Everyone Look Happy, I’m Instagramming

“Totes gonna Insta that.”

I’ve said it. You’ve probably said it. It’s no secret that Generation Y has a fixation on social media. Practically every time I go out with my friends someone says they need a new profile picture. This inevitably leads to a photo shoot full of “that’s my good side, move over” and “one more, just one more, turn the flash on.” By this point the photographer (probably a random guy none of us actually know) and everyone surrounding these girls is eventually aggravated. And it’s because I am one of these girls that I’ve started to realize how absurd the whole concept is. Not just because it’s annoying, but because it’s for all the wrong reasons. We live for the Instagram, for the prof pic. “Do it for the Vine”, my friend said Thursday night as she handed me a handle of Captain Morgan and told me to chug it. Of course I did it. But why for the Vine? So that everyone watching thinks we’re fun? So that they’re jealous that we’re having a good time and they’re not? How good of a time could we be having if our faces are buried in our phones?

A study at the University of Michigan focused on 82 college students and concluded that Facebook causes depression in young people. Based on my and my friends’ experiences, the main reason for the correlation between social media and emotional issues is the phenomenon of doing things and taking pictures purely to make other people jealous. Of course that girl’s life look perfect from her Facebook — that’s exactly what she needs you to think. Chances are she sent a mass text to her besties telling them to like her profile picture because she’s sitting by her laptop hyperventilating that no one did yet (Should I change it? Nobody liked it. Ugh, you guys!). She probably spent nothing short of a half hour editing that picture — cropping out her arm fat, blurring out zits/beer, asking her roommate if she looks better in black and white or color, thinking of a witty caption. College students reading this are probably familiar with the Sunday afternoon ritual of “muploads”, i.e. every picture a girl took that weekend accompanied by funny captions that are probably inside jokes nobody else understands — this goes right alongside the desire to induce jealousy in our peers. You’re on the outside — we look cute and happy in this picture and you weren’t there. To the girls — you’re lying if you try to tell me you and your friends have never taken a “candid” picture of you all laughing and loving life. Is every girl in that picture “literally obsessed” with her whole life and all the girls she’s standing next to? Of course not. But she needs you to think she is. Why is it that such a huge part of our happiness relies on other people’s perceptions of our lives?

As previously mentioned, I’m entirely guilty of this. I took summer classes at college before my freshman year, and when I came back home my friends from high school had labeled me an “aggressive muploader.” I posted everything; tagged everyone. And for what? Because I needed everyone at home to know that I had moved on past high school and that I had made a new life for myself. But couldn’t they figure that out on their own, without me forcing stupid selfies on their newsfeeds? And if I was so set on leaving high school in the past, why did I care what they thought? I hardly post pictures on Facebook anymore — this is not to criticize people who do. I know that not everyone who posts pictures on Facebook is an attention whore. But I was doing it for all the wrong reasons. I learned to stop worrying so much about how I came across on social media, because the only people whose opinions I need to be concerned with are the ones who are actually with me on a regular basis — not the acquaintances I was trying to impress (and whom I don’t even necessarily like).

My friends and I once argued about whether you should tag yourself in your own photos. Is it trying too hard? One said that you should, because that way when people look at your profile and scroll through your tagged photos, it looks like you have a life. This is a completely valid argument. Our generation relies on Facebook to the point of no return. If you’re Facebook friends, you can paint a picture of someone’s life without even knowing them personally. But how accurate is that picture? If I posted every picture I took on the weekends I would probably look like much more of a social butterfly than I do. But somewhere amidst the chaos of my freshman year, I stopped caring. If I find a funny picture we took the night before, it goes in a group text. Once again, this is not at all meant to reprimand people who post muploads. I’ve spent a few too many classes scrolling through them. Facebook would be boring if nobody posted them. All I’m asking is that we all take a minute to ask ourselves why we’re investing so much thought into Instagram filters and albums of blurry pictures. Try to stop defining yourself by how your 1,200 Facebook friends and Instagram followers perceive you. You’ll never be able to impress that many people anyway. Stop being jealous of the girl with 200+ profile picture likes, because she has just as many problems and insecurities as you do. So next time you go to edit the living daylights out of that Instagram, consider putting your phone down and actually enjoying your life instead of trying so hard to convince the world that you’re enjoying your life. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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