Paper cut-outs and Cardboard boxes

I took to social media when I was fourteen, truly fascinated not only by the way of life of movie stars, but also captivated by the lives of people who I knew.

Like many of you, I survived the lockdown over snippets of life that friends and strangers I knew publicised.

I am here to talk to you through text, of course, about the social construct of popularity and how it almost ruined me.

Pretty skies, sunshine smiles and calming background acoustics featured in reels, stories and posts. I realised that there was a pattern in which ‘popular’ people behaved, it was like an unspoken code- much like teenagers had built a society of their own. I would do whatever it took to fit in but I was quick to realise how unhappy and self-conscious it all made me. I was chasing an unseen dream-the illusion of social validation.

I told no one how sad it made me when people unfollowed me. I thought less of myself because I did not have that many friends, but that’s natural. We’ve all judged a person over their appearance or their Instagram Engagement and did the same when we were that person so we adapt. We tell the world a story of someone we’re not. A story that is captured in glorious golden hours and the Indie Vibes filter of Instagram in 16:9 frames. Personally, it took so much from me to grow out of the boxes I had placed myself in. I feel sorry for myself when I look back.

Actually, it’s human nature to place ourselves in tiny boxes and to cut ourselves out in shapes to match others’ expectations of who we should be. We often forget who we really are.

I read this somewhere and truly believe it- every man is a traveller trying to realise his destiny. The people he meets along the way are merely milestones and he must not change his path for them.

On social media everyone’s trying to create an idea of themselves, a mirage that is most likeable but like all illusions, that mental image people made of them will also fade.

As a community, I feel we’re afraid of being seen under a different light, we’re afraid of vulnerability but I believe there is immense strength in vulnerability and own all your imperfections with pride. Nonetheless, we’re part of a generation that doesn’t realise that there is light beyond the ‘golden hour’.

In all honesty, I would rather have people perceive me as I am than let them cheer me on for someone I’m not. I would rather live my life on my own terms than live it for others. That is why, I choose to be the most authentic version of myself at the cost of being not what people expect me to be at times, even when I have the liberty of being someone else.

Author: Vedant Vaswani

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