After high school graduation, I had a tendency to get sucked into the vortex of always refreshing the toxic instagram feeds of people who’d truly hurt me to keep up on what they were doing.
Why? Well, part of the reason is that my mom would always ask, “how’s so-and-so?” And I’d say that I hadn’t talked to them much, but “let me check their Instagram.”
Prior to Instagram, it was easier to let go and forget the people that had done us wrong.
The transition from middle school to high school wasn’t tainted with status updates of spoiled girls getting new cars or rude boys getting full rides to Harvard. The only thing left behind from middle school was signatures in a yearbook, wishing everyone a “great summer.”
Yet after high school, the pressure to keep appearances increased. Everyone was posting their graduation photos: the same plastic smile dressed in a cap and gown. We scrolled through these photos until our eyes burned, wondering how some people even made it to graduation. Mostly everyone maintained the same Instagram account they’d first made in high school throughout college. So, that meant that all of your followers (even the mean girls that used to tease you about your height) could still “like” your pictures even if they didn’t necessarily like you.
I soon realized that what started as just a stream of updates into post-high school life suddenly became a cesspool of overly obsessing as to what was happening in the lives of people who weren’t necessarily the best in high school, yet who seemed to still be thriving in college.
I never wish bad on people.
Though, it did hurt to see those who weren’t too nice to me receive scholarships or basking in new relationships. Not that this equates to anything, but I found myself feeling as if I wasn’t worthy of the same opportunities as others, because I’d been nice to them, but they weren’t nice to me.
This cycle continued for longer than it should’ve. The time I could’ve spent studying or self-caring, I was submerging myself in checking how many likes people from high school were getting and comparing them to my own. I reached a point of addiction, constantly picking up my phone and opening the Instagram app to find a new post from someone toxic. I’d feel bad about myself, put my phone away for no more than a few minutes, just to scroll through a life that wasn’t my own.
Over time, I became aware that my anxiety was increasing. I began to abandon my body, both physically and mentally. I’d skip meals or lose sleep as my mind was on autopilot scrolling through Instagram. I began to curate my Instagram posts, heavily editing photos of myself at concerts or on vacation, projecting only the most positive parts of my life. Before long, the addiction of “checking up” on others caused me to become both anxious and depressed. Anxious because I couldn’t keep up with others and depressed because I no longer fit in with my high school peers.
Luckily, I no longer seek validation through Instagram anymore that I’ve graduated from college.
This time around, I posted my own graduation photos, praising those who’d impacted me in the last four years. Then, I thanked myself for continuously persevering through the hardest of times as I struggled with chronic illness and mental health. In the last four years, I had to teach myself to stop caring about the lives of others.
It’s important to stop checking on your “old friends’” social media because one check can turn into a wormhole of self-depreciation.
No post is worth putting me down over. No amount of likes equals my worth either. I had to learn the hard way that I carried a greater value than what was presented online. It took about four years to get to this point. But it made me realize that social media is only a curation of our lives, and is not the real thing.
Also published on Medium.