Too Afraid to Be Replaced, Too Afraid to Not Matter

It’s 7:30 in the morning and the first alarm goes off, still tired so you go back to sleep. 8 a.m. but you’ve already snoozed three times, you know you’re falling behind. Without noticing, your right hand reaches for the iPhone as the other hand rubs awake your sleepy eyes.

Looking at the phone, you remember that it’s been buzzing and vibrating all night. You click open that first Instagram notification, this is where you’ll be spending the next 30 minutes. 30 minutes if you’re ambitious, of course. You know full well that you are going to be late to your 9:45 a.m. geology class, but can’t help it.

The screen is flooded with social media notifications. Might I add that this is actually a rarity, as your posts normally receive a few comments from mum and the best friend. Most of your “likers” are people who haven’t spoken to you in ages, yet they religiously like and support your posts.

At this point, you’re sitting in front of the breakfast table, sipping on a cup of sugared down coffee, hoping this will take away the tiredness. The scrolling continues.

Refresh. Suddenly 416 likes and growing by the second. The so-very-popular post is a selfie with Patti, formerly known as Patrick. Being a good friend, you wrote an eloquent story about Patti’s transition and how much you believe in her, you also said that you were proud of her. To top it off, you hashtagged it as #TransLivesMatter. The hashtag was trending.

The fact that the message was vastly loved by fellow instagrammers became evident through the hundreds of likes, comments and drastic increase in followers which showered your notifications for days to come. A state of shock takes over you, making you an overnight favorite in the online community.

Of course, this was half the work, as there was a bigger task ahead; keeping up. You started to hang out with Patti more often, she too, gained popularity on social media. When newer societal issues emerged, you took to Twitter to express your feelings, Instagram became an extension to Twitter. YouTube was next. You started to post personal vlogs, inspiring stories and more. Often, you collaborated with Patti.

Then, a few months later, it’s the Women’s March. Specifically, it’s Jan. 20.

At 3 a.m., the alarm goes off. This time around, you don’t snooze, but simply roll out and check your iPhone. Patti texted, “On my way.” You quickly change into the comfortable outfit that mum prepared the night before. The flight from LAX to Ronald Reagan Washington airport is in a little over two hours.

As you get in the Uber Patti ordered, you feel that the air is filled with nervousness, excitement and everything in between. This is going to be Patti’s first Women’s March, as a woman.

By now it’s 4:30 a.m., you send out your first tweet, “D.C. here we come. #WomensMarch.” This hashtag was trending. Followers from all over the country send you their blessings and thoughts. You feel loved. You feel relevant. All of this feeds your satisfaction.

Instagram would be the next to receive your updates as you post a photograph of you and Patti, along with the group of girls you met at the hotel lobby, they’re your newest bffs.

You wore a pink t-shirt and the bold black print on it read ‘feminist.’ Your face is painted pink, you’re wearing a hot pink hat. It’s as if a whole community of women have been united by one thing and one thing only, the color pink.

The online community once again stands up for your brevity and willingness to support a big cause. Once again you feel satisfied from their validation.

This allows you to leave the march half an hour later after commencing it.

You have shown your presence. You have gained your attention. That’s all that matters, right?

As your presence in social media outlets continue, companies start to contact you. Your account soon becomes sponsored. Your online content changes. Your stance on issues start changing, too. Your Instagram will soon become much like a spam account, trying to sell and attest to things.

Your hashtags no longer have meaning, they no longer matter to you. You are still followed, still adored. Your posts become more posed, less personal and personable. Your word has a strange influence on your followers

You are relevant.

Trend after trend, hashtag after another, you follow, post and support causes you didn’t care about before. There’s suddenly a big distance, an invisible wall between who you really are and who you are showing to be. You are no longer posting your passions, or about your friends but what is trending.

Somewhere between the lines, the identity of that geeky young woman is lost. And within that bubble of social media, she has created a life for herself.

Notice that the main character does not have a name, and was spoken to rather than spoken about. This was intentional. As we go through life, we find pieces of ourselves mirrored in this character. Whether it’s the need for more likes and followers or the idea of losing one’s passions while trying to keep up with the popular and the trending, most have experienced this.

Here are a couple of questions for the next person trying to make it big in the social media realm.

Aside from keeping up with what’s popular, are we really doing enough? How are we affecting the world around us? How would we make a change if social media went away?

Marian Sahakyan can be reached at [email protected]