Why do I feel distressed? Why is it that I’m constantly worried about situations that normally don’t bother me? Am I projecting the right image?”
If you have ever asked yourself these questions, you are not the only one. As per statistics, the level of anxiety has become an epidemic in our society in the past few decades.
THE BRAVE NEW WORLD
Our way of life has changed dramatically in recent years and the pace at which we must live has picked up so fast that our abilities to adapt can no longer keep up. Sometimes it feels like we are all living our lives in a fast-forwarded TV show! We are always rushing through the moments of our lives toward an unknown; never taking a pause, out of fear of being left out. We are living in the “brave new world,” where news is more easily broadcast and where information equals money and intelligence equals success. Not only can this be seen in a wide demographic, but also, on an individual level. We have to know, we want to know, everything, all at once.
I used to believe that this feeling of social vulnerable and isolation was unique to celebrities and people of power. However, now this vulnerability has become part of society at-large. We have entered an age where we enjoy being seen; we are all, in some way, content producers and the guardians of our own personal brand! We see ourselves through the lens of a camera and we experience the world through the frame of an app. We all desperately aim for the perfect image of ourselves and we measure this perfection by the number of likes and followers we get. However, how does this need for acceptance affect the perception of ourselves?
THE NEW YORKER GOT IT RIGHT
There was a very interesting cartoon in the New Yorker published on November 9, 2017, in which a woman just finished a marathon in a forest and the caption reads, “If you run a marathon in a forest, but there’s no one around to social media about it, did you really run a marathon?”
Farley Katz, the creator of the cartoon, uses comedy to pose a very important question about the state of our world today in which people do not feel self-achievement unless they know that others have seen it.
I have always believed that Greek mythology has an interesting perspective about looking at world and analyzing human nature through a set of beautifully crafted stories. Mammon, coming from Greek roots, is the term used to represent “money” and material wealth, but more importantly, it is associated with the greed-driven pursuit to “gain.” Here, I draw on a contemporary parallel to gain a following.
LOOK AT YOUR WATCH FROM TIME TO TIME
We are humans and we are fundamentally limited by time. Therefore, it is important to look at our watch from time-to-time. We have to remember to pause and reset. Remember to ask yourself: do you know what your goals are in life? And, are they going to serve your happiness?
If you’re a frequent Instagram user, you’ve probably noticed by now that the social media giant has undergone some rather drastic changes in the past few months. These changes are long overdue and much needed! The changes (or updates) directly affect what people in the tech industry call the “user experience.” In other words, Insta is finally addressing an issue that has had many parents worried for years: their social media has a seriously toxic and addictive user experience, especially among younger users.
LIKED BY … AND OTHERS
In an effort to decrease the addictive nature of their software, one of the major changes that Insta introduced was disabling the ability for most users to view how many “likes” a post received. Instead, users simply now only see the name of one user, followed by “and others.” (Note that this update did not affect certain Instagram accounts, such as accounts registered as an artist.) Although you still get bombarded with the dopamine-induced heart symbol notifications, and users are still able to see who liked their post, Insta has nonetheless attempted to shift the focus of their software away from “competitive liking” and more towards post appreciation.
REMOVAL OF THE “FOLLOWING” ACTIVITY MONITOR
The only reason I can think of for needing to see what other people are doing on Insta is if I had a career in marketing or statistics research. In early October, the developers behind the software removed the ability for users to see the like activity of who they follow. Under the “following” tab, a user was able to see which posts were liked by whom. Can you imagine the plethora of issues that this must have caused? To add fuel to the fire, you were able to see which users recently followed other users. In other words, if your friend started to follow someone you don’t like, you would be able to see this activity and voila, the drama begins! Yay Instagram for removing this feature and keeping friends together.
In an effort to promote the exposure of more creative and inspirational content, Insta added buttons on their explore page that allows you to quickly search through various categories of creative subject matter. The buttons include topics such as Style, Decor, TV & Movies and Art, among many.
SOME OF IT HAS TO COME FROM YOU
No matter how many changes, algorithms or filters Instagram can possibly develop, the best way to have a positive experience on social media ultimately comes down to you (the user) and how you use it. Instagram’s algorithm for what you see on the application is based on what the system thinks you want to see the most. The way this algorithm operates is through monitoring your “taps.” Therefore, each time you tap on anything on Instagram, it is logged for your account and then their system pushes more of this content your way. All of this to say, Instagram can only do so much on their end to ensure that their users are safe from harmful messages and social media addiction, however, the only way you can truly have a safe experience is by wanting to.
Music is like comfort food for the ears. Here’s to a finely curated playlist featuring a wide range of songs that will lift your spirit, offer you some validation or just straight up shed light onto mental health issues.
Aidan Faminoff is a 21-year-old Florida State University competitive diver and Instagram “celebrity.” Faminoff grew up in Victoria, British Columbia, before accepting a sports scholarship to FSU in 2016. In October of 2016, Faminoff published a “coming out” post, which received a higher-than-anticipated amount of likes and support. Following the success of this post, he began posting high quality photographs that would eventually lead him to gain a following of over 100,000 users and an official “verified” symbol by Instagram (an icon beside an Instagram user’s name which indicates that the account is the authentic presence of a notable public figure, celebrity, global brand or entity it represents.)
Today, Faminoff uses his online celebrity status to not only entertain his users, but to be an icon of inspiration and an advocate for the global LGBTQ+ community.
THE POST THAT CHANGED IT ALL
Q: Where did it all start for you (the post that got the most amount of likes)? And, what was that moment like?
A: My Instagram started gaining a following once I came out [as a member of the LGBTQ+ community] in a post on October 11th, 2016. I was not expecting the reaction that came after. I knew my friends and family were going to be accepting, but I got so many messages from people I did not know. It was an amazing feeling and I cherish that day. Outsports then reached out to me and asked to do an article on me. It took me a year to write my coming out story because I wanted it to be a source of inspiration for others who may not feel comfortable enough to come out.
GET A GLIMPSE INTO MY LIFE
Q: What is the role of Instagram in your life?
A: Instagram, to me, is a way to share what I am doing in my life. I like to share what I during [dive] practice, which is usually dancing, but also, what I’m doing with friends; It’s a way for the public to get a glimpse into my personal life.
THIS IS MY INSTAGRAM AND NO ONE ELSE’S
Q: Being an Instagram user with a high number of followers, do you ever experience feelings of anxiety or uncertainty after posting a photo or video on Instagram?
A: When I post a photo, I post it because I love it. People will always have an opinion no matter what you are doing. I use to experience anxiety when wondering if people will not like what I post, but then I realized that this is my life. I do not have to conform to the wants and needs of others: this is my Instagram and no one else’s.
HELPING OTHERS THROUGH SHARING MY STORY
Q: How has Instagram impacted your life in a positive way?
A: Instagram helped me in a positive way when I came out [as a member of the LGBTQ+ community]. It let me share my story with others and news pages. I wanted to share my coming out story so that others who are in the closet can read it and get inspired. My goal was to be able to help at least one person and I thought social media was the best way to get my story out.
I AM WHO I AM, ONLINE AND OFFLINE
Q: Being a significant icon for the LGBTQ+ community, do you feel any sort of pressure in representing this cohort?
A: I try to represent myself on social media the same way I am in-person. Posting silly videos of me dancing is what I do at practice. I am not going to share something that does not represent me at all. I gained a following for being myself not trying to be someone I am not.
Special thanks to Aidan for taking the time to answer these questions and sharing his story with us.