An acquaintance told me that "the best way to get to know someone in this day and age is to look at who they follow on Instagram." I reacted simply by raising my eyebrows and smiling politely; I wholeheartedly disagreed with this superficial opinion, and instinctively became very wary of the adviser. Could he really think social media is more revealing than stimulating conversation? I thought. With a mindset like that, he was no friend of mine.
Regardless, once I alone, I began to think. I opened the app on my phone and scrolled through my timeline; every single picture posted by the accounts I follow was, in one way or another, related to fashion, music, and/or art. I follow models, celebrities, editors, designers, bloggers, photographers, artists, and ordinary people that are total strangers. Out of the 550-plus accounts I am following, I can guesstimate that only a mere sixth are my actual friends. What does this say about me?
I ran into the aforementioned acquaintance at a coffee shop a few weeks post-remark and I dramatically informed him of my change of heart -- indeed, he was correct in pronouncing that an immediate way to learn someone's interests is to snoop their Instagram activity. Definitely taken aback by my confession, he informed me that what he said, he meant in a crudely flirtatious manner unbeknownst to me at the time of discussion. Apparently, he really "Liked" all my posts. I was slightly disturbed, and that was the end of our relationship... whatever a two-conversation relationship can constructively be.
However, it was not the end of my Instagram analysis. This past summer, working as a sleep-away-camp counselor, I was voted, among other things, the Best Person to Follow on Social Media during the staff celebration at the conclusion of the summer. Is this something I should be proud of? The content I showcase on Instagram, Twitter, and even Facebook is merely a reflection of who I am as a person; I am sharing my experiences and beliefs with my friends, family, fans, and followers. By saying that I have "must-see" accounts, does that mean I am an interesting person? Or does it mean I am cooler online than I am in real life?
Personally I do not think myself to be "cool". I would never want to be anyone but myself; I may be very weird, but this is the happiest I've ever been in my entire life! I would much rather make a night out of reading foreign fashion magazines, dancing to 2000s hip-hop hits, and snacking on kale juice and French fries than stay out all night at a boozy rager -- as a senior in high school, that definitely makes me "uncool". And I do not care! What people think of me is not my concern.
If the content of my character is judged by the iPhone snaps shared on Instagram and Facebook, or my random tweets that surface in the Twitter-sphere, that is great. Truthfully! I am sharing my personality with the world, and no one is required to "Like" me in real life, or on a screen. My Instagram feed is a highlight reel of my life, tangible to the content that surfaces on my personal Facebook timeline or even this blog. I upload my pictures usually in real time and caption my photos usually in ALL CAPS, because I am loud and I like to make my point heard. (Just ask my mom if you don't believe me.) My Twitter musings are sometimes complaints but are usually song lyrics and silly banters between friends, and I re-tweet an exponential amount of content that interests me from exceptionally captivating people. I find that what they can say in 140-characters is much more relevant than what I can say in 140-characters. Maybe it's just that I have too much to say. And as for Emojis? Emojis are fabulous.
I will continue to upload goofy pictures of koalas, even if it means losing seven followers like I did last night. (Do people have a problem with koalas? I was unaware!) I find that unplugging is hard, but it's even harder to thrive in a society that stresses over retweets and "Likes". Communication is lacking off-screen, and if someone is solely admiring me based on how "cool" my Instagram is and thinks that that is the best way to get to know me, I feel pity for that individual. Wouldn't they want to talk to me in the real world? I'd even supply the fries.
Photo by Tommy Ton at NYFW SS15 via Style.com.