A Breakup Letter to Social Media
by Jennifer Boyd
It’s human nature to desire acceptance and validation from our peers. So, we create Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Tinder accounts. A new follower symbolizes a victory for us. Someone alluring and unfamiliar is interested enough to keep up with the photos we post of ourselves, our friends, and various backdrops positioned to add mystique and glamour to our daily lives. Of course, we can’t forget about the effortlessly clever captions and the emojis we artfully position around each cluster of cherry-picked words.
The modern sphere of relationships has changed irrevocably since the advent of Instagram and Tinder. We are inundated with likes from charming strangers who we’ve heard about from friends of friends. We like their photos to show interest in return, and perhaps, to perpetuate the friendly “like for like” dialogue. When our interest in a person is no longer defined solely by the amicable distance perpetuated by the liking game, we refresh our feeds compulsively to monitor their interactions. We loathe the feelings we experience when we discover that our partner has expressed interest in another by liking his/her photo. Internally crushed, we jump to conclusions. We feel abandoned, forgotten, and boring, the worst traits one can possibly embody in today’s multiverse of thrilling, public, social experiences. However, the feeling doesn’t last for long because we know there’s a sea of potential suitors at our fingertips. Anyone can be replaced with a Snapchat or a right swipe.
Dear social media, you have fooled us. We are rendered powerless by your ability to manipulate our human desire to belong. We are slaves to your power to grant us notoriety and excitement, however ephemeral. In a world where the greatest tragedy is being unfollowed, we continue our relationship with you in return for the validation you grant us. On social media, we are free to be whoever we want to be. We can change the way we are perceived by others, and this is a godly blessing. We know that nothing we do will have permanent consequences because there’s an infinite stream of people who care about us. They are simply barricaded from us by a screen.
I am not excluded from the group of young people whose mentalities I describe. I don’t claim to be superior to anyone in morale or virtue. I have spent more than my share of hours on social media, meticulously designing the display of my pages so that outsiders can admire the seamless, fun-loving persona I have created for myself. But I’m sick of it. I want more than anything to end the cycles of artifice and insincerity.
I crave more than what you so generously offer, social media. Validation feels blissful in the moment, but it’s instantly replaced by emptiness when the likes cease. Life returns to normal, the tedium of reality contrasting sharply with virtual brilliance. I crave a connection unmarred by the whims and caprice of virtu-reality.
Dear social media, I won’t let you fool me anymore. I know your presence in my life is toxic, and I refuse to allow myself to be further deceived by your hollow promises of abundance, acceptance, friendship, and love. It isn’t real. Bounties of your false validation can never substitute for even an iota of authentic connection. I’m ready to write a narrative for myself that cannot be displayed within the confines of a 5 x 5 cm Instagram square. The colors of my new beginning will not be derived from the generic array of hues you tint my experiences with. Statistics will become a foreign concept, dun and lifeless, eons away from the radiance of my unfiltered presence. Dear social media, I won’t play your game anymore. I’m left-swiping you.