“Ooohh have you guys seen this video? It’s hilarious!”
“Oh my gosh, did you see Summer’s most recent post? She’s stunning!”
“Did you see his story last night? That party looked wild!”
Ever since sixth grade, my answer to these types of questions has always been no.
It all began with the gift of a smartphone. On the first day of middle school, my parents gave me a phone. As soon as my fingers curled around it, I became overwhelmed with excitement; I would finally be able to create my own social media accounts. Immediately, I made a digital beeline to the App Store, quickly searching up all the popular networks until my parents said three simple words which would create conflict for me in the future; “No social media.” In my overdramatic, middle school brain, these words disturbed me greatly. It seemed as though everyone I knew had an Instagram or Snapchat account, and because of my parents’ strict rules, my social life would be over.
Middle school is notorious for being a miserable place full of insecure, moody teens; but, social media introduced even more stress. Everyone was consumed by the number of likes or followers that they were receiving on their numerous sharing platforms, and I had a hard time creating genuine relationships with them. People were always chattering about the trendiest posts and I had nothing to contribute to those conversations. Occasionally, I’d ask people to see what they were talking about; honestly, it was fascinating to be able to directly comprehend all of the different content available for exploration. The appealing feeds, endless filters, and colorful layout made me long for an account even more. However, most of the time, I refrained from asking to see what everyone was talking about. People began to view me as the clingy girl with nothing ‘fun’ on her phone.
Despite the infinite feelings of exclusion and rejection, I began to observe the downside of these networks. Throughout middle school, social media became the main cause of most drama among friend groups. If one girl posted about a party she hosted, those who weren’t invited immediately retaliated with gossip or direct indifference towards each other, thus creating a vicious cycle of friendship breakups. In fact, I became grateful for my parents’ policies — they had saved me from a boatload of middle school fights. Slowly, I began to understand the reasoning behind their strict rules.
It wasn’t until high school when I completely accepted my family’s ‘No-Social-Media Policy.’ I grew more confident in myself and learned that social media, or my lack thereof, didn’t define who I was. I don’t need a public profile to seek approval from my peers or to ‘fit in’. My parents’ rules have allowed me to see the pros and cons of the social media platform, which will keep me aware of them once I finally get one during my last half of senior year (I’ve started counting down already).
Graphic: Erin Kim