I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a social media buff, which seems like a cardinal sin today.
It's not that I don't use any sites to share my personal opinion of what I believe other people should find important and arbitrary pictures of what I find important.
No, the very fact is, social media is a grim mirror of my own narcissism. And that's just a reality that's a little too heavy to bear.
I was on Instagram in the wee hours of the morning after a particularly adventurous night on Beale Street (which is quite a circus, if anyone is ever interested in venturing out into Memphis nightlife).
As I scrolled through the myriad of pictures, some actually artistic and some just a compilation of head shoots and ducks faces (now you can conveniently fit six pictures of yourself in one frame. Thanks phone apps), one picture particularly caught my eye. Not because of the image, but because of one of the comments. It went something like this:
"Why are you taking so many pictures of yourself? WE know what you look like. Instagram is about your surroundings, not your face."
I applauded their honesty because:
1. It was the truth, and
2. This outspoken commenter provided me with a column idea.
It is no mystery that social media encourages narcissism. Articles have covered the idea since researchers concluded that the number of friends we share on Facebook is linked to socially disruptive narcissism.
It's reasonable to believe — making our ideas visible to the public puts us in a particularly vulnerable situation. And when we place extremely high values on certain ideas which do not receive the attention we believe they deserve, then we become aggressive, attention seeking...well, narcissists.
But Instragram takes the study to a different level. For now (because I'm sure the site will be updated as the users grow) all people do is upload pictures.
So what are we looking for? Validation that a picture of a tree in a park shot at an upward angle on our camera phone and then converted into a "Nashville" tint is artistic? Or are we simply looking for proof that we matter to our Instragram friends?
It's almost the same relationship shared among siblings when fighting for parental affections. Someone is always going to get the short end of the stick, and thus we become either reclusive or aggressive because we feel like we did not get the recognition we deserve.
I'll admit I'm susceptible to this behavior when I post pictures of myself on Instagram and don't receive a certain number of "likes". Does it mean I'm ugly? Or does it mean people were busy and didn't have time to press the "like" button? If allowed, desperation would probably lead me to take some sexually suggestive photos in hopes that more people would "like" the pictures; however, I plan to never reach that point because I like to have my dignity.
But it does happen to other people. Search Instragram long enough and you're sure to find a hoard of people with desperate photos. And it probably won't slow down anytime soon.
I'm don't want to isolate Instagram, though. But for now the social media behemoth is the most popular picture-sharing site. We, as users, have to exercise some form of caution, and I'm not talking about privacy issues.
We make ourselves emotionally vulnerable every day just by interacting with others and sharing our thoughts, so let's not pour more salt on the wound by seeking out validation for our existence on the Internet. Pictures with funky tints are cooler than normal ones. They are more aesthetically pleasing, and, depending on what you photograph, one might even say they are artistic. But they do not define you.
So the next time you take a picture of a tree, or of yourself, just remember: you don't need anyone's validation of how cool the tree was or how attractive you are.
That's your responsibly.
— Victoria Wright is a junior in journalism and electronic media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.