Edit Desk: The social media generation

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Emily Segal

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard one of my friends say, “I think I was born in the wrong generation.”

Usually the phrase is accompanied by the click of a Polaroid camera, the spin of a newly bought record or the laugh track of a “Friends” episode.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people my age are nostalgic over a time we never had. We wear turtlenecks and flared jeans, listen to music from the 1980s and even go to drive-in theaters. Although we are surrounded by countless new and exciting technologies, we’re captivated by the vintage.

It’s a funny phenomenon, to miss a time that wasn’t yours, but I understand why. There’s a certain freedom I feel like I’ve missed by growing up in the 2000s.

We’re a generation defined by what we post.

What would a party be if the next morning there weren’t dozens of Snapchat stories to flip through, giving us 10 second highlights of the night? How would we know what joke our roommate told if it wasn’t uploaded in quotation, screenshot and then spread throughout the school?

The worst part is, we know that it’s a problem. Most of us at one time or another have acknowledged our addiction to our phones, our Instagram posts and our Snapchat “streaks.”

But we can’t help it. We are suffocated by the philosophy, “photos or it didn’t happen.”

I often wonder what college would be like without social media. Technology has changed the way we communicate, but I think social media has changed the way I think. I feel like I have a job. I am the reporter of my own life, and I am responsible for capturing every important moment.

Last weekend was my sorority’s winter formal. Once we were all dressed, we gathered in the common room of our house to take pictures. Many of my friends groaned.

“I hate this part,” one said. “How many do I have to get in?”

I shared their frustrations, but we all posed anyway. We smiled for photo after photo, waiting for the second we could break loose.

Why? No one forced us to stay there, no one told us to grin and bear it, but it’s our responsibility to take a picture. It’s our duty to add them to the virtual albums of our lives.

The next morning, we texted friends and asked for the photographs. We debated which ones were best and which weren’t worthy of a post.

This is our problem. We smile for the after, not for the moment. We grin for the camera so that later, we have something to share.

And in our generation, it is not enough to only post pictures of yourself. We snap most every moment in time — the autumn sky, an excited dog, the golden arches of our local McDonald’s — all for our friends to scroll through, to see what we saw. I wish I could say we post for the memories, but this not is not the Polaroid age, as much as I wish it could be.

This unbounded freedom, the ability to share anything and everything, has trapped us. To me, it’s not really a freedom at all.

I feel like we are addicted to knowing where everyone is and what everyone is doing at all times. Of course this is an exaggeration, but it’s certainly how it feels.

And this is why as we tap on our phone screens, we long for something else. We are hungry for the days when an outfit was just that, an outfit. Not a puzzle carefully pieced together for a post. We wish for a time when our phones wouldn’t “eat first,” and when that chocolate sundae was ours and ours alone.

We buy records and Kodak’s, so that for a minute, we can feel how we may have felt had we been born just 10 years earlier.

But even as the record spins, we can’t resist taking a quick video. We pull up to the drive-in theaters, whip out our phones, and aim.

“Smile!”

Emily Segal, ’21, is an assistant lifestyle editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]

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