Me Vs. My Social Media Self: Why Gen Z Is The Saddest Generation

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Back in her room, in bed and depressed, she would scroll through her Instagram feed, jealous of the friends who looked like they genuinely loved their lives. It didn’t occur to her that maybe they were faking it, too. She considered taking a break from school — going home to Rockville, Maryland — but she was afraid that the gap would only make college (and her misery) last longer. She felt like everything about her life as a University of South Carolina sorority girl was contrived, but she lived in the house. She was trapped. But as soon as she could move out, she quit the sorority. Then, most importantly, she stopped posting on social media for the length of her junior year.

Once she stopped performing on social media, Steimer had the time and headspace to focus on bettering her life in the real world. She landed a communications internship in New York at NASDAQ, which helped her learn more about who she wanted to be, “a serious person who works hard.” She cut her hair short and dyed it brown. The fact that she didn’t share every little detail about her new job or new look on social media also gave her freedom to experiment.

“I’m posting this mostly for myself, but I think there’s probably some people out there who need to hear it,” she wrote in the caption. “To all the people who have told me I was prettier as a blonde, to all the people who have told me I used to be more fun, and to anyone who really thinks I was a cooler person when I had cooler Instagram pictures: The girl on the left is someone pretending to be happy and praying to get enough likes on her pictures to feel fulfilled, which never works. The girl on the right is a girl who learned how to look at life for what it is, not how other people see it or how it looks through a camera.” The photo got 200 likes and 24 comments, all positive.

Father Of 4 Daughters Refuses To Sugarcoat His Instagram Pics, Takes Internet By Storm

Father Of Daughters

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If other people’s perfect photos make you feel bad about yourself, it’s because they don’t show the reality! That’s why Simon Hooper, father of 4 daughters, decided to show what parenting really looks like. The result? Now he has more than 190k Instagram followers, and they’re growing like crazy.

 

How I Got My Attention Back

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For twenty-eight days this winter I lived on the grounds of an old estate down in central Virginia, next to a town called — terrifyingly — Lynchburg, making good on a residency I had been offered by the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. I had done other residencies before, and knew in order to eke out maximum productivity, internet disconnection was nonnegotiable. And so it began, the day after the election: my month without the internet.

It felt like a cop-out—like I wasn’t allowed to escape the “real world” so easily. But the quieter my mind became, and the deeper I went into my own work, the more I realized how my always-on, always-connected state had rendered me largely useless.

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” wrote Blaise Pascal. Did any of us remember how to sit quietly, alone, without a phone in hand? I certainly didn’t. By the time the curtain closed on act one of our political tragedy, if there was action to be taken, I was in no state to take it. I had long since lost control of my attention.

Should You Quit Social Media?

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“I am thinking of getting rid of my cell phone, signing off of all social media and moving to a log cabin out in the woods. Is there any reason you can think of that I should reconsider?” — Log Cabin Larry

I understand the impulse to try to escape from everything. And I am truly an enthusiastic advocate of running away from one’s problems. New Jersey is a particularly good place to run away from one’s problems to. No one will chase you. Your problems will be like, “I grew up in New Jersey, no way I’m going back there.” And you’ll be free from those problems for a while and will accumulate new problems and then they will all eventually, slowly chase you down like zombies on “The Walking Dead.” But buying time is really all we can do for ourselves in this life. And we have considerably less time than we might suspect.

Also it’s nice to have something to blame for the things that go wrong in your life. “If only I didn’t spend so much time on Twitter I could have painted a masterpiece by now.” If you sign off of Twitter you will somehow use time more wisely than you ever have before, you think to yourself.

Teens Who Say No to Social Media

Illustration: Carmen Segovia
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Such abstention from social media places him in a small minority in his peer group. According to a 2015 report by the Pew Research Center, 92% of American teenagers (ages 13-17) go online daily, including 24% who say they are on their devices “almost constantly.” Seventy-one percent use Facebook, half are on Instagram, and 41% are Snapchat users. And nearly three-quarters of teens use more than one social-networking site. A typical teen, according to Pew, has 145 Facebook friends and 150 Instagram followers.

But what if a teen doesn’t want to live in that networked world? In a culture where prosocial behavior happens increasingly online, it can seem antisocial to refuse to participate. Are kids who reject social media missing out?

…Most of the social-media abstainers whom I interviewed aren’t technophobes. On the contrary, they have mobile phones that they use to contact their friends, usually via text. They are internet-savvy and fully enmeshed in popular culture. And they are familiar with social media. They just don’t like it.

iFriends

internet friends vs real friends

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

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Yeah, yeah, I might have loads of Facebook friends but it’s my REAL friends, the ones I see every day in the office, or went to school with who matter… It’s what you’re supposed to say, isn’t it? The internet has ruined friendships. It’s made a mockery of carefully built up relationships. It’s no substitute for REAL LIFE interaction. Pressing the ‘like’ button has replaced caring for people. Online interactions damage ‘real’ interactions.

*sings* Bol.Locks.

…Through [online] groups I connected with a clutch of incredibly like-minded people; people who sit alone at home all day, often in their pyjamas, typing on their laptops, writing articles read by millions of people, influencing decisions and generally producing stuff that would make you think they were a lot cooler than they really are. Suddenly I had met my peer group, people I could talk to about my work who knew what being a freelancer feels like and who understood that interviewing a rock star was sometimes the least glamorous thing in your life.