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Ariana Abtahi, Staff Writer

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“Oh God, look at my flabby arms. I literally look obese.”

A quote, verbatim, heard during homecoming. Seeing her lament about the heinous photos and immediately deleting them, it had me thinking. Homecoming season evoked a lot of emotions in a lot of people. What was previously a lively social for all grades to enjoy has become a superficial, Instagrammed pity party.

It seems like we are straying away from dressing up to have fun to dressing up for online validation as the prominence of social media platforms, and their importance to this high school population, continues to escalate. Organic social interaction is arguably obsolete; can you honestly say that phones are absent during real face-to-face time with friends? Why the recent emphasis on vanity?

The answer lies in social media’s digital footprint. Everyone will see that zit on your face. Everyone will see your frizzy hair. Everyone will think this or that. With the beautifully cursed invention of tools like Photoshop, all of these imperfections can be erased with a few taps. There are people who show up to prom in a Maserati because limos no longer garner enough likes.

Our peers no longer attempt to capture a moment for themselves, instead, they feel a need to create an illusion for their followers.

Even I am trapped by this idea that we all have to be perfect for pictures to post. Forget about having ‘memories.’ While at homecoming, I found myself asking where everyone was, not because I wanted to dance or socialize with them, but because I wanted a group picture. My poor date was dead tired by the end of our time together, having been dragged around like some shiny accessory. I honestly scared myself, and I don’t even want to know what prom will bring.

One senior confirmed “pictures are more important than actually having fun.”

This idea that we have to impress others on our timeline is the epitome of our generation’s insecurities and angst. It is so ingrained into our minds that it seems to be second nature. You go somewhere slightly noteworthy, and it turns into a photoshoot. Don’t even think about drinking your Urth Caffe green tea latte until you get a candid shot of the other person smiling with it.

The purpose of taking pictures has morphed from a desire to capture personal memories into some sort of pathetic pageant. That is not to say taking pictures in general is superficial. In fact, be proud of yourself and what you post. There is nothing inherently wrong with having a superb feed, but this obsessive social media culture prompts legitimate concern — preeminently low self-esteem and the need for constant validation.

It’s disheartening to hear people complain about pictures, and even more so when they beg their friends not to post one on account of a perceived imperfection — a bad hair day or an unflattering nose angle, to name a few. Everyone has insecurities, especially hormonal teenagers. But because these insecurities dictate people’s actions or responses on account of followers or likes, we must worry about our collective mental health.

There’s a seductive but damaging comfort in logging into Instagram after a long day of school and waiting anxiously for others generic responses, usually consisting of emoji heart eyes and repeated compliments. The value of these online relationships is now equal to or more than the ones being forged outside the confines of an app.

Focusing too much on online attention can lead to dire consequences. The University of Pittsburgh found that teens are more than twice as likely to have an eating disorder or have negative body-image issues compared to those who use these platforms less frequently. This constant push for validation is affecting us physically and mentally, and it needs to be addressed.

An estimated 3 billion people are logged on the net.  The generation of today growing up will never have a chance to live without it, while being molded by it. In a high school setting, the pressure to portray a life devoid of physical imperfections and filled with social outings is even more prominent.

This pervasive idea is quite dangerous. The need for social media validation is intoxicating — and growing. We indulge every day, and we understand the inevitability of its ubiquitous consumption of our collective mentality, our time and our well being. Yet we continue to click, tap and scroll our way toward the light at the end of a tunnel that doesn’t really exist.

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About the Writer
Ariana Abtahi, Staff Writer

Ariana joined Tideline her senior year as an opinion staff writer. Having been an avid follower of Vice since early middle school, Ariana became interested...

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