Parents are obsessed with tracking their children’s growth. It’s as though they’re suspicious that this “getting taller business” is a sneaky tactic of some sort. “She’s plotting something,” I can only imagine my dad said to my mother.
“That look in her eyes. I think she’s laundering money. Better do an inch check.”
If at least one wall in your home doesn’t have hyphens etched into it that mark your rising heights (annotated with dates — such specific creeps!), how nice. I guess your parents were very trusting.
But if they weren’t, wasn’t it also sort of sad when the spies decided you’d stopped growing? Well. Should they decide to pick up their now-adult-children tracking hobby again, regretful that they’d missed years of data-accrual opportunities but eager to study our lives over the past few years, all they’d have to do is treat us like active celebrities and scroll, scroll, scroll, allll the way down to the first post on our Instagrams.
In case our parents take my advice, here’s a guide to what they’ll find:
This was the first moment you became your parents: when you accidentally uploaded a photo to Instagram because you thought it was merely an app that made your photos look cool. Best case scenario: it was your attempt at being artsy. Worst case (depending on how long the photo stayed live before you realized): it involved hoo-ha and nipple.
The Earnest First
Though technically this was your second posting, it marked your social media age of reasoning. You were able to identify a photo you wouldn’t mind the internet seeing, and then you uploaded it properly and possibly played with the brightness. It’s typically without caption or context and is importantly embarrassing.
The Filter Discovery
This stage was about exploration. There was no filter you wouldn’t try — no saturation too bold, no lighting too fake. The #nofilter brag hadn’t become a stigma yet, which meant you were free to be. Subject matter didn’t matter. This was about the X-Pro.
Oh, and that 20-photo run where you learned how to up the contrast and the color simultaneously, by the way, was honestly really pretty. Excellent work with sunsets.
The Artsy Period
Uh oh, someone started following some influencers. The artsy period is when you began to really sink into your creative pursuits. You sunk so far that you almost considered starting a second account dedicated to your photography. Your friends offered up likes for that half-finished glass of water on the peach colored motel room sink counter, but they weren’t so sure what was going on. They dared not judge though, because next came the second wave of Artsy Photos…
The LA Borders
The LA Borders marked your tender, identity-developing phase. Unsure of who you really were or what you wanted to do or where you wanted to live, you adopted the cool white borders of LA’s Insta-set and marveled at how satisfying and clean it made everything seem. What you never did was clear the posts that came before your borders-only phase — proof that you weren’t ready to let go of your past.
The First Food Post
Honestly, you saw someone else do it and watched their likes roll up to triple digits, so you thought, I eat a lot. I can pander to growling bellies, too. Be on the back-stalk lookout for the best kind of first food posts: the ones that are raw — unaware of the self. A little unappetizing. Like so many of Martha Stewart’s.
Your first heartbreak as publicized on social media. Don’t worry. Everyone thought you seemed totally fine.
The Drunk Oops
There are few indulgences in this world quite like a devil-may-care, repercussion-free drunk post. Nothing is considered — not the time of post, not the greater implications your social media activity may have on your career, not the caption. You finally relaxed a bit. But it did leave you with a morning conundrum: Own the post no matter how embarrassing, or delete, deny and repress?
This phase tells so many different things about different people. What it explains about you, specifically, is that you were beginning to understand just how much bigger this Instagram thing might actually be.
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Happy birthday to one of the most hysterical and beautiful women on this entire planet. Crafted in a lab by scientists, still the most beautiful freaking person I have seen in real life while managing to be generous, kind, and the life of the party all at once. I miss you and await the days to see you, your butt, and your Birkin raincoats. Happy happy birthday, @irinashayk!!
Ah, to be so clever. What a day it was when you realized that you could fit four photos of you looking great into a single frame so as to avoid looking narcissistic (see the selfie). Bonus points if you slotted a great pic of yourself into a collage under the guise of a friend’s birthday.
The Floor Shot
This stage marks quiet addiction. You had nothing to post but you got the itch — you needed to upload something. Then you realized: shoes are always a win. And juxtaposed against shoes, floors could become cool. In fact, the reverse worked: against cool floors, any footwear became fancy. You grew accustomed to the ease with which you could fill posting gaps. Then you saw someone who annoys you do it and you gave up the habit for good.
The Door Shot
The floor shot for days when you literally can’t even photograph your toe.
The Ironic Squat
Ah, to have a sense of humor, young knees and be with-it in terms of memes.
The Group Pic
The fine line between regression and breakthrough, here is where you found your niche — your reason for having an account. It chronicled your weekends and trips and outfits in a way that felt appropriately indulgent but also, selfless. Or at least selfie-less.
Narcissism. No mortal, regardless of age, is spared from its grasp. Even toddlers can’t help but flirt with a camera upon catching their reflections. You were younger during this time — emotionally if not technically — but it taught you a few things. Like that people notice when you erase your pores but because they do it too, won’t say anything.
Feature collage by Emily Zirimis.