Saturday 15 December 2018

Irish teenager: 'Why I deleted all my social media apps - except Snapchat'

Coming to terms with life in the real world can be tough if you are continually switched on to social media, writes teenager Kitty O'Brien

Kitty O'Brien. Photo: David Conachy
Kitty O'Brien. Photo: David Conachy

There is Version 1: Real Life You. You wake up and drink your watery coffee, forget to brush your teeth, climb into your worn-out, wrinkled uniform before the cycle begins. Leave your house, fit an hour of homework into 10 minutes at the windowsill beside your locker, sit through seven odd hours of school, trudge home and inhale every morsel of food in sight while doing as much cramming as you can.

In the five (40) minute breaks you take, you spend your time switching frantically through the same three apps, as if something monumental is going to happen in the time it takes you to scroll through some random lad's profile, until the daily breakdown occurs about how you won't get your college course and you fall asleep in your mammy's bed, with your blankie snuggled under your head. You may as well have a dodie in your mouth.

Then there's Version 2. Online You. Her skin is perfect and she certainly is not wearing 10 layers of foundation. She took the perfect picture on the first try. She has so many varieties of friends and clothes, and hardly has the time to post anything on her social media. This online version of you makes you feel like an inventor taking care of a robotic self. She is smoother, prettier, funnier and probably much more interesting than you are. You sit looking at her for hours and wonder if people like what they are seeing.

The kid you've known since Junior Infants has one too, a 2.0 version of himself. His 1.0 spends the pocket money he gets from his grandparents on cocaine, but at least 2.0 can caption his photos with something relatable that the lads will laugh at. Always the usual assortment of vocabulary, only in different arrangements. It seems all our clones are copies of the same person.

Relationships are struggling too. With the influx of social media users, the lines and boundaries of what is and isn't infidelity become hazy and blurred. It is just too easy to hide things about yourself on social media - even big parts of your life, like your significant other. What you see is what you get, except when it's not.

Of course I don't want to go online and ramble about the trials and tribulations of my daily life, but I think that what you upload to social media shouldn't need 10 filters and approval from your mates to be a moment worth remembering. Why do we even care about what John, who we haven't seen since he moved to Wicklow in primary school, thinks about how good looking we are now? I'm the first to admit that I've sent endless pictures to my friends, asking them if they look good enough to post and what the hell does that even mean? Shouldn't our personal profiles be a way to appreciate our memories, not eviscerate ourselves. We have to be so much more than just pretty, don't we?

But social media isn't all bad. The rise in body positivity movements has encouraged my generation to embrace their identity - which seems to bother the Gen Xers and Baby Boomers more than the violent injustices their generations have caused. Male YouTubers creating makeup tutorials and wearing typically feminine clothing should not be making headlines while there are people in developing countries being slaughtered who get no such coverage. "Chivalry is gone in today's teens," older generations exclaim, as if they don't silence our demands for equal rights for all.

Of course they won't listen to any of our nonsense - they can't hear our inclusive, progressive voices over the waves of poverty and debt they have drowned us in.

Today in Dublin city, I saw five homeless people begging for my cents in change. And my sense of what could change gets a slap in the face from those ahead of us in the generational line. It's hard to keep the positive attitude when we hear stories of how our planet is about to go into third world war because of some immature brawl that world leaders are having on Twitter.

So; should you be worried? On one hand, yes you certainly should. The mistakes that you and your parents made have probably ruined whatever comfortable dream you wished your kids would be living. And maybe the punishment for that is that we won't move out until we're 45. But on the other hand that'll give you plenty of time to keep a close eye on us. Sure, there's a group of us doing things that probably won't benefit us in the long run, but that's characteristic of every generation - think of all the mistakes you guys made, but you still made it out!

As a student sitting my Leaving Cert this June, I had to delete most of my social media apps (all apart from Snapchat) off my phone because I couldn't control how much time I spent just aimlessly scrolling through various people's profiles and half interesting articles instead of doing something constructive.

I've spent countless hours up at night on social media really doing nothing at all, which definitely affects how I feel the next day because I'm drained and in a bad mood. Especially if everyone you know is out at a party somewhere you weren't invited to and you're sitting at home watching their profiles get updated, pondering all the possible reasons for your exclusion, when the fact of the matter is you don't even know the host.

But it takes just a few minutes to overthink all the things you've ever posted which are available to the public whenever they wish to see them. It's easy to get dragged into the online world and once you pull back and step away, the world around you can seem a bit bland, which creates a new level of consumerist greed in each of us to have more and more of what we see online. We believe we should be surrounded by them in our daily life, as well as our online life.

But we didn't vote for Brexit, or Trump. We didn't drive ourselves everywhere or stock the house with convenience food... you did.

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