I am a social media lover. I am the user — and sometimes abuser — of a slew of different platforms that let people know what I’m doing every minute of every day.
But just because I can, essentially, document my entire life on my phone or computer, does that mean I should?
I woke up the other day and checked my phone as I always do. On Snapchat, I had maybe one or two snaps from a couple of close friends. But when I looked at the “Snapchat story” updates, more than 15 people had added something to their story. Shiny filters, clever captions, they had it all.
I get it. Everyone is in college and it’s all super exciting. Every moment seems picture-worthy, and every new friend just needs to be in a selfie with you.
If I was at school right now, I would probably be doing the same exact thing. But since I’m not, I’ve had this sort of “outside looking in” perspective of what kids in college (especially during Welcome Week) look like on social media. And it isn’t too pretty.
Here’s the thing about Snapchat stories — they’re semi-public. Anyone who you have added as a “contact” on Snapchat can see your story, not just people who you choose. While I may only Snapchat seven to ten people on a regular basis, if I add something to my story, everyone can see it. Sometimes it’s a good thing — if you’re not brave enough to send a picture to your crush, you can send it to your story instead, hoping that he’ll eventually see it. But often, it seems to perpetuate the “look at me” attitude that us young folk are so notorious for having.
FOMO is real. I feel it, my friends feel it, and maybe you feel it too. FOMO (“fear of missing out,” for those of you who are not so hip) might be the reason why we constantly feel the need to update our Snapchat stories. Even if we aren’t doing so much as hanging out in a room and chatting with friends, we’ll take a quick panorama-type video to let people know that “Yes, I am being social right now.”
Perhaps the goal isn’t to make our Snapchat buddies feel FOMO (who would wish such a horrendous feeling on someone else?). However, we may use Snapchat and other social media platforms as a form of self-affirmation in order to mask the FOMO that we may be feeling when we see a picture of a party we weren’t invited to or a concert we couldn’t afford to go to. And so the vicious cycle continues.
It’s natural to crave affirmation. But I think that we’re looking for it in all the wrong places. Likes, favorites, retweets, and views on a picture may satisfy the need for peer-approval, but, like a 3-second Snapchat, the feeling is transient.
What isn’t transient, however, is the feeling you get when you live in the moment. It’s that feeling you get when you’re not worrying about whether or not your friends think you’re out and about or just sitting in your room watching Netflix.
My friends and family will be the first to tell you — I’m not perfect at this. I’m always one to take (and post) a picture of whatever I’m doing. Sometimes, I’ll even tap through my Snapchat story to see if it looks like I’m having a good time.
But you know what the best times always are? The times when you’re having too much fun to stop and take a picture and fiddle around with the filters. And as I go off and away to college, I’m hoping to have more and more of those kinds of times.