By Ashley Whitmire
I came into my social media age a little bit later than most of my peers; I first got an Instagram account my freshman year of high school, and I didn’t venture into Snapchat until the second half of sophomore year. This meant I had enough presence of mind to give myself a normal-sounding Snapchat username, and was spared the embarrassment of “iluvsoccer” or “fl1pp1n.awesome” following me around well into college.
However, my Snapchat presence was not at all polished; in fact, looking back it is hilarious how much I shared then that I couldn’t bring myself to share now. A genius feature from Snapchat that preserves such evidence is the Flashback feature, where users have the joy of watching the saved snaps to the date from previous years. For example, I get the privilege each year on April 22nd of tapping through no less than forty saved memories from the closing night of my high school’s performance of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Sixteen-year-old me was certain to record, and post, every riveting moment!
Oh no, a set piece broke! Here I am passing out flyers! Here I am in the backseat of someone’s car, driving to Denny’s!
This was pretty typical of me up until freshman year of college. Any time I spent with my friends, I found myself taking videos and pictures every time we moved. Any minor inconvenience or anything I found remotely interesting, I posted it to my audience of fifty school friends and acquaintances. It was a compulsive need, an urge to update my audience: Greetings, public! I am so social! I am so relatable! I acted like a Facebook mom in a four-foot-eleven theatre kid’s body.
I look back at these posts with a slight sense of bewilderment; Ash, had you never heard of a private story?? But I also have an admiration for the confidence I had, to share my thoughts and preserve the memories that were important to me. I find myself posting less and less on social media these days. A multitude of insecurities, some typical of people my age and some not, keep me from posting more than the occasional infographic. I miss the confidence of my teenage self, who posted whatever she wanted without caring about how people perceived her.
Is it possible to tap back into that confidence? I could make new profiles, block the judgy people, do mindfulness exercises and become more comfortable with how I look. But there was a certain element of chaos that embodied my teenage social media presence, an unhinged fervor for life, that cannot be replicated. No one my age can truly appreciate the humor of a life-sized Sigmund Freud cutout, or the drudgery of having to write one hundred flashcards per AP World History unit, much less the accompanying need to post about it. When I drive with my friends late at night and we blast our music, one of us will be sure to take a video of us singing along (and I hope I never get too old for that.) But that video might only be ten seconds, while teenage me would have left the camera running for the whole song, and the song after that, and the whole way back to the house. She’d post it, with unflattering laughter and inside jokes included. She’d do it because she knew these people, these songs, would only be significant for a little while, and she had to preserve it all as it stood, as much for herself as for me.