I’ll preface this as I preface most of my “possibly important life lesson” rants with a quick anecdote about one of my relationships.

My boyfriend and I had a fight the other day. It wasn’t over anything particularly serious and there was no yelling from either party, however, our little spat left a bad taste in my mouth that I can’t seem to shake.

Allow me to rewind a little: the day we fought marked the launch of Instagram’s much-tweeted-about introduction of Instagram Video, or as they really should have called it, Instavid (in case you’ve been living under a rock with no wi-fi, users can now post short video clips in addition to photos). My bee-eff, a notorious instanerd, was testing out the new feature and ended up with a sweet (but not to cutesie and certainly not pornographic) video of us. He was on the fence about whether or not to hit “post”, due mostly to the fact that he couldn’t think of the perfect caption (I told you, instanerd), but I finally convinced him to do so. Mere minutes later he was antsy, refusing my kisses and staring way-too-intently at his phone. As it turns out, he was legitimately pissed at me for encouraging him to post the video. Why?

 

“It won’t get enough likes”

 

Because- and I paraphrase-

 

“That’s not what [his] Instagram is all about”.

 

Um. Okay.

Now before you dismiss this incident as a total #FirstWorldProblem, take a second to think about it. How many times have you carefully vetted your tweets and Facebook photos to ensure that they make you appear attractive, clever, thin, popular, fun, whatever? I know I’ve done it a million times: is my Facebook profile picture flattering enough? Is my latest tweet funny enough? Is my chosen Instagram filter artsy enough? We may not be as blatantly instabitchy as my boyfriend, but it’s safe to say that we as a generation are simply putting too much effort into perfecting our internet images.

We’ve all heard warnings about the consequences of carelessly posting inappropriate things on social networks, so it’s really no wonder that we often monitor our profiles and posts with strict, practically obsessive caution. In addition, when there’s a chance that employers and admissions officers, not to mention friends, parents, and crushes can see everything you post, it’s also important to cultivate a positive, attractive virtual image. Most of the more levelheaded members of our generation understand the importance of using privacy settings and untagging red cup pictures, but as social media continues to revolutionize the way we interact with one another, the pressure to look good online is building. We measure our self-worth in “likes” and will often do anything to get more and more- why else would anyone tag a photo with “#girl #selfie #hair #brown #yeah #peace” or “#raybans #happy #beach #wayfarers #summer #girl #sun” (both real-life examples taken straight from my instafeed)? The most staunchly emphasized (and perhaps the wisest) bit of advice our parents ever gave us was, “be yourself”. But now we’re collectively ignoring that advice and hiding our actual selves behind the selfies and status updates we feel will receive the most “likes”. Not cool, generation.

 

My boyfriend the instanerd, is for the most part, a regular guy. He’s an athlete and is fairly well known in his sport’s community around the state. But he’s not a celebrity and he’s not trying to promote anything- many of the pictures he posts have nothing at all to do with his sport- so basically, he has no real reason to curate his Instagram so carefully. He does it because he wants to impress his friends and get as many “likes” as possible. Social networks once served to foster connections between people; now they ‘re just vessels for pleasing and impressing others with our good looks, clever thoughts, and enviable lifestyles. In other words, connection has been replaced with competition.

 

So what’s a guy or gal to do when faced with the mounting pressure to look good online? One solution is to disconnect entirely- but even someone wary of social media like yours truly can admit that this is a drastic fix. Instead, try a weeklong social media detox- and don’t post self-righteous tweets about how “enlightening” your cleanse is. Try adjusting your social media filter- y’know, apply the whole “think before you post” philosophy to more than just party pics and swear words. Before you post something, ask yourself if it’s an accurate representation of who you are, how you feel, what you believe in, etc. If you happen to take a super hawt selfie, post it- but only if it makes you feel good about yourself regardless of how many “likes” it gets. And before you form an opinion about someone, take a look at how he or she acts IRL- chances are the real person is a far cry from the online profile. Whether we like it or not, social media is here to stay. But with a little self-evaluation and a lot more of “being ourselves”, we can make the social network a realer, friendlier place.