In 2013, I, a senior in high school, spent a weekend in Boston visiting two close friends in their first year of college. As we sat on the T, one of my companions introduced me to something I’d heard vague rumbles about but to which I gave no serious attention. After his brief pitch, I launched the App Store on the new iPhone I’d had for about three months and I downloaded this bizarre social networking app with a yellow icon with a ghost on it. And reader, I Snapchatted him.
And so, Snapchat joined the ranks of my Instagram profile that I’d created in 2012, my 2010 Facebook page, and, of course, my 2011 Twitter account. I was coming of age in a hugely connected world, and what a treat it was! Losing touch with camp friends was no longer such an imperious threat! Family across the country? No problem! We had smartphones and apps and I could play Scrabble with my friends in other states and tell the whole world what kind of sandwich I had for lunch and it! was! great!
But of course, we know that along with all of social media’s tremendous positive elements comes a Pandora’s box of disadvantages as well.
Constant comparison of myself, my success, my pastimes, my outfits, my relationship status, etc. based on colleagues with thousands of Facebook friends and whose Instagram photos get hundreds of likes has been a significant struggle for me, particularly in college and my immediate post-grad years– and I know I’m not alone here.
So how do we cope? When we struggle with impostor syndrome or doubt our self-worth, what can we do? How do I ensure that I’m living a life, not just an entry in a bullet journal?
As the decade draws to a close, I find myself the happiest I have been in years. When I examine why, I can draw one main conclusion: my motivations have changed. For the first year of my post-grad life, I was determined to prove to the world that I was doing great. Every night out, every new friend, every gig I booked was an opportunity to prove that I was out doing the thing, and therefore it absolutely had to be documented. I was posting Instagram stories in costume and sharing “life update” Facebook posts and always sending Snapchats from the bar. In 2016, if everyone didn’t know what I was up to, I may as well not have been up to anything at all.
In the last year, I began evaluating my reasons not just for using social media, but for making decisions in general. As I really thought about my motivations, I came to a lot of realizations, some frivolous– no, I don’t actually want this eyeshadow palette just because Jaclyn Hill said I do– and some more substantial– I am no better or worse of a performer based on how much I tweet about this show. I naturally started making decisions for reasons that were more true to my personality, my goals, and my priorities. I began to find more joy in my job and in the art I create, and I started to notice how truly I am surrounded by love and support from all angles. I have become more generous with myself, I see that my talents have value because nobody else on earth has them, and I am far, far happier.
I, of course, still tweet like a fiend and I am totally hooked on Snapchat. I certainly still share photos from gigs and shows on Facebook and Instagram– and I won’t stop!– but I have taken the time to understand myself and my relationship with social media, and I now use these tools in much the same way, but for much better reasons.
To wrap up the aughts, I look back with gratitude on my journey away from insecurity and self-doubt. The road has not always been straight, it has had bumps and potholes along the way, and I am not at its end, but I am so much farther than where I was ten years ago, and I am so, so ready for what the Roaring 20s will bring.