A first hand take on understanding your identity while growing up as part of the online “influencer generation”
With social media’s gradual encompassing of lives, I find it harder and harder for people of this generation to navigate growing into their authentic selves. The shift of importance from how were are perceived online over how we really are is the main problem. Social media brings forward a pressure to brand yourself, whether its for business growth, artistic growth, becoming an influence, or just looking more “pleasing” to followers. This branding serves as a box that denies the complexities and rounded-ness of a person.
I personally have done this sort of “stereotyping” to myself over social media to come off as more together or easily like-able. After a long time I would try to curate posts or even my own life to be more of “one thing.” I struggled with the cohesiveness of my page which I then mirrored to my day to day life. For example, If I posted a girly photo next to a tomboy photo that I didn’t think would go along with my “image” as a whole I would have a sort of analytical stress with what I could put up instead so that people wouldn’t think I was too this or too that. This stress was ridiculous to me but I also thought this trial and error would help me to get quicker to becoming what I wanted to be, what I found the most pleasing. I was thinking that identity was a one dimensional idea of being that you simply “find.” When you are growing up and experiencing this media reality where you only see others for what they post, it is natural to start seeing humans and even yourself as being ideally one dimensional. This outlook is wrong and this single dimension is what I call a brand or even better, a box. After a year or so of my struggle to brand myself I felt overloaded and insecure at the hands of social media. Everything I had tried to do wasn’t right or good enough. (I had also been thinking about getting into modeling where social media has an unhealthy importance so I was feeling even more so pressured, like I had to use this tool perfectly). I didn’t feel like myself or who/what I wanted to be, I wasn’t doing everything I had wanted to do and I felt like I was in a rut. I felt the boxes that I was putting myself in and the boxes that other people viewed me in. I felt the heavy amount of time I spent focusing and living in this digital world. In this, I was becoming uninspired and more confused than ever. I finally decided to make it my goal to switch my plan of action and get out of this.
I left a few people and ideas behind that I felt fueled this focus on unhealthy “image” and took a route to feeling more like myself and doing whatever I wanted to do. I stopped my stress toward modeling and focused on creating more and living more. I posted what I wanted to post instead of taking it so seriously. I travelled, I felt, I read, I took small breaks from my phone. I found myself afraid to do all of these things and that it was difficult due to the habits I had formed. But it got better. With this space I grew to not feel like I was under any magnifying glass and especially understood that I didn’t want to put myself under one either. I Suddenly I found myself angry at the idea of ever being put in a box and especially at putting myself in one. I was able to observe more fully what ways I authentically wanted to connect with others. In living how I wanted I was able to learn about myself and not feed this digital self. I developed the acceptance of being a versatile person. A realization that everything I have going on is what makes me special, like-able, interesting to myself. I saw that what I wanted was to be well-rounded, creating, genuinely connective, and constantly learning. I didn’t want to be a contrived “brand.” I felt like myself. In feeling like myself I grew to know myself and this identity I was searching for naturally came with.
By Sarah Phenix