things out, but even after the weekend, we still weren’t back together.
When Andy and I broke up, I posted this picture as a desperate plee. I tried to make myself as pretty as possible, and put on the necklace he bought me, hoping he’d noticed and miss what he once had.
We all have our battles, and our battles don’t need to be shared with the world. And if posting pictures of a somewhat improved version of yourself makes you feel a little more comfortable inside, then that’s okay. But I think its important to remember that when we share things on social media, we need to do it for ourselves and not for other people.
Post picture because you feel beautiful.
But don’t let the lack of likes make you change your mind on how beautiful you felt an hour ago.
Post a picture because you’re having the best time.
But don’t let a lack of social appreciation make you feel like your life isn’t interesting enough.
Social Media can be a vessel for validation, but it can also be a vessel for inspiration and confidence and sharing.
Without social media I wouldn’t be able to rant about my problems online, and actually have people listen.
But social media is a technology.
it is not a lifestyle.
And it does not determine your happiness.
Confidence is not ‘they will like me”
Confidence is ‘I”ll be fine if they don’t”