I went to the ballet last night.
It was amazing, and beautiful, and stunning, and it made me wish that I didn’t have to stop dancing for my health, because I miss it so flipping much.
There’s nothing quite like dancing.
My mum booked these tickets for my family weeks ago, and we wound up with a spare, so we invited along my best friend, and we had this wonderful night at the Royal Opera House fuelled by expensive wine and cheap sandwiches, and then we wandered around Chinatown and felt nostalgic for no reason and went and drank non-alcoholic cocktails in a swanky bar.
And it was a wonderful night and I couldn’t have wished for a better way to spend my evening.
There’s always a but.
And for you to fully understand this specific ‘but’, I need to tell a story. Give you some background.
A few months ago, due, in part, to one of my best friends and her good-natured interference, I ended up in a relationship with a good friend of mine. I say due in part, because it was mostly my fault, as much as I wish I could be free of blame.
Anyway. There was a friendship, and then there was a relationship, and none of it really meant all that much, and so after not-very-long-at-all, things came to an end.
I’m sorry, by the way, to the guy that this is about, for talking about you on the internet. If you ever read this: hey!
Back to the backstory. Last night, it was this guy’s 18th birthday party. Let’s call him Alistair. I feel like he could be an Alistair.
So it was Alistair’s 18th, and I wasn’t invited, despite the fact that we’re friends, we have been for weeks and weeks and nothing was weird except that we weren’t as close as before but whatever, we were still friends and it shouldn’t have been weird. Right?
Well, I dunno.
Now don’t think that I’m insulted that he didn’t invite me. It bugs me, sure, but I couldn’t have gone anyway, and since I had an absolutely magical night at the ballet, I can’t say I wish I was there. I’m not insulted, and I’m not just saying that to seem all nonchalant, I really am not insulted.
What I’m slightly miffed about, however, is that I now have no idea where I stand with him. I’m not miffed with him, mind, just the situation. Is he mad? Does he hate me? Why did he not just tell me that he was upset? Why did he feel the need to exclude me? Did he think I would find it weird? So many potential reasons!
Why do you do this to me, Alistair? You have made me confused.
I mean, yes, it’s most likely that he doesn’t hate me or anything of the sort, he just…didn’t invite me, because free will.
But, and this is where the irrational side of my brain takes over, he invited so-and-so, and they’re barely friends! He’s just doing it to get back at you! He hates you! He deliberately excluded you to make you feel bad!
Ugh. I dislike this. It feels weird now.
It wasn’t weird.
And now, I think it’s weird. Is it? I don’t know.
Ugh. Teenage-ness sucks. It’s because of teenage-ness that this matters. It shouldn’t matter, and I know that. If we were older and more mature then it wouldn’t matter, and I don’t want it to matter. But because of the nature of teenage-ness and drama and our boring lives, petty things like this matter.
If only I could always be the girl who goes to the ballet with her family and wears an expensive coat and exchanges witty banter with her brothers. If only, once I come home, and go on Snapchat and Instagram, I could continue to be that mature young woman, cultured and above such immaturity as this.
But no. There’s something about social media that changes me. It brings me back down to a level that I want to rise above. It makes me, once again, a teenager.
Not that I don’t like teenagers, or being a teenager. For the most part, I absolutely love it. But what I don’t like is the afore-mentioned teenage-ness. The pop culture. The competition. The fact that everything has to matter, and everything has to be addressed, and thought about, and scrutinised.
And the fact that I’m the one who does the scrutinising.
I’m embarrassed to admit how much time I’ve given this. I’m embarrassed that I feel it’s important enough to write a blog post about.
Which is the exact reason that I’m going to change the topic.
This blog post is not about the fact that I didn’t get an invite to a party!
This blog post is about social media, and what it does to us!
Rewind, restart, and pretend that none of that happened.
I came into my room to do some work, as usual. I opened my laptop, and opened Word, with the intention of writing that essay that’s due in 18 hours.
But, as usual, I’m procrastinating. Because of a conversation I had with my mother, just before I came into my room.
My mum wanted to see the photos I took last night.
(Okay, don’t forget what you just read, because I can’t be bothered to do the whole ‘I went to the ballet last night’ thing again.)
My mum wanted to see the photos I took last night. So I showed her all the pictures that my friend and I took, and she did that mum-thing when she looked at a really bad photo of me and said ‘oh, that’s a nice one’.
And then I showed her which of the photos I decided to put on my Instagram.
I posted two photos (yes I double posted, sue me), one of which was an artsy photo of my hand flashing some bling and draped casually over the front of the box we sat in, in front of the curtains, just before the show started.
The other was that painfully generic-white-girl-picture of me from behind as I walk through Chinatown looking cultured and pensive and wonderfully manic-pixie-dream-girl-ish. (google it if you’re up for a feminist rant.)
So the idea was that all of my 268 followers (I know right I’m basically famous) would open Instagram and see these photos and think ‘oh how cultured and cool and effortless she is, she’s so atypical because she goes the ballet on Saturday night with her family’ and people would think that I’m this amazing young woman who’s too busy going off and doing nice things and having adventures to care what anybody thinks of me.
When, in fact, I’m just a whingy teenage girl who writes about her problems and cares profusely what people think of her.
And the sad thing is that I know that none of my 268 followers thought what I’d like to think they thought. (Yay for thinking, amirite?)
I know that it probably went more like this: most of them looked at the post, some of them were bothered enough to double tap, and all of them scrolled on by, probably not even noticing who posted the photo, or registering that a photo of a theatre curtain means that I went to the theatre.
I bet that no one really cares what I did last night, or which of the trillions of photos I took that I decide to post.
And I bet that, despite all the time spent trying to think of a witty enough caption, barely anyone even stopped to read it.
And I bet that the people who did read my attempts at witty captions didn’t even notice that subtle indirect about ‘where the party’s at tonight’ that I spent so long deciding whether or not to write.
Wow, I’m a petty bitch.
Oh, look at that. We’re back here.
* clears throat and sits in awkward silence for a bit. *
My point is, and yes, it is one that has been made many times before, that we put way too much stock in our social-media selves. That literally nobody cares except us what we put on social media.
Let me walk you through my Instagram.
There are landscapes of my travels over the summer; artsy shots of me in front of mountains; and paddling in rivers. There are pictures of me and my friends dressed up for prom, or out having a paint fight with hundreds of other adventurous young people. Photos from festivals, or weekend trips away. Me and my family, me and my friends laughing too much, and the odd selfie, to show that ‘hey, I’m confident in my appearance’ but not so many selfies that it seems like ‘please validate me’, or even worse, ‘I think I’m beautiful and you should think so too’.
Oh, how I would love to be the girl of my Instagram feed. She seems really cool. She has adventures, she has loads of friends, she’s extroverted, she does cool stuff, she’s always happy, she’s confident, and, honestly, she seems sorta wealthy.
Oh, how I would love to be her. Wouldn’t life be easy if I was her?
Oh. Wait. I am her.
AND LIFE ISN’T EASY.
Before you close this tab and find a less clichéd post to read, let me clear things up.
I am not about to say ‘remember that social media only shows the best of someone’s life’ or ‘don’t compare someone else’s highlight reel to your behind the scenes’ or anything cringey and well-meaning but ultimately useless like that.
Because believe me, I’m as tired of all that as you are.
Yes, as I said before, social media brings out a side of me that’s immature and annoying and petty and judgemental and everything that I don’t want to be, and yes, obviously, that’s awful.
But that is not the point I’m trying to make, because that is the problem with me, not the problem with social media.
No. My point here is that, actually, I am the girl of my Instagram.
Yes, there’s a lot more to my life than travelling and having fun and laughing at a camera, but I’ve still done everything that I’ve posted on my Instagram. My highlight reel is actually pretty damn cool.
And sometimes, I open Instagram, go to my profile, and I just go through all my photos. I look at the video of me and friends laughing drunkenly and maniacally on the floor. I look at the photo of me and my friend-who-isn’t-my-friend-anymore at prom. I look at the picture of the sun setting over the boats in the harbour. And I remember those days.
That fun evening. That brilliant night. That magical day.
Looking at my highlight reel makes me happy. Because yes, when I see that picture from the dry paint fight, I remember that I got paint in my eye and couldn’t see for four hours, but I also remember how fun it was to stand in a crowd of people and throw paint in the air and dance like a maniac with red on my face.
Yes, when I see that photo of me and my mate that someone took at prom, I remember that we haven’t spoken in months, and I’m pretty sure he hates me now. But I also remember that he was hilarious, and that it took ages to get a decent photo because he kept making me ugly-laugh.
Yes, when I see that picture of my little cousin running across a field towards me I remember that just after I took it, she fell over and hurt her leg and cried for about an hour and I felt awful about it, but I also remember that day I spent with my whole family having fun outside, seeing the loved ones that I don’t often see.
And, unfortunately, yes, when I see that photo of me walking through Chinatown, or of the theatre curtains, I will remember that I didn’t get an invite to my ex’s party that night, and it became weird, but I will also remember the beautiful dancing that I saw, and all the times my brothers made me laugh, and the aimless and atmospheric wander around the city, and the expensive wine, and the fancy hotel bar we stopped in.
When I showed my mum those pictures that I posted last night, she caught a glimpse of all my other photos, and she insisted that I show her my feed. And so I did. And she looked through them all, and smiled, and said, ‘it’s so lovely that you can document your life like that’ and I thought, ‘well, yeah, but it’s all just a massive competition’ and then she said something that really isn’t very profound or life changing, but I actually really like it.
She said, ‘It’s as if you’re keeping a diary of everything you’ve done over the past year. It’s a nice way to look back over all the things you’ve achieved.’
And that just made me think.
Nowadays, people don’t keep diaries, or journals. They don’t write down their feelings in a leather bound book that they don’t want anyone to ever read. The closest that people get to that is writing a blog that they would keep a secret from people they know in real life until the day they die. * cough, cough *
But most people have Instagram, or Twitter, or Facebook. Most people have a way that they document their life, record moments and memories, and remember feelings.
And isn’t that what a diary is? A place to record your thoughts and feelings and things that you love?
And yeah, nowadays, everyone can see our ‘diaries’. In fact, it’s seen as a good thing if you have loads of people that see it.
But, in a weird kind of way, I actually think it’s a good thing that we share so much of our lives. I actually think it’s kind of healthy.
Sure, we only show a filtered, perfected version of ourselves, but we’re still sharing our lives and our thoughts. We can still go back to it, and look over things we’ve done, and, instead of reading through all of the crap that we might write in diaries, we just see a record of the most amazing bits of our lives. The most fun, the most interesting, the most ‘social-media worthy’.
And yeah, okay, maybe that’s not entirely honest, but I would much rather look at all of my nice memories than all of my awful ones, or even some of them.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having an ‘online self’, or an ‘Instagram persona’. They show who you are when you’re at your best. Who you could be. Who you want to be. I look over my Instagram, and I remember the cool stuff I’ve done, and I think, ‘I’ve not posted anything in two weeks. I’ve not done anything interesting in two weeks’. And I’m motivated to go and do something! To have a life! To do cool stuff!
So yeah. As long as we don’t get too caught up in the competition of it all, the internet is actually a really great place. I love the internet me. Sure, she isn’t the same as the real me, but she’s a person that I like. She shows me that I can, actually, be a person that I want to be. A person that I like.
And considering that most of the ‘internet generation’ hate themselves, I definitely don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Have a lovely week, and don’t die before you come back, please.
Lots of love,
P.S. Hey Alistair, if you ever read this, it isn’t weird. I over-reacted. We’re cool.