Editor | Heather Lim
Contributing Writers | Andreia Ko, Beatrice Lee, Jasmine Su
Photographer | Audrey Lim
‘50% brightness, 40% contrast…” an internal monologue runs through my head as my hands move axiomatically across my phone screen. Done! My carefully curated photo was going to match perfectly to the color scheme of my Instagram newsfeed. I give myself an approving nod as i proceed to upload my natural-looking picture to the 4x4 square frame.
But I catch myself.
Beneath the veneer of my meticulously managed Instagram feed, what was I ultimately trying to do? Was it a genuine attempt to share a moment of my life with people whom I care about, or was it to construct an image of the type of person I wanted others to perceive me as? Recently, the common phrase “If you didn’t gram it, it didn’t happen” has circulated among my group of friends. Though often brought up nonchalantly as a joke, I think it reflects a deeper need–a need for validation. A need to prove to the rest of the world that we are doing something exciting and meaningful. Or maybe to convince ourselves that we actually are.
Perhaps subconsciously, I had begun to determine my worth by the number of likes and views on my Instagram page. I had became so circumspect about the type of photos that I wanted to post: they had to look happy and had to have the perfect colour scheme. The thought of posting anything less than a happy photo feels highly daunting: some of the faces on my feed are hazy–people I met once at an event, people I no longer keep in contact with. Can I be authentic and vulnerable in such a vast, formidable space? Is there even a point in sharing if I do not keep it real?
Recently, I took a one-month break off Instagram, a cleansing “fast”, as someone would put it. It was a good experience. I was pleasantly surprised at myself; I was not as reliant on it as I thought I would be. I had lovely unadulterated conversations with friends over meals without that rapid glance through insta-stories. This episode led me to ponder: is the best solution then abstinence from the digital world? Or is it creating a private account for people I am truly comfortable with? I don’t know. But I think that the call on my life is that if I were to use it, I’ve got to be authentic, to be unashamed to share my convictions, to celebrate difficult days, to be real.
I think I am slowly learning to connect better, in this digital space. So what does digitalization mean to you personally? Andreia, Beatrice and Jasmine share their insights:
“‘How many hours do you spend looking at a screen?’
As a manager of 5 different Instagram accounts, it is often easy to lose myself in the realm of social media, and fall slave to technology. When we immerse ourselves in our gadgets, rapidly sending text messages, emails, or animojis, do we look past our screens and see above and beyond? Many have argued that the digital world hinders us from connecting with people in the physical space around us–a typical scene of us with our loved ones, collectively communicating with only our phones.
Our world is slowly seeping into the digital scape, and our dependence on social media for networking and connecting has quickened its pace. People fall in love through dating apps, our brains are filled with new faces each time we scroll through our explore feeds, and we have the possibility of knowing so much about a person, without really knowing them at all. Being able to stay updated with people’s lives by checking out their Instagram profiles and Instagram stories has made it a breeze to feel connected while maintaining distance.
‘We influence at least 10,000 people in our lifetime’ (Make that 1,000,000). I used to be fixated on this cycle of posting and waiting for likes. I also took regular breaks, and “fasted” from social media, because of how toxic and superficially curated the social media environment could be. However, if everyone who sought authentic, pure, and good content, was simply going to shun away from this area of contention, then who will be the light in the darkness? Who will be the change we need? Instead, I committed myself to engage in this battle, to be that someone on social media that I wish my 15-year-old self could have seen.
I believe in the power of technology and social media, its ability to inspire and influence, and I believe in connecting back, in love, disguised as emojis. <3”
“Social media is little more than a tool and a tiresome rhetoric.
How many times have we come across over-edited photos with unrelated captions and others waxing lyrical about sunsets and hot air balloons in Cappadocia? The photos are beautiful, and many of these personalities have a global fanbase. However, apart from giving others an avenue to stalk their favorite people, have these social media darlings and their perfect feed narrowed the gap between themselves and their adoring fans? I hardly think so.
Social media is not a two-way street. People stalk a friend on Instagram stories but find it immensely difficult to send a text message to the same person. Digitalization has reduced “connections” to comments, likes, staged photographs and acquaintances in high places (of influencer-dom) — all of which form a dangerous glass staircase to a very lonesome Instafamous Mountaintop.
As much as people try to establish themselves as advocates of a healthier digital space, it’s hard to gauge the sincerity behind these gestures, especially when some influencers have used such means as a marketing scheme to increase their follower count. If the internet was truly a positive force for promoting connectivity, there wouldn’t be a need for others to seek validation in the content they share. Now, one’s word is only good when it is actually fulfilled.
We are all hypocrites these days.”
“My Facebook profile photo is empty, the generic outline of a woman against the gray background. My newsfeed wall, blocked by a Chrome extension, is equally empty. My life, too, appears generic, empty, and boring. For the past 5 years or so, I have chosen to connect in a digitalized world by simply… not connecting. My best friend had to reach me through emails with capitalized subject lines saying “PICK UP YOUR PHONE”; snake games and physical keyboards are more familiar to me than snapchat filters. I have often had to sit through long, silent meals with friends and family, where everyone else scrolls through their phones while I stare blankly into the air — there was simply nothing on my phone to look at.
But all of these were conscious lifestyle choices to somehow experience the real and tangible, appreciate the present, and focus on myself. These compromises came at a cost. And when I started college I realized that in a digitalized world I must also leave digital footprints to be on equal grounds with my peers. I felt incredibly helpless, to be dragged into constant and instant digital interactions and a society that is only going to be more and more digitally connected in the future. I wonder if my ancestors felt the same when telegraphs were introduced — the feeling of constant intrusion into everyone’s lives and vice versa.
I have grown to come to terms with my inevitable, albeit unpleasant, co-existence with social media. Although my days of social media vacuum are long gone, I still choose put down my phone when watching new year fireworks, when waiting for the sunset after a hike, when spending time with my friends. These are my last attempts to grab onto the tails of a passing age, my foolish and futile efforts to hold on to the remaining grains of outdated social interactions.”