I truly do not believe that I would be the same person who I am today without the media’s influence on almost every aspect of my life. It has opened my eyes to wonderful things as well as terrible things. It made me feel safe and at-risk at the same time, and it also made me view the people who I choose to surround myself with much differently. Media has broadened my horizons and shed new light on the world around me.
With that said, I’m still not certain if it was for the best or the worst.
As a kid, I used to believe that anything an adult said was a fact. My mom could have told me that two plus two equals five and I wouldn’t have argued it. Growing up, It was ingrained into me that anyone who was older than me was a thousand times smarter and that I could safely assume that most of my own opinions were incorrect. I used to think that life needed to be lived simply rather than publicly.
That was until social media came along.
Social media was a huge blessing in my eyes. I could connect with friends on Snapchat, I could stay up-to-date with current events on Twitter, and I could receive the validation I felt I so desperately needed through likes on Instagram. All of a sudden, it felt like people cared about and agreed with the opinions I had. Even if it was something like, “Homework is the worst,” people would acknowledge the post by liking, favoriting or retweeting on all sorts of social media platforms. People were listening to me and the things I had to say and it made me feel like I mattered. Social media gave me validation from strangers that I wanted so badly.
But why in the world did I want validation from strangers? More importantly, why did I crave it so intensely? I believe that all different types of media (mostly social) ingrained into my generation the idea that we all had a special something that deserved an audience. We all think we deserve to be famous.
The thing is, I know that I’m not necessarily special but, I and so many others, want to believe we are special. Social media gives people like me a platform to project images of our best selves to the whole world. It gives anyone the opportunity to put their name out there and potentially receive their own fifteen minutes of fame. The hope that just maybe it could happen is what would keep my eyes glued to any screen almost all the time. All of that time spent refreshing various feeds or checking for new messages has definitely contributed to many of my insecurities and general anxieties today.
I could never blame all of my personal shortcomings on media, but its major presence in my life certainly did not help. It was far too easy to compare pictures of models to the ones I would post on my own personal Instagram page. I would also get extremely sucked into the lives of actual famous people and fall down a rabbit hole of jealousy. I even find that, as I have gotten older, my media insecurities have grown up with me. For example, I will often absentmindedly compare my success in college, jobs, or relationships with those of people I used to go to high school with. Why do I do that? I hate those people. Why do I care about what they are doing with their lives?
The only conclusion I have come to is that the media has subconsciously made me believe that I need to care about what they are doing. It is something that I often have to remind myself of. I constantly forget that the things that happen in an app are not necessarily happening in the real world.
Nowadays I try to limit my social media usage as much as possible. It’s ridiculous to me that people have figured out a way to put that hope into a bottle and sell the idea that everyone in the world needs to know what you are having for lunch. The sense of urgency that the media industry has created is like no other. I do not see myself ever completely detaching from media because it plays such an enormous role in my life. I love to hate it and I hate to love it.