“Let’s take a selfie together,” is something all of us have heard at some point. Furthermore, we have all taken selfies on our own accords; some partake more frequently than others. There is no denying that we are living in Generation Selfie. This extends beyond the idea of constant picture-taking, but also constant photo-sharing, status updates, and 140-character blurbs that create a patchwork of our daily lives. There is something very beautiful about documenting our lives. Years ago, it was a good, old journal with a lock and key that stored our daily thoughts. Now there are portals like Twitter and Instagram that serve as constant logs of what we are up to. As beautiful as the concept of self-preservation is, there is also something dangerous about the gratification that comes with every like and retweet…and the internalized disappointment that comes along when less attention to a posted item occurs.
When a picture on Instagram doesn’t get as many likes as an adolescent user is accustomed to, something nefarious goes off in that teenager’s head: “What’s wrong with me?” In a world that is constantly asking us to look better, be thinner, and wear more expensive clothes, the Selfie Generation just wants to feel beautiful too. Instagram offers the best way to instant self-gratification. However, the photo-sharing app is not just an instant endorphin releaser. It can also be a segue into a lot of self-doubt about appearance and likability. Recently, the #KylieJennerChallenge has surfaced on the internet, encouraging teenagers—of all genders—to self-harm in order to emulate Kylie Jenner’s allegedly natural full lips. Not only is this challenge perpetuating changing a natural state of appearance, but it is also promoting a dangerous way for media users to get more likes. Although one cannot blame this directly on Instagram, it is not hard to compare one’s account with the amount of followers and likes Jenner receives every time she puts a picture up on her account.
As it is spring, it is the time of proms and formals. This is a time of the year when users are expecting a great deal of likes because it is such a special time. It isn’t hard to remember a few years back to high school and to hoping for many comments and likes on pictures of yourself and your date. Unfortunately, seasons of shared experiences—be these proms, Christmas time, Halloween, or graduations—users of social media feel competitive with each other for the most likes. And when others, specifically friends, get more comments, it’s hard not to feel jealous or upset, even if it’s only for a brief period of time. We question whether we are pretty enough, handsome enough, or cool enough, just based off the amount of attention our shared content receives. We constantly check back to see who has liked it, analyzing the likes for signs of blooming possibilities in the real world. For instance, if a crush likes your profile picture, it could mean your infatuation is reciprocated. The unspoken rules of social media have morphed into a new way for us to communicate with each other.
So is every ping and notification truly a bad thing? Not necessarily. If self-gratification through the Internet is the way our generation has learned to feel good about itself, there doesn’t seem like there is much room for changing that. The problem is distinguishing the difference between reality and the Internet. The biggest pitfall of the social media world is the unspoken rule of reciprocation. When someone follows you, they expect a follow back. This rule applies to likes/comments; if someone retweets you regularly, they expect similar support of their posts. This kind of reciprocation is not replicated, well, IRL. If a person wants to be your friend, you don’t necessarily automatically give them space in your life. As nonsensical as the social media world is, it is one we have grown accustomed to living in: there is no changing the kind of joy we experience every time our posts grow in popularity.