Living for yourself, not your followers

Hannah Hover is a first-year nursing major. She is an intern for the Newswire from Cleveland.

Ever since I was 11 years old, I begged my parents for an iPhone. I already had a flip phone, but its only function was to call, and I could only do that for a certain number of minutes. There were no games I could compete against my friends on, no Google I could use to fact check random questions, no home button or rectangular apps and no text messaging. 

After many months of asking and being denied an iPhone, during winter break of sixth grade year, my parents finally caved. I opened up the small, rectangular box to reveal my brand-new iPhone 4 and I was ecstatic. I got the numbers of everyone I knew, took many photos that I now refuse to look back on out of fear of embarrassment and downloaded tons of different apps, one of which was Instagram.  

Instagram was my first experience with social media. The minute after I downloaded it, I added a God-awful one-liner to my bio, changed my profile picture and uploaded a picture. I think everyone that had Instagram at one point in time uploaded their first picture within minutes of downloading the app. Why did I post a grainy selfie of myself holding up a peace sign while lounging in my room? I’m not sure what possessed me to do that, but I felt the need to immediately put myself out there, screaming to the world, “Hey, I’m here! Look at me!” 

As thankful as I was for my new iPhone and Instagram followers, looking back at it, I regret downloading the app. I wish the social media fad would have never become the huge trend that is today. Social media is dangerous and ruining our generation. 

I like connecting with friends and making new ones on the plethora of apps that let me share my thoughts, photos and emotions in an instant. But the cost of constantly comparing myself and only living for the perfect post isn’t worth it. There are better ways to talk to people and make meaningful connections other than just sending a photo of your forehead and ceiling.

 Social media jeopardizes your mental health. Simply sharing your thoughts or photos online can leave you vulnerable to trolls who leave rude comments, rearing their heads for no reason other than to hide their insecurities. Other issues such as self-esteem and self-doubt can stem from seeing peers and celebrities living their seemingly best lives in carefully curated videos and photos. 

Another (and perhaps the most apparent) reason social media is detrimental for this generation is that it emphasizes a lack of human connections. While it is much easier to comment on someone’s picture or send them a photo of you in the mirror adding a quick greeting, that has lasting effects on how you interact with others in a social setting. 

Are all of your friends at a party you weren’t invited? Now you get a front-row seat to what looks like to be at the most exciting party of the semester. Being left out of a party, event or really anything can contribute to anxiety and feelings of loneliness. 

Twitter has brought me countless tweets that I have laughed at until I cried, and Instagram has fueled my confidence after reaching a certain number of likes and followers. Even Snapchat has given me cute filters to manipulate my acne-prone or sleepy-looking face. But the cost — physically, mentally and financially — outweighs the benefits for not only me, but an entire generation of young people. Living without social media brings you improved clarity, more self-confidence, better physical health and fewer feelings of loneliness and anxiety. But perhaps the most important thing it’s taught me (and can teach you) is that living in the moment is for me, not my followers.