Friday, March 27, 2015

Because Taylor Swift and Social Media Said So

I’m really nothing special. Average, some may say. I mean, in 2 weeks, my married last name will be Jones, for Christ’s sake.  I’m a suburban-grown, nearly newly-wed, white female with a bachelor’s degree and a sorority pin sitting somewhere in storage.

I’m like so many other girls out there who have started the descent into the 2nd quarter of life; still unsure of exactly what I want to be when I grow up, but feeling like I’m supposed to have it all figured out by now. I’ll be honest with you, the only things I’ve figured out at this point are that I want a baby and can’t afford one, I’m convinced tequila and pickles were created by El Diablo, himself, and makeup is probably my favorite thing on Earth with bacon cheese fries and college football not far behind.

I blame social media. And Taylor Swift. No, really. While she and her perfectly lined, cherry red lips are stylishly Instagramming her way around the world, adorably awkward-dancing onto every list from Most Charitable Celebrity to Barbara Walters’ Most Fascinating People, I’m sitting here in my most comfortable granny panties that I probably should have thrown away a year ago, watching Netflix marathons of various Shonda Rhimes shows while my fiance is passed out on the couch next to me... again...snoring just loud enough to be obnoxious. I can’t make things like this up, people.

Now, I’m not ashamed to admit I’m just as obsessed with T-Swizz as everyone else, but as I scroll through said-Instagram feed during yet another break-room sex scene on Grey’s, I am reminded that she and I are the same age. If she has done all of these remarkable things by now, shouldn't I at least own a home with a pair of scuff-free, nude Louboutins sitting in my closet? If you look at social media, the answer is yes.

I saw an article not long ago on Facebook, ironically, about how social media can be a major factor in our happiness or lack there of. When you really stop to think about it, the concept makes perfect sense. In this day-in-age, so they say, people are so invested in social media to the point that I’m surprised our hands haven’t evolved yet into actual smartphones. We are constantly checking our social media profiles, mindlessly scrolling through updates of others’ lives, many of whom we don’t even know on a personal level. I wake up in the morning and the first thing I do is simultaneously pee and check Instagram to see how many “likes” I’ve gotten on the picture I posted at midnight last night of me watching TV in my new onesie pajamas.

Only 3 likes? Damn, I thought it was a cute picture. Oh look, Suzie Whats-Her-Name who I twerked with at Ho-loween 6 years ago in college is on another cruise. That girl is on a new vacation every month. How the hell does she afford that? I can barely afford the nice toilet paper! I have no idea what her job is, but we’re the same age so it can’t be that great, right? Must be nice to travel that much. I don’t want to go to work. The traffic is going to suck today. It always sucks. I wish I lived in the country and could just cook and read on my big wrap-around porch all day. Shit, how long have I been sitting here? When did I stop peeing? I think it’s been at least 5 minutes. Now my schedule is off. Guess I’ll have to do my mascara when I get to work. Ugh, I don’t want to go to work. I wish I was on a cruise with Suzie Whats-Her-Name. She seriously has it all. That bitch.  

This type of thought process isn’t just reserved for the morning pee, either. For many of us, it’s a constant habit throughout the day that we sometimes don’t even realize we’re doing. I have caught myself on multiple occasions opening a social media app, closing it, and then immediately opening it again as if something major had updated in the 4 seconds it took my crappy, outdated iPhone to register what I was telling it to do.

There is a fine line between connecting with true friends and family via the internet and judging  your own life based on the perceived happiness others have crafted on their own profiles. A lot of them are just like Taylor Swift and Suzie from college, posting only the happiest, most impressive photos or status updates to the internet, causing others to believe she is leading this wonderful life of pure bliss that everyone else should be hard-pressed to top.  She tells you about the dream job she just landed, shares the photo of the flowers her hunky boyfriend just surprised her with, posts shot after shot of her sweating gloriously at the gym because she needs to get “bikini ready” for her upcoming Hawaiian family vacation where her hunky boyfriend will most likely end up popping the question with a ring straight off of your Pinterest board.

Perfection, right? After being inundated with profile after profile of Suzies and Taylors, we find ourselves suddenly unhappy with our own lives, convinced that we aren't #winning the way everyone else is.

But here’s what we may not know. That dream job Suzie has? It’s a temp job that pays like crap so she still has to live with her parents, and her cube-mate brings mysterious leftover middle eastern food for lunch practically every day, which has a pungent scent that lingers on her clothing until she can do laundry again.

The flowers her boyfriend surprised her with? It was his way of trying to suck up to her after his frat brother thought it would be a good idea to text her a picture of him getting a lap dance from a stripper at The Cheetah last Saturday while he was supposed to be having a movie night with his parents.

And the gym pics? Even though we can all clearly see her size 4 ass has no dimples and she doesn’t even have stomach rolls when she sits down - again, that bitch - what she fails to mention is that she has struggled with anorexia in the past and now battles serious body confidence issues on a daily basis.

But why would she post the entire truth online? No one wants to hear about the problems, the struggles. Sharing the difficulties and conflicts in life makes you a complainer, and SNL has taught us no one likes a Debbie-Downer. So she tells half-truths because half-truths make people like us envy her.

We craft the life we want our peers to think we are living, because Taylor Swift and social media said so.

I have a handful of young nieces, two of whom are in the throes of middle school. Ah, middle school. The centerplex of judgment where all one desperately wants to do is fit in. The difference between my experience and theirs is that the overwhelming omnipresence of social media puts even more ungodly pressure on these kids to be accepted and adored.

Now, I’m not going to go on about “kids these days” because, I simply don’t have kids yet and therefore don’t have much perspective on the situation.  There are, however, a few key points I’ve learned from them.

True story: my nieces follow my Instagram page (never shy to call me out every time my caption contains a cuss word), and during a recent conversation with the eldest, she bragged that while my latest photo had garnered 15 likes, she averages around 30 per selfie. Part of me wants to shake her and yell “WHO CARES? YOU DON’T NEED THEIR APPROVAL!” but I don’t because that would make me a hypocrite.  While I may not calculate the average “like” rating of my posts and I think the fact that they literally ask people for them in their comments is ridiculous, I can’t help but puff up my average-sized chest a little bit when I see one of my photos has gained more public praise than usual.

Seriously, though, why do we care? Because we've been told it’s important by the media. Katy Perry is put on a pedestal for having 67 million followers on Twitter, while Kim Kardashian is praised for “breaking the internet,” whatever the hell that means, with racy pictures of her “I promise, it’s not injections” ass.  This is what is projected into every home as measures of success, of achievement.

We must strive to constantly remind ourselves that success and self-worth should not be measured in “likes” or “follows.” We are not our social media profiles, nor are the people we follow. We are complex, multi-dimensional, deeply emotional creatures who will never be able to portray our vast intricacies to the world with 100% accuracy via these arguably shallow outlets.

Embrace your life. Embrace where you are on your journey and do not judge the words in your book based on the brightly-colored cover of someone else’s.
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