Written by: Julia Stratton
Generally, content on people’s personal Instagram is highly curated to make them appear a certain way on the internet. Because of this norm, many people are discouraged from being creative on the internet for fear of what others will think.
Over the past two years, I have been experimenting with my social media usage. Generally, I have cycled between periods of using social media actively and not using it at all.
Upon doing a lot of research, I found that actively engaging with social media was supposed to be the best way to use social media. As a result, during my seasons of using social media, I intentionally posted more often and posted content that reflected who I was and not who I thought I was supposed to be on the internet.
One of the core features of my identity is making other people laugh, so during my active social media use phase, I posted something every morning on my Instagram story with the intention of making people laugh. When I asked my friends what they thought of my new social media venture, they told me it was “refreshing” and made them smile.
Despite this positive feedback, I didn’t feel as connected to my friends as I hoped I would. At first, I received a lot of reactions and DMs, but as the novelty wore off, so did the engagement of my friends. It started feeling like I was sending my thoughtfully created content into an echo chamber and the silence made me feel anxious and discouraged.
I know that when I look at other people’s social media content, I don’t think twice about what other people post, however, when I posted something, I couldn’t shake the feeling at all eyes were on me.
Despite my anxiety, I learned a lot from being myself on social media. My social media gave me a creative outlet and gave me space to wrestle with the fear of rejection. I learned that when I opened up a vulnerable part of myself to the world, people not only didn’t reject me but accepted me and liked it.
Although I was having fun, the constant vulnerability on social media became exhausting so when the academic school year finished, I decided I would take a break. However, since I still enjoyed making these posts, I decided to send them in a group chat with some of my close friends instead.
I felt bad that I wouldn’t be able to reach all of my friends but sharing them in a smaller group with people I’m close with has been really enjoyable. Since we can’t all be together in person, it gives us something to laugh at every day and makes me feel more connected to them.
Disconnecting from social media has made me pay more attention to the people who are actually in my life rather than trying to impress people I don’t talk to often or even know very well.
I’ll go back to posting on social media again at some point because it helps me grow as a person and based on what my friends have told me, makes a lot of people smile in the mornings. This being said, it’s healthy to take breaks every now and then and focus on the people in your life who already love you instead of looking for attention.
Importantly, I plan to never conform to Instagram ideals and norms. What I post on the internet is a part of who I am, and I hope that people are inspired to be themselves when they see my Instagram profile.