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Log Off and Look In    

Log Off and Look In

Artwork by Lauren Platzker

BY SOPHIA EGRARI

Quirky, artistic, flirty, and fun. Images of joyful adolescence, beautiful scenery, and the occasional carefully curated selfie. Tiny, perfect squares, stitched together with an essential precision of thoughtfulness to create an image of a person that I never really was, and never will be. 

This is what my Instagram profile looked like in February of 2020-- and had looked like for almost every year since any remnant of casual and imperfect posting became a blunt aberration for most people in my generation. Even as I shifted away from intensely saturated VSCO edits (circa 2017), towards the appearance of a more unfiltered, uncaring ‘gram, it was clearly a facade: each post, story, profile picture, and bio was geared towards communicating to my followers (several of whom I barely knew at all) that I was constantly happy, fulfilled, well-liked, and, altogether, living the good life. 

The dawn of social media has brought previously unimaginable possibilities of social connection, decentralized circulation of information and news, and, as has been brought to light recently, the highly effective method of digital activism. Through social media, we are able to rekindle old friendships, share images and stories of what is important to us, and ultimately string together a narrative of who we are and how our life looks. It is, at its core, a tool for communication. 

Despite all the advantages and potential for social media to be used as a force of good via digital communication, I had fallen into a toxic trap of using social media as a means to communicating something inauthentic and impersonal. And I am not the only one: for many people, social media has become a battleground for who can communicate that they have the most friends, vacation in most lavish places, eat the most Michelin stars, and look the most effortless in a label adorned outfit.

This is a battle that nobody wins. 

For many people, social media has become a battleground for who can communicate that they have the most friends, vacation in most lavish places, eat the most Michelin stars, and look the most effortless in a label adorned outfit

I know the feeling way too well. The sinking feeling of isolation when someone’s story depicts the party that I wasn’t invited to. The eroding of my self confidence as summer comes around my feed is filled with bikini pictures that highlight long legs and perfectly toned abs. The racing thoughts of anxiety that my post did not get as many likes or comments as it should. We all know the feeling way too well. 

What has become apparent to me after deep reflection, is that the act of creating a perfect presence on social media is an insidious cycle that can be extremely detrimental to mental health. By cultivating an online image of effortless perfection, we create for ourselves a standard of living that is impossible to live up to. Whatsmore, is that we create a standard that is impossible for others to live up to, and, in turn, their ‘perfect’ posts create a standard that we will never live up to. 

Thus, as this realization dawned on me this past February, and a wave of guilt washed over me for my own contribution to this toxic cycle, I said goodbye to the ‘gram and disabled my account indefinitely. The succeeding months that I spent Instagram-free were refreshing and allowed for a nice reset away from the temptations of posting as a means for communicating a false reality. For some, this may be the answer; Instagram can be a great tool for social connection and communication, but it is certainly not a necessary asset to having a healthy social life. 

If we all took a little more time to ask ourselves why we post what we do, perhaps what would be reflected on our profiles would be less of a pristinely picked selection of images, but rather a smorgasbord of the good, the bad, and the ugly


For me, however, I realized that deleting Instagram was not the only answer. During my much needed break from the application, I found that there were parts of it that did contribute positively to my life and kept me connected to both local and global circles of news and connection. The question I was left with was how do I communicate my authentic self through social media, and find ways not to compare myself to others when they chose to communicate a life that is simply too good to be true.

And here comes the anti-climax: I am miles away from uncovering the answer to this question. As I have begun to rebuild a new instagram account, limited to far fewer followers than my old account, I still find myself looking through my feed and letting thoughts of anxiety and isolation creep into my mind. 

Ultimately, what I have learned is that in no way at all is it a crime to celebrate the good times via social media, nor should anyone feel guilty for doing so. What I propose is that, before posting, we should all take a moment to ask ourselves, “Does my social media reflect my authentic self, or am I curating a facade of happiness as a means to an end?” If we all took a little more time to ask ourselves why we post what we do, perhaps what would be reflected on our profiles would be less of a pristinely picked selection of images, but rather a smorgasbord of the good, the bad, and the ugly; all things that that make up the well-rounded, authentic, and beautiful lives that we life. 

It takes courage and it takes time. It might take some time away from the application altogether, or setting limits on daily use. Guilt and shame have no place in the process of creating a healthier social media presence, but rather acceptance and love. It takes accepting ourselves for who we are, and accepting our anxieties and insecurities for what they are. 

I am not there yet. But I sure as hell am optimistic :)