My dad loved to monitor and control everything in my life. He put me in a box of rules, and set limits of what I could do, where I could go and who I could be. My grandmother told me it’s like my dad had created this picture perfect image of me that couldn’t exist, so when I didn’t live up to what he wanted for me, he would get furious.
Though he tried to keep close tabs on me, I found my freedom through the use of social media. Every night when my dad would fall asleep, I would sneak away onto the family computer, or my laptop, and log onto my social media accounts.
For hours I would browse Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter, etc, talking to friends both in real life, or ones I knew purely from online. It was wonderful finding people who were similar to me, and I would spend an endless amount of hours writing and using the voice I couldn’t find the strength to make heard when my father was awake.
As I moved into my college dorm, I celebrated my new freedom. However, I did find myself early on struggling with school and my major, already wondering how my career would play out. Realizing my heart wasn’t with the English major I had originally signed up for, I started to look at other options. I searched for a new passion and found that it lies heavily with writing and media/ journalism, as well as pop culture. So I switched my major to Communications with and an emphasis in Entertainment and Tourism and a minor in Cinematic Arts.
So began my new set plan in motion. Continue on with this major, get a job with Disney, an internship with ABC, and move to New York to pursue a potential career with Good Morning America in their entertainment department so I could report for the red carpet, movie premieres, and a life full glamour. It was something I had envisioned for my life long before changing majors.
It was a simple plan, and at 18- years- old I was determined to make that dream a reality. And I began to use my beloved social media to start to brand myself for my future career as an entertainment journalist. I wanted to come across as someone people could see walking down the streets of New York and be jealous of the life I had. A girl who was lovable, stylish, and a tad bit pretentious. My way of describing it was as if Blair Waldorf had met Jennifer Lopez. I changed my bio on all social media accounts to ” Uptown girl in a downtown world.”
My favorite word had become aesthetic and I set out to create my Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr advertising to the world who I wanted to be.While I would write about the entertainment world and film reviews, I truly wanted to come across as if I fit this Uptown Girl role I had given myself. I began to edit my photos through body shaping apps and going to the gym to loose weight because I wanted to look as if I belonged in the stylish life. I started spending all my money on clothes and high heels purely to take pictures, wanting people to think I was living a life of luxury when really, I was a broke college student.
Followers became my best friends,and I made multiple accounts to favorite my own pictures and tweets; I would ask for like and follow backs. Other girls who had gained social success had become my rivals and I envied and hated them. I watched makeup tutorials trying to look as pretty as them. It drove me crazy that I couldn’t contour my face like them or have a perfect winged eyeliner. Some of my friends would gain more likes or followers than me; I grew exceedingly jealous, and I would make myself feel better by saying ” my aesthetic is better than their’s.” And I would judge people, particularity other girls, if they didn’t use their social media in a way that branded themselves or for something as simple as not plucking their eyebrows as if I was better. Miss Uptown Girl always looked perfect and everyone wanted to have her life.
My life appeared full of color as I tried to make it seem like I was this girl I had created was real. I was completely caught in between trying to be happy and trying to fit into this aesthetic that I had created for myself thinking that this was the person I needed to be. I didn’t even live in a city, that alone made me furious with what I thought was a pathetic life; I wasn’t living up to my brand. And if anything else in my life were to stray away from this image, out of my control or not, I found myself frustrated or depressed. But who cared if I was happy, as long as my aesthetic was strong.
In October I ordered the newest Human’s of New York book. When I had bought the first one the year previous, I would always say one day my uptown self would be a lady of the city who would one day catch HONY’s attention. I read through the stories and looked through the people that made up this glamorous city, realizing it was clear there wasn’t a proper New Yorker. What made all of them human were their stories of triumph and struggle and more importantly, their stories of individuality, making each and everyone completely different from the one another. There wasn’t a mold or aesthetic for a human.
I had spend the past year trying to fit into this character I had created for myself, and expected nothing less of myself than to fit into this perfectly crafted Uptown Girl aesthetic. I and I alone was responsible for limiting myself to only be this aesthetically pleasing girl. I talked so much of wanting freedom once I had moved out from under my father’s supervision, not noticing I had limited my own freedom by doing exactly what he had done to me my entire life. I got angry whenever I didn’t live up to this vision that wasn’t real, claiming to love myself, but only if it was the me presented on social media. The worst thing is I know I inflicted this behavior to almost everyone in my life, expecting them to be like me and fit into an image I had seen of them; everything around me had become aesthetic.
I continued to read Humans of New York, reading about each person and seeing how much positive influence this form of media had done for others. Touched and inspired, I slowly deleted pictures that I felt were just taken to promote my fake image. It was time to gain a new perspective. Without this image what was I really, but the thing is, there wasn’t a simple answer. I’m the daughter of an immigrant who sings showtunes too much and was a self proclaimed geek. But I needed to explore my personality further. I knew I wanted a life full of joy; and limitless love. I know I’m a young women who’s in love with her job of creating happiness and loves hearing stories of triumph and fighting for equality. I love hearing what people have to share, realizing what makes someone a human is not their ability to have aesthetic, but their stories, of the what they love, who they’ve lost, their fears, and their accomplishments.Most importantly I know that it is impossible for social media to completely capture myself, so I can’t allow it to dictate who I choose to be.
If someone were to look at my personal accounts now they would find I still edit my photos, I still love makeup and dressing up. I share my moments of my life and I still have simple, but different, little bio underneath my name, yet it all feels so different than 1 year ago. I had spent the past year letting myself be defined by what loved me, versus what I loved. And if anything I’m even more vocal on social media, but I see now I want to use the power to speak up for what I believe in. Journalism and contemporary media plays a vital and powerful role in society, and I believe it is up to the general public and other aspiring journalist to use that responsibility to promote what we believe is right. I want to be held accountable as I continue to grow not only as a writer, but as a friend and women who speaks for intersectional feminism, and peace in the world. I changed my minor to a double major in American Studies because I wanted to continue hearing stories of the world I live because I believe learning about the past is the only way the future can improve. As for that career path I had all planed out, I know my options are limitless as I continue writing and working for Disney. I’m nineteen years old, and there’s a million things I haven’t done; only time can tell where I’m going to end up and I’m sure it’s worth the wait.
Themed social accounts can be a safe and healthy form of self expression; they are fun and can be a wonderful way to brand oneself or simply have an outlet of release. However for myself, and I know for others as well, it was creating my world around this concept of me that didn’t exist that hurt who I really am. Basing my life around aesthetic killed my potential for happiness and growth because of the limits I had placed upon myself.
Twitter and Tumblr, as well as other forms of social media, introduced me to some of the greatest relationships I have. Some of them I see almost everyday , while some I’ve kept communication with for 5 years without physically meeting. Actively taking part in media taught me lessons I would have never learned in school and I’m grateful to be exposed to a world that isn’t just in my little bubble. I have shared some of the greatest memories with the rest of world, but I have found the best moments and the best qualities a person can have do not make it onto social media.