Perfection—our generation is obsessed with it. So obsessed that we’ve forgotten about how perfection is impossible to achieve. Selena Gomez may sing, “Who says you’re not perfect?” but I say, unless you’re Queen Sel herself, it’s perfectly OK not to be perfect. Even though she’s the #1 most followed person on Instagram, Selena, herself, can’t stand social media and has implied several times that seeking constant perfection will only lead to an unhealthy and empty desire for meaningless validation. In her most recent interview with ELLE magazine, she revealed that she doesn’t even have access to her Instagram account on her own phone, “I’m not on the internet. I haven’t been on the internet in months. I don’t have my password for Instagram. I have no apps on my phone, no photo editing apps. I have Peak, a brain game.”
It may seem obvious that the amount of likes we get and the amount of followers we have do not actually determine our worth. Yet, most of our generation is consumed by checking who unfollowed who on Instagram and how many likes you get minutes after posting a picture. I like to believe that I have a heightened sense of self-awareness. However, I just recently realized how often I refresh my feed to check on how many likes I’ve gotten after posting a picture. Doing this was practically instinctive. In obsessing over Instagram, I sometimes find myself envying other people’s lives based solely on a picture that they posted and am eager to try and get just as many likes.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who is guilty of doing this. There’s probably a time where you have refreshed your Instagram 5 times in the same minute to check up on your likes too. But, we shouldn’t feel bad about ourselves for doing this. We just need to be mindful of it. Instagram can be a fun and useful tool for connecting with others, near and far. However, I try to remind myself that Instagram is not an accurate representation of who I really am, nor my dreams, or my heart. And correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think it’s true for most people either; though, finstas might suggest otherwise. While I understand these things in the objective sense, it is hard to put these thoughts into action. It’s easy to forget my own value of self-worth and fall back into these superficial habits.
I was triggered to write about this topic when I recently met up with someone from my former college. As we started catching up, she asked me about my new school in San Diego, and I responded by telling her how much I love it and how it’s the best decision I could have ever made. But, before I could continue raving about my life since transferring, she told me that she wasn’t surprised because I always look so happy in my Instagram posts. In that moment, I recalled the time I told people that I was going to officially transfer to a different school. Sitting her with my friend reminded me of that time because I remember thinking back then, too, that my Instagram had nothing to do with how I felt and what I was actually experiencing in the real world. When I told people who I didn’t talk to often that I wanted to go to a different school, the typical response was something like: “What, why? You always look like you’re having so much fun on Snapchat! You always look so happy in your Instagram posts!” These moments both had me taken aback. Have I been putting on a fake perception of who I am on my social media accounts? Should I not be posting pictures of me smiling and being happy? These are some of the thoughts I had during these moments.
The answer is no. Think about it realistically— how many of your followers do you talk to every day? Do you really care whether or not your childhood neighbor’s cousin follows you? Or, what about the boy that used to ride on the school bus with you? I’m sure you don’t really care if these people follow you or like your pictures. I’m certain the answer to these questions is no because when I reflect upon it, yes, it’s true that I don’t document my less-than-fabulous moments, i.e. stressing out writing an 18-page philosophy paper or being so heartbroken that I can’t get out of bed, to name a few. But, I also don’t document many of my happiest moments and favorite memories and those, therefore, don’t make it to social media either.
It’s true that people seem to appear perfect over Instagram and this is hard to grapple with. I, myself, am guilty of only posting photos that I look the best in. And let’s be real, who doesn’t send at least three different pictures with three different filters to their friend group chat before hitting post on Instagram. If you’re anything like me, you probably send a couple of caption ideas and are ready to brainstorm with your friends. This phenomenon definitely transcends any gender stereotypes, too, because I have plenty of guy friends that send me their pictures to edit and ask me to come up with clever captions for them.
If you can’t relate to this at all, then props to you. But, when asked if I’m happier now than I was at my previous university, the honest answer is that while I am, my happiness is so much more than what my Instagram portrays. Let me assure you, I’m nowhere near perfect — remember: no one is. In fact, I’m terrified of the future. I’m constantly stressing out about grades, my LSAT score, money, and a variety of other things. I have no idea what’s going on half the time, but I’m truly the happiest I’ve ever been. It feels like I have a permanent “I’ll just wing it” attitude and I’m just trying to finesse my way through adulthood.
However, a huge realization that remains super applicable to any stage of growing up is the idea that perfection doesn’t equal happiness. No picture I post is able to accurately describe the amount of growth I’ve experienced nor the amount of life lessons I’ve had to learn in these past two, transitional years of college. I’m still learning. Striving to be the best version of yourself does not equal perfection either. While social media is the easiest way to create the illusion of perfection, or happiness, my advice is simple. Stay true to yourself. How you and your life look on social media shouldn’t be something to overthink or stress about. Post what you want! If you like and feel good about what you’re posting, then that should be all that matters. As long as you know who you are, the people who love you regardless of your social media presence will provide real worth and meaning to your life, making the validation of your Instagram followers way less valuable and necessary. Count your blessings, not your amount of likes. If you can’t take my word for it, then take it from Selena Gomez.