Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The pressure to have a perfect social media presence

These platforms can become toxic
(courtesy of Instagram’s official facebook page)

To say that I am not addicted to Instagram would be a bald-faced lie. It is the best way to be discreetly creepy about what is going on in the lives of everyone in my life, and even many people who are not. In high school, you took pictures in your friend’s basement and sat in silence as the editing began. Posting anything without the approval of the tagged individual would result in a glare and a snarky comment. It usually ended with a “You better delete that right now!”

Somewhere around April of senior year, the game was changed. Suddenly you’re downloading Facebook, which everyone knows is the unofficial Mom version of Instagram, in order to join the University of Massachusetts Class of 2022 Facebook group. You type out a perfectly quirky but still passably normal post and wait for the comments to roll in about how everyone wants to be your roommate; you check up on those likes more times than you’d like to admit.

The end-all-be-all of picking a roommate was normally based on stalking their Instagram. Do they look fun? Do they have a lot of friends? Ratio of following to followers? Aesthetically pleasing feed? Okay, that’s slightly exaggerated, but the person’s Instagram holds a tremendous amount of weight, and I salute anyone detached enough from social media to not judge a book by its cover, or rather, an individual by their Instagram.

We as a generation are obsessed with Instagram because it is a form of self-expression that allows you to choose your image. The biggest pessimist in the world could paint their Instagram page with smiles and words of positivity, and I’d look at it with admiration for the way they radiate genuine happiness. How would I ever know that it’s not genuine?

This is where social media gets a bit toxic. Friends separate for college and so begins the silent competition to out-fun one another. The best of friends with the healthiest of relationships can participate in this with one another without even realizing it. There is an inescapable amount of pressure felt when your best friend from home posts an Instagram picture with her new school friends.

Maybe you are having fun at school, you just haven’t had the chance to post to Instagram, or maybe you have and feel your post is inferior. If you’re not, you might feel the need to plaster a smile on your face and tell all 800 of your followers that you are having the time of your life. This is potentially dangerous.

Social media is a platform designed to keep you connected with your friends, and if we all keep faking our way to 300 likes, soon we’ll be indistinguishable from the strangers’ accounts that pop up on our explore page. Now, I type this as an 18-year-old girl who has been described as highly motivated (of course normally following these words is “to get a good Instagram picture”). I would never argue that social media is evil and it should be mandatory to share your raw, unadulterated feelings at all times. But trying to fill any sort of void with a bunch of pretty pictures is not only ineffective, but also feeds into the notion that we are self-absorbed and technology-obsessed. We are not. We are using the tools and platforms made accessible to us by modern technology, many of which help us greatly. No generation can say that they would not  behave exactly as we do in our shoes, because they have not experienced it. We owe it to ourselves, not them, to be better with social media, and use it as an outlet for real self-expression, not to blend in with our peers and “be normal.” We were not given this platform to be normal, so let us use it to distinguish ourselves from the crowd.

Meghan Carney is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

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