Flashback to a few weeks ago: I'm sitting on a train platform in the freezing cold; the wind and rain has made my hair a gross mess, my makeup from 7am this morning has long worn off, and I'm pretty sure my faithful Chelsea boots are on their last leg. Life doesn't look too glamorous, but it was actually the same day the photo above was taken. I spent that day at Buffer Festival - people that create YouTube videos as their full-time job. It always seemed like a dream; being able to create content that you're interested, in instead of working a 9-5 job, and having the world being interested in your life – following your every photo, tweet, and video.
I heard about Essena O'Neill's declaration over the weekend. Quitting Youtube, Instagram, and any of her other social media accounts. She attracted half a million people to follow her on Instagram, over 200,000 on YouTube, and everything from tea to fashion brands flocking to her to get her to tag them in a post in exchange for money. She created a perfect life - one that we all wanted to follow along, so we can write out #goals in the comment section, when in reality I know I would never have that kind of bikini body, I will never reach her level of 'fame', and I will never be signed to a modeling contract.
Which is something I am very, very aware of.
I hate to be that person that says back in my day... But when I was 15, I was awkward – I dressed awkwardly and I didn’t know how to do hair or makeup. I believed that those who were popular at school were deemed the pretty ones. I only had to compare myself really to the people at school and maybe a few celebrities I wanted to be more like. I got Facebook when I was in tenth grade, Twitter in eleventh, and Instagram during my first year of college. I was 19. Compared to my sister, who will be turning 17 at the beginning of next year, who has completely grown up with social media. She had a Snapchat before I did. I know that my younger sister has grown up with the notion that comparing yourself to other people on social media is common – and it’s unhealthy.
Comparison is the thief of joy is a thing I say to my sister quite often. It’s easy for anyone to say stop comparing yourself to other people, because it’s hard. It’s hard to not want a thigh gap or nice clothes or better hair. It’s hard when the world glamourizes things that you don’t or can’t have. Essena talks about how she started dressing more sexualized at 15/16, and I can totally see that being the case. It may have a correlation with social media and wanting to be like the girls’ feeds we scroll through, but I don’t think social media is entirely to blame. It's a platform of communication; whether that's with a 140-character tweet, a photo on Instagram, or a video on YouTube; social media has changed the way we connect and communicate with one another. Some might say that it's closed us off from actual humans around us and some say it's opened up a whole new way for us to talk to those all around the world. The problem with it is us; it’s the lack of balance and awareness that some of us might have.
Each of my social media networks are showing who I am. My Twitter is to send out life updates about things people might not really care about, like how I feel about Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield. My Instagram is a completely curated photos - like using my glasses, that I actually use to see, as a prop. An overpriced coffee to fit in with my desired fall feed aesthetic. A posed 'oh, fancy seeing you here' shot that was one in thirty. My tumblr is to reblog pictures of Chris Evans and Harry Styles; a little glimpse into my life as a #nochill fangirl. My Facebook is to keep contact with people I love around the world that I don’t get to see. Basically, the point of me saying all of this is that these are all real parts of me, but you're also not seeing all of it.
Essena has a lot of great points – we shouldn’t be chasing for validation through likes, retweets, and followers. We shouldn’t be only creating content with monetary gain in mind. As jealous as I am about the YouTubers that can afford to live in London just by vlogging, I know that their lives also have days where everything has gone wrong. I’m aware that what they show is not the whole frame. There is a larger picture that we aren’t seeing and that’s fine – as long as we are aware that a larger picture actually exists.
I believe that if you are honest about what you are willing and open to speaking about, people will come to you naturally. When you create whatever it is you love – writing, video, photography, it will show. When there is truth, people will appreciate that. No chasing for likes, followers, or anything else is required. By speaking truthfully and openly, you'll find validation within yourself. I used to think that if no one tweeted me saying they liked something I written, no one liked it. But I had to step back and remember that I write for me. It's what I love and I write for myself, first and foremost. I don't need someone telling me they like it to validate me. It's nice and I love any type of support, but I don't need it to survive.
So who the hell cares if I’m posting my idealized self; the one that has her shit together, the one that wakes up and is well rested, one that wears cool clothes, the one that jumps from cafe to cafe and lives carefree, and the one that looks like her lipstick is always on point. But I also write about being sad and heartbroken, and I tweet about being discouraged, and I talk about hating my legs. Reality is being a mess, sleeping in too late, spending too much money on an overpriced latte, and lipstick smudging from running around from class to work to home. I know that in reality no one has it constantly together 24/7, because I definitely do not.
As long as you are approaching social media has honestly as possible, which means thinking critically about how others use social media, it can be used for good. I’ve connected with people I wouldn’t of known without it. I fell in love with writing because of it. I am the first to admit that I care about social media too much; It’s the first thing I’m checking when I wake up and the last thing I’m reading before bed. But I’m not interested in tearing it down. I’m aware of my usage and I know it can have negative effects if used incorrectly. AKA, if you let the green eyed monster creep around.
Everyone wants to be liked. Everyone wants to show his or her ideal self. It’s when you are basing your value on likes and followers, that’s when social media gets scary. You don’t need to be validated by a double tap on your Instagram selfie. I promise that you are definitely already valued by your honesty. If I ever write #goals on a photo of you, it's not because I desire to be you or have your life. It's because I believe in you and I'm rooting for you and all of the dreams and desires you have. You don't need my validation in the form of a like or a follow, but I'll be cheering you on from the sidelines.