Check It Before You Wreck It

By Francine Szerer

“How does she always look so perfect,” my cousin asked while we were scrolling through Instagram while waiting for the express train. My reply shocked her, “Don’t you understand that she probably looks at your posts and thinks the exact same thing?”

Instagram and other forms of social media have a significant effect on our self-esteem and the way we evaluate our lives. How could it be that an app designed to keep people updated and “capture the world’s moments” be so detrimental?

Take a step back and think of your morning. What’s the first thing you do? I know my first step: Once I silence my seventh alarm, I open Instagram. I’ll give myself a five-minute scroll before I drag myself to the bathroom and start my day. While those minutes are specks in the canvas of my day, they have a huge effect on me. My morning Insta fix can determine how I dress, what I want to eat and how I feel that day. Fast-forward a few hours and a bunch of scrolls while waiting for the elevator. Even when I’m running late to class, I still manage to take a peek at my feed before walking in. Heck, I’m even checking Instagram right now as I write this! And, of course, I perform the obligatory scroll before I go to sleep. The question is, what do I expect to see?

Many Instagram profiles are perfect, but the truth is, the real people they belong to are not. You know that gorgeous girl you follow, the one you’re not so close with? Maybe she’s a friend of a friend. The one with perfect hair and immaculate taste in clothes. The one who never repeats an outfit and whose shoes always seem to complete her look perfectly. What if I told you that girl is just as lost as you are? Or that she feels lonely sometimes too? Then would you envy her the way you do?

I care deeply about my Instagram. More time than I care to admit, I’m mindlessly scrolling through my feed, liking posts, commenting and saving pictures to my many dream folders. I won’t dwell on the last few months of my life, but if you looked through my Instagram, you would never know what I was going through. Although I recently deleted all of my pictures, I used to post regularly and would constantly be updating my story, cluing in my friends and followers to what was going on. Pressed Juice, a SoulCycle class, the lunch date and dish of the day, the latest sale I just found — you name it, it was on my Instagram. By looking at what I chose to show the world, you would think you knew what was really going on in my life. But my Instagram does not project that. In reality: I. Am. Terrified. Graduation is quickly approaching, I have no idea what I’m doing next year, and as of recently, I have just begun to rebuild my life after what I can only describe as the end of it, at least the end of my life as I knew it. That end led to deleting all of my Instagram pictures and unfollowing any account that did not “spark joy” (try it sometime, it’ll do you wonders).

My point is, no one’s life is perfect. Think of your own for a second. Think of that picture you just posted to Instagram, how long it took you to flawlessly edit it and come up with the perfect caption. How many times did you refresh the page, counting the comments and obsessing over how many likes you got? Are you even happy in that picture? What was actually going on when it was taken? The next time someone else’s “perfect post” brings you down, scroll through your own page and remember that nothing is as perfect as it seems.

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