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5 Women on Loving and Hating Social Media

Relationship status: It’s complicated

11.30.16
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Think pieces on Millennials And Their Darned Social Media usually fail to acknowledge the nuances. Like how we much we kind of hate it even though we love it. How we’re obsessed with it but also want it to disappear tomorrow please. It’s complicated. No single emotional driver — narcissism or loneliness or self-expression — serves as motivation for using these apps. It’s not that simple. It’s more of a messy mixture of desire and resentment, at least in my experience.

I spoke with five women who actually use social media about how the whole ecosystem makes them feel. I wanted to know if it was a source of joy or depression or, perhaps more accurately, both (depending on the hour, maybe the minute). Scroll down to read what they told me. The cognitive dissonance we all feel with social media is so palpable I couldn’t help but laugh at times.

Happy end-of-Consumption Month! Don’t miss when we post about this story on our Instagram.


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Manvir Dobb
Manvir is 17 and a student from Birmingham, UK. Her first screenname was manvirdobb because she was told she’d regret “manvirisamazing.” She’s also one of our Ask a Teens!

1. Tell me one of your first social media memories.

When I first got Instagram, I posted what any other 13 year old would: selfies and memes. Thankfully, that phase of my life has passed and my Instagram has developed substantially. However, I don’t want to completely erase all evidence of that time so I kept one picture which was of a child pulling a crazy face whilst being baptized. The caption reads: “No! I’m an atheist!” Every now and then I’ll get a comment on that picture telling me that it’s my most creative post.

2. How do you feel about how you consume and engage with social media?

I’m a light user. I don’t always have my phone with me. Sometimes I like to go off social media for a few days, which does not go over well with my friends. Snapchat frustrates me the most, like when people just send me pictures of their faces with the word “streak” on a daily basis in order to keep a fire with a number next to my name. What is the point in having a streak if we’re not going to even have good conversations? I rage.

I do like apps like Instagram and Pinterest because they allow me to showcase my creativity while at the same time getting inspired, but they’re also a great source of procrastination. It’s a matter of finding a balance between updating my feed and being social and also staying on top of homework.

3. Do you have any desire to change how much time you spend on it?

Not really, I think I’m quite controlled. What I have a desire to change is how much time I’m given in general. Time always feels limited.

4. Has your relationship with it changed over time?

Definitely. When I first got social media, I was younger and had less responsibilities and so it was something that I could play with when I got bored. Nowadays, it can have far-reaching effects, whether through promoting art club to my school or entering big competitions like Man Repeller’s “Ask A Teen.”

5. Tomorrow all social media apps disappear. How do you feel?

At first I’d be quite happy and maybe sarcastically say, “Oh no, there goes the Snapchat streaks. Cry.” But after a few days or weeks, I think I’d start to miss it and realize how useful it was.

6. The “social media generation” gets a lot of flack for being narcissistic. Does this strike you as off base or no?

I can understand where that’s coming from. Social media is a way of promoting yourself. And those who are narcissistic on social media get a lot more attention than those who are not. A lot of my most-liked pictures on Instagram are pictures of myself. People pay less attention to the other stuff.

That said, I think we’re just as narcissistic as any other generation. My mom takes more selfies than me, I kid you not!


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Quinn Halman
Quinn is 19 and a student at McGill University. Her first screenname was funky.munky.q.

1. Tell me one of your first social media memories.

The first thing I can think of is having the notion ingrained into me that the person on the other side of the screen could very well be a 72-year-old creepy man. Then, when Sully landed in the Hudson, I have a clear memory of my sixth grade teacher telling the class how the journalists got the story from people on Twitter. My first personal experience, though, would be taking a stretch filter picture on Photobooth, uploading it to Facebook, and thinking “Wow, now this is some classic comedy.” I have since deleted the picture.

2. How do you feel about how you consume and engage with social media?

I scroll through apps way more than I post on them. Sometimes I’ll learn something new, sometimes I get a headache from rolling my eyes too hard, sometimes I get inspired.

I’m in my second year at university, which means I’ve been meeting a lot of new people. Because of that I’m using it more than I did in high school. But then again, someone’s Instagram aesthetic is not always an accurate representation of who they are in real life, and I’m hesitant to say that’s where it counts. A lot of us are trying to figure out the right mixture of personal and public because, as much as I’ll want to share something, I know my grandparents will see it and comment on it and do so using a pet name. I love those people more than my phone, obviously, but I fervently jumped on the finsta* trend.

*If you don’t know, a finsta is a fake Instagram account. It has way less followers than a rinsta (real Instagram account) and it’s usually filled with embarrassing pictures, lengthy personal captions, and funny or sad descriptions of your day. It is generally way more personal.

3. Do you have any desire to change how much time you spend on it?

For sure! It’s such an easy distraction during a boring lecture or when I’m putting the “pro” in procrastination. I had to get an app on my computer called “Self Control” (because I clearly do not have any) and it blocks certain websites for a given amount of time. Baby steps, ya know?

4. Has your relationship with it changed over time?

What’s unique about being 19 is that for every year since middle school, there’s been a new social media app. Kids nowadays get phones and iPads at younger ages and all of these apps are thrown in their face at once. I’m grateful that I grew as social media did, even though it still had a lot of influence on my social development. My relationship has developed into a love/hate one. I recognize how it can negatively affect me, but at the same time it’s very hard to check out of that world. I’m not sure I’d know how, even if I have already deleted cringe-y pictures and posts.

5. Tomorrow all social media apps disappear. How do you feel?

Oh, I would be pretty fucking elated. The only reason that I haven’t deleted the apps off my phone is because I would be experiencing FOMO on a generational and cultural level since every friend of mine would still be on social media. I think relationships would be much more meaningful because you would actually have to reach out to people to get caught up on their lives rather than depending on a Snapchat story.

However, I would mourn memes. I’m sure a few people just scoffed, but I love those things. There is a lot to be said about how they both reflect and influence our culture. They’re also how my brother and I communicate; he’s not a big texter so whenever he tags me in a meme, it means he misses me.

6. The “social media generation” gets a lot of flack for being narcissistic. Does this strike you as off base or no?

I can see why one would think that, but it strikes me off base because there’s a lot of nuance here. Simply put, I don’t think users are more narcissistic than any prior generation. Social media has us constantly criticizing others while being criticized. The numerical value assigned to these superficial judgments makes us a very anxious generation. I applaud the people that use these platforms to truly express themselves because I’m too scared to do it myself. I also want to acknowledge the activists on Instagram that have made more people aware to certain injustices, but that may be more macro-level seeing as there are also as many pages filled with hateful content.


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Harling Ross
Harling is 24, lives in New York and is Man Repeller‘s Social Media Editor. Her first screen name was hhr1214.

1. Tell me one of your first social media memories.

I created my Facebook account in ninth grade, and I remember writing on my OWN wall the first day: “Exciting things to come here! Stay tuned!” As if I had millions of fans. I also did some embarrassing stuff on Instagram when I first got it and had zero followers. Like posting four pictures in a row of my knock-off wedge sneakers. Those were dark times.

2. How do you feel about how you consume and engage with social media?

I am definitely a heavy social media user. Given my job at Man Repeller, I am posting upwards of 50 times a day across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr –and that doesn’t even include Snapchat or Instagram Stories. Or my personal social media accounts. Or responding to my mom’s texts about how to use her social media accounts. I don’t tend to feel badly about the amount of time I spend on it, though. First of all, it’s my job. Second of all, I really do enjoy it. Social media is a comfortable space for me. A happy space.

3. Do you have any desire to change how much time you spend on it?

I do wish that I didn’t have so much anxiety about being disconnected from it, or taking a break from it. I read somewhere that even just having your phone resting on the table next to you during dinner can negatively impact the level of intimacy and trust you feel with the person sitting across from you, so I’ve been trying to be better about putting my phone away when I’m out to dinner with friends or my boyfriend.

The compulsion to check it constantly is definitely still there, but I try not to beat myself up about it too much or overthink it. There are already way too many other things I beat myself up about. It also bothers me that social media shame seems to be ascribed to women more than men, as are most conduits for shame — shame about your body, shame about feeling like a fraud at work, etc. So as long as social media continues to bring me joy and remains an outlet for creativity and engaging with other people, I’m not going to guilt-trip myself for feeling a little addicted at times.

4. Has your relationship with it changed over time?

It has definitely evolved similarly to my relationship with myself. The more secure I feel about who I am, the more social media feels like a source of joy — a place where I can connect, broaden my world view and share parts of my life. The reverse is true as well. I went through a period in college where I was really depressed, and it was actually physically painful to use social media. I would scroll through Instagram or look through other people’s Facebook albums, and it seemed like everyone else was having this amazing time, whereas my life felt sad and small and unworthy in comparison. As of right now, I feel like I’ve found a good rhythm with social media. I know its good sides and its bad sides. We’re like an old married couple.

5. Tomorrow all social media apps disappear. How do you feel?

Jobless! So that’s a bummer.

6. The “social media generation” gets a lot of flack for being narcissistic. Does this strike you as off base or no?

Every new generation of young people has its own sources of narcissism. Young people, by nature, are narcissistic. The thing about social media is that it amplifies the narcissism. It creates a platform and shines a spotlight on it. But there’s room on that platform for other stuff, too. Stuff that expands our perspectives and combats the pitfalls of “me! me! me!”


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Natalie Alcala
Natalie is 32, lives in Los Angeles and is the founder of Fashion Mamas. Her first screen name was NAgroovy. (That was her AOL chat name. She really liked Austin Powers, okay?!).

1. Tell me one of your first social media memories.

I’ve always been fascinated by the human condition, so naturally I’ve experimented with just about every social media platform. When I was in high school, it was all about AOL chatrooms. I used to hang in the “818” chats (I’m from the Valley). LiveJournal was my next obsession. It was an early blogging platform where people could comment on posts and join groups of people with likeminded interests. (I was in groups that ranged from arthouse films to underground hip hop.)

Then Friendster became the jam, then Myspace emerged and changed the entire game. I remember that curating your Top 8 friends was very serious business, and it was pretty stressful if your position shifted on a friend’s page. Posting “bulletins” — Myspace’s version of Facebook’s status updates — was also really fun. In fact, it’s how I met my husband: in 2004, I really wanted to see Radiohead, Air and Le Tigre at Coachella. I had tickets (they were insanely inexpensive back then compared to now) but I didn’t have a ride. So I posted a Myspace bulletin asking if I could hitch a ride with anyone. The internet wasn’t as creepy back then, but it was still a bold announcement to put out there.

Lucky for me, a cute guy named Vlad that I once met at a Drum & Bass show answered the request, and we drove out to the desert and had a blast. We remained friends for a while but eventually we fell in love, dated for 10 years, got married and had a baby. We’ve been together for 13 years now. Thanks, social media!

2. How do you feel about how you consume and engage with social media?

I’m a heavy user since I manage two accounts: @nataliealcala and @fashionmamas. I love social media because it gives true power to the people. However, I’m well aware that it’s also a great time-waster. Sometimes I have to turn my phone off if I really need to concentrate and get shit done.

3. Do you have any desire to change how much time you spend on it?

Now that my son is getting older and more aware of what I do, I have been making a conscious effort to put my phone away and give him eye contact. One day he’s going to be the one with his head down looking at his phone (or whatever high-tech device is hot in the future), so I want to preserve his imagination for as long as I can.

4. Has your relationship with it changed over time?

It’s become more of a business now compared to when I was younger. Back then, I used social media to make new friends and to find out “where da party at.” Now, it’s more of a tool to promote my brand and share the highlights of my life in a visually-appealing way.

5. Tomorrow all social media apps disappear. How do you feel?

You know what? I’d be euphoric. I love seeing what everyone is up to and I enjoy sharing my story, but I’m old enough to remember the days when social media didn’t exist and it was a pretty innocent time. It would be nice to do everyday things again, like hiking and eating, without worrying about getting that perfect Insta shot. But can the apps please only disappear for one day? Because by Day 2 I’d def want to see some new @daquan memes.

6. The “social media generation” gets a lot of flack for being narcissistic. Does this strike you as off base or no?

I wouldn’t say narcissistic. Social media inspires us all to be our best selves. Sure, it’s looking at life through rose-colored glasses, but if that motivates you to get out there and make it happen, then I really don’t see the harm in that.


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Nathalynne McGinnis
Nathalynne is 60 and an Advertising Manager. Her first screen name was shucollector (because she’s a shoe collector, duh!).

1. Tell me one of your first social media memories.

Maneuvering online dating sites…then trying to blog about it. I ended up spending too many years online bouncing from site to site. Thought I found Mr. Right in 1997 until he preferred dating a lunatic in 2003. When I got bored of talking about losers, I stopped blogging.

2. How do you feel about how you consume and engage with social media?

I’m a medium user, I asked a friend. As for how I it makes me feel, I’m somewhere between apathetic and amazing. I don’t blindly consume, I mostly just scan unless someone posts an article I find interesting or if there is an interesting discussion going on. Could be anything from politics to diversity and social sharing by women.

3. Do you have any desire to change how much time you spend on it?

No, I control my daily impulses. I peek in on the FB trends to see what’s happening and I check few groups that I belong to in the mornings. Top on the list: Girlsday and GirlsdayWOC (Women of Color).

4. Has your relationship with it changed over time?

Yes, think I found my niche. I’m a big Facebook user. I love the outdoors: I’m a runner, biker and now I have to walk the dog. I see so much beauty in the mornings. I guess living near the lake helps. A sunrise inspires me to pull out the iPhone and snap. I usually search for a quote that expresses my mood at the time or make up my own and then post to Facebook and Instagram. I have gotten lots of complements from friends to the point they look forward to them, and even share!

5. Tomorrow all social media apps disappear. How do you feel?

More relieved. You can get drawn in when some idiot goes on a rant and you have to say something, like during the recent election. Without it, I tune out and begin more verbal communication. I miss talking. ☹

Collage by Emily Zirimis.

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  • Molly D

    After validating social media in the first few questions, everyone except our girl Harling (for job reasons) responded they’d feel relieved or even euphoric if social media disappeared! It’s funny – the need to validate the presence of social media in our lives is just as strong as the need to validate ourselves on it. Everyone has a choice to not engage, or engage selectively (go Manvir).

    Highly recommend The Circle by Dave Eggers for a terrifying take on where our relationship with social media could be headed.

  • Madeline

    I applaud these brave, brave women for sharing their first screen names with us. I wouldn’t reveal mine for the world.

    • Andrea Raymer

      Its my favorite icebreaker question when I meet new groups of people!

      • Harling Ross

        i wish mine was less boring than my initials and my birthday. it reminds me of that scene in ‘You’ve Got Mail’ when Meg Ryan accidentally calls out Tom Hanks for is boring-as-fuq AOL name

        • Andrea Raymer

          I was a late adopter of AIM so mine was literally what my email address is now. Its my old hotmail email address that was the most embarrassing.

          • Andrea Raymer

            which is also the email associated with my FB so i can never forget it

  • Irene Laura

    Great points of view

    http://www.ontomywardrobe.com/

  • Andrea Raymer

    Harling, I just creeped ALLL the way back on your Instagram and it was 5 photos of those wedge sneakers. not just 4.

    • Madeline

      can confirm.

    • Yvonne Dunlevie

      That’s my favorite series ever!!!!!!

    • Harling Ross

      HAHAHAHA. I keep them there as a reminder. Of who I am. Thank you for very important numerical clarification.

  • Thanks for sharing an older woman’s perspective in this, too. I think social media is a habit. If it were gone tomorrow, we would get used to it and spend our time finding other habits. That said, it has it’s purpose. Great share! TY.

  • Love this it gave a great insight I especially relate to Natalie her perspective is greatly similar to mine!

    http://www.swankyswans.co.uk

  • Amelia Diamond

    punkrockpony

  • Grace B

    I love watching older shows or shows that are taking place in the past — no phones, no texting, no social media, barely any computers.

    The other day my friend called me, “a navigational genius” because I know how to get places using routes other than what Google maps tells her. I was pretty chuffed but also like, isn’t it sad that people rely so much on that app in particular? Whatever happened to learning the streets and different routes your town?

  • Samantha Lee

    I went through so many different screen names (how was I not the most annoying friend?! Maybe I was.), and all I can remember are the most embarrassing ones…which leads me to wonder how I had any friends at all.
    -__-
    http://www.wonderlandsam.com

  • Imaiya Ravichandran

    “I remember writing on my OWN wall the first day: “Exciting things to come here! Stay tuned!” As if I had millions of fans.”

    hahaahaha this made me laugh because i did the exact same thing once, except a version 1000x more annoying. i wrote something along the lines of: “thrilled to finally be on facecbook! here, i hope to share my present and future endeavours with you all. xo!” Like it was an official press release from Buckingham palace.

    • Harling Ross

      we were super important!!!!

  • Alyssa

    @harling_ross:disqus
    “Like posting four pictures in a row of my knock-off wedge sneakers.”

    This is too real. When I was in high school, I flipped over the fact that a popular girl from school had “liked” my Instagram photo of a Scotch tape dispenser I had dusted with glitter. I also recall using the filter, Rise. For context: this was around the same time I had been introduced to Pinterest. Those were, indeed, dark times.

    • Harling Ross

      hahaah i love looking at what filters i used or–even worse–BORDERS

  • Chiara Settineri

    Loved Manvir’s whole piece, but I especially agree with her about the Snapchat streak thing. I purposely refuse to keep them—so few of them are actually meaningful…A snapchat that the person (the sender, “snapper” if you will) also sent to their 397 other streaks (*this may or may not be hyperbole*) doesn’t add any worth to our actual relationship whatsoever. And isn’t THAT the social aspect of social media?

    I have such a love/hate relationship with social media. I’ve become a phone stacker at dinners — in extreme cases, a phone snatcher when fellow table-mates fail to cooperate (:

  • I’ve only just become slightly addicted to Twitter and decided a year ago to never stop blogging, regardless of the dwindling visitor numbers, but everything else (facebook, Instagram & Co.) remains uninteresting. At the same time, a life without online info sources and without a virtual home to shelter my thoughts and the rest of my life (aka my blog) would be terrible. Unthinkable.

  • Aydan

    its so interesting that so many younger peoples I know (I’m mid/late 20s) don’t rely on FB! Its still such a huge source of EVENTS for me!!

  • As someone who works in social, thank you for this article!!! Millennials/Social Media addiction think pieces are everywhere, but they never talk to young people who use social media for work. The articles seem to only discuss the negative impacts (which there are definitely booby traps in spending too much time on social), but there are rainbows too! I loved this quote: “So as long as social media continues to bring me joy and remains an outlet for creativity and engaging with other people, I’m not going to guilt-trip myself for feeling a little addicted at times.” Harling, you nailed it. Until social media overwhelmingly impedes our ability to connect with intriguing humans, I’m going to stay addicted with ya!

  • onanma okeke

    My first screen name was Ona4lfye. Back then choosing a screen name was a tough decision. Apparently abbreviations didn’t really work out so well, the words still ended up being the same length as the non abbreviated version.

  • Morgan Rhe Tadlock

    Svvetie1. Yep. I just died a little inside.

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