Isn’t this a song from some emo-Hot Topic-esque band? I swear it is. Hopefully I’m not just making things up.
But I’m going to tell a little tale from last week that perhaps others can relate to. That’s usually what we’re all here for.
So last week as a team leader at my gifted camp last week was an awesome experience. Dealing with the middle school crowd was certainly a challenge, but most of all, I enjoyed being around the fellow team leads, having a constant group chat streaming, just hanging out. I can easily say that it’s the most social I’ve been in quite a while.
On one particular afternoon when we had some free time after lunch, some of us were talking about a staff talent show that evening where they usually have a slideshow of old (slightly embarrassing) photos of staff members. This turned into some time scouring through Facebook and laughing over some major throwback photos.
Except in that time of reminiscing over old photos, overly edited on Picnik and doing some weird pose that at the time you felt cool doing, I felt kind of left out. Not in that people were doing so intentionally, but I really didn’t have much to contribute.
At that age and even just in general, I don’t have many pictures of myself, especially with others. Whether it’s just that people don’t do that friend-selfie scenario when I’m around, or I know I am generally not the most social butterfly out there, but I don’t have that same kind of history to look back on through photos.
Even as a kid, once I knew what a camera was, I avoided it like the plague. Especially when the dismorphia comes into play, I feel uncomfortable seeing myself in a frame that I had not complete control over. I have trouble understanding how other people see me because hey, I really can’t do it well on my own.
If I’m the one in control, I’m fine. I can have the luxury to choose what I want to keep and remember myself by. But other people, it’s different. It really shouldn’t be something that I’m overly concerned about, which generally I’m not, it just makes me feel like I haven’t done anything in my past to show of. I don’t necessarily have friends I’m constantly with who take candid photos and use as keepsakes. I myself am not one to pull out my phone all the time to take photos, let alone with others. I’d feel awkward even asking for that. In my head, it sounds almost petty to ask, “Hey, can we take a photo together just to say we did and I have solid proof I’m not always a boring hermit? Thanks.”
With social media, we have permanent proof of our past. We have tangible evidence of the memories we have shared with others and the different activities we’ve done. We find self-worth and esteem from how many group shots we have with others, regardless of how those relationships might affect your life. It’s a superficial means of measuring our impact on others and the world, clarifying if we have led a “full” life.
Which I for one think is garbage. Why must we feel like we need to prove to others how satisfied we are with our lives? Why must we focus upon images from past and current times as our mark upon the world? Because no, I didn’t have many friends back then. No, I wasn’t about to appear in a photo thinking my existence was worthless. I don’t want to remember how mentally ill I actually was and every single detail that I’ve already blocked out of my memory.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with nostalgia and going through the depths of Facebook to find some now hilarious shots. But I hope if you’re in a similar boat as me, you don’t feel guilty for maybe not having that same opportunity. Maybe you just don’t take any photos. Maybe you have deleted some on purpose. Whatever it is, it’s okay. It doesn’t invalidate your life, your friends, your family, absolutely anything. You are just as worthy and have the same chance to reflect happiness as anybody else.
Life is not measured in the perfect and ridiculous photos you have online. It’s not measured in numbers of likes or followers. It’s not measured in the number of friends you have or the number of times you go out to socialize every week. Life is about helping and reaching out to others. It’s doing things not just for the photo afterwards, but because you truly enjoy it. It’s about the quality of the relationships you have. It’s about self-discovery and growth that the internet doesn’t have to see. And nowhere in that scheme of things does comparison of others’ unique journeys fall into the mix.
Meet people you love, do what you love. That’s a photo that speaks louder than words.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie