The magic of social media will define our generation for decades to come. The ability to digitally share special moments in our lives, maintain a strong connection with our friends (or strangers) around the world no matter how far away they may be, is its legacy.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic this past spring has brought us a new hobby: Instagram photoshoots accompanied by the perfect Pinterest-esque outfit, perfect background, perfect lighting, face and body. The app can be an incredible source of personal creativity, a way to explore new aesthetics and unique themes. It can be invigorating, but Instagram has a way of becoming incredibly toxic incredibly fast.
If you’re anything like, well, any other young person in today’s digital world, you’ve spent hours comparing yourself to a picture-perfect version of someone else (or even yourself), which for all you know may be far from the truth.
What is one of the first things we do when we wake up in the morning? I think you know the answer. It becomes so easy to lose our sense of reality mindlessly scrolling through Instagram and TikTok, constantly taking in, for lack of better words, perfection.
Information overload is a serious issue that has such a profound impact on the minds of impressionable young people. In the world of social media, it can be described as a feeling of anxiety avid users get from absorbing information from a wide variety of sources, leading users to become unproductive, overwhelmed and stressed out. If you’re ever in a rut, or aren’t at your best (we all have those moments), intake of social media can take a real blow to your self esteem.
VALLEY had the privilege of speaking to Penn State junior Lauren Hernandez (@crunchytaco20 on TikTok), who recently found a bit of fame on the app by speaking out on her own personal journey with body positivity.
For Lauren, her TikTok platform is a source of confidence and personal empowerment, a way of lending a helping hand to those struggling with the same issues as herself. Her vulnerability and willingness to be candid with strangers made her followers feel understood, that they weren’t alone, and that nothing bad lasts forever.
It’s important to remember that Instagram is used as a highlight reel: people actively choose to showcase the most polished version of themselves. Taking in only the high points of a perfect stranger’s life and looks leads to false standards of beauty and lifestyles, and we do a disservice to our self esteems with all the negative comparisons. Even supermodel Tyra Banks joined in on the casual Instagram train:
Sophomore Gabriela Williams tells VALLEY that “promoting and valuing creativity over beauty and aesthetics” is the key to keeping Instagram casual.
It’s in our best interest to remind ourselves and show other people too, that a perfected image isn’t what makes us special, but instead, our individuality and our willingness to show our true selves to the world is what makes us so.
Whatever works for you, do it. Making Instagram ‘casual’ can have an open interpretation. It could mean uploading pictures of breakfast, or something that brought you joy, like a tender moment with your family, nature, your pet doing something crazy, or a funny tweet. There is nothing more refreshing to see a moment like this on your feed. We have nothing to be ashamed about sharing moments like this. It’s simply our reality. Taking in information much more like this, we stray away from the things that weaken our confidence.
Rejecting the standards of Instagram that we’ve all succumbed to is a work in progress. It takes time to become comfortable expressing our most authentic self on the internet again, but it’ll be for the better. I hope you consider trying it out.