I have been a fan of Kailyn Nickel's photography for a while now, and an even bigger fan of who she is as a person. I am thankful for the opportunity I had to sit down with her in a bustling local coffee shop to discuss how social media has affected her life. She is so kind and radiates love and warmth to everyone she comes into contact with. Thank you, my friend, for offering your thoughts and participating in this project!
How has social media benefitted you, and how has it negatively affected you?
“I’ve definitely seen social media positively impact my life, I know that a huge reason why I am even able to do what I do today is because of social media. I am thankful for it. I realize that it is a huge gift to have this kind of platform where I am able to connect with so many people without being with them in person. I’ve been able to meet such incredible people and have experiences and opportunities that I probably wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. A few months ago, I was able to join some friends in Canada for Thanksgiving which was this weird, out of body kind of experience, like ‘how am I even here right now, it doesn’t feel real,’…but it’s because I met this girl on this app and now we are real friends and I got to travel to the other side of the continent to visit her. In that way, social media has been beautiful. But at the same time, I do realize that it’s also negatively affected me; I find myself comparing myself to other people. I’ll see someone share about an opportunity or something that they are doing that is also a dream of mine, and it turns into this self-doubt of feeling like I won’t ever be at the same level as those other people who are accomplishing the same things I want to accomplish."
"I know everyone says that Instagram is just a highlight reel of someone’s life, which I think is true. I think it’s cool though that there has been a push towards more complete sharing of both sides of life, where people are sharing about the bad stuff too. In that we still need to be careful because no matter what we are never going to get a full picture of who someone is through the internet, especially when we are only putting out the things that we want people to know. But, I think it is powerful, and I feel encouraged when I read about things that aren’t so glamorous. There are two sides to every coin. Just because someone is out doing all of these incredible things doesn’t mean that they aren’t homesick. Life isn’t sunshine all the time. There is a good atmosphere in the social media world right now…millennials are demanding change and authenticity, but I think it’s something each person needs to be careful of and continue questioning motives about. We can easily find ourselves in an unhealthy mindset without realizing it.”
Studies have been released linking social media to depression and insecurity in teens…what is your perspective on why that might be the case?
“I think more than anything people want to connect to people, and to feel loved and accepted and seen. Social media plays on those desires that we all have, but doesn’t fulfill them in the same way that face to face relationships can. People are still left feeling wanting something and feeling lonely because social media only offers a taste of true connection. We are behind a screen seeing what all of our friends are doing and thinking, but sometimes you haven’t seen that friend in two months and they don’t know the hard stuff you’re currently going through…so it can be dangerous because social media gives us a false sense of connection without the true honesty and vulnerability it takes to truly connect with someone. It makes people feel more lonely without knowing it. Additionally, it can play on people’s insecurities and be the voice of self-doubt because you are comparing your life to someone else’s, or feel pressure to have cool things to post about so people affirm you, and are impressed by your life. I feel like its delicate. We need to be aware of ourselves and try to prevent becoming addicted to it. I think a sign of addiction to it is when we can’t take a break from it and let it go for a while. I think it’s important to take intentional time away every now and then, and then be more intentional with the people around you.”
How would life be different if social media didn’t exist? And how do you feel people would react if it ceased to exist/crashed today?
“If it never existed, I think the way we do things would be a lot different. It’s crazy how pervasive it is in our lives…people’s jobs would be different. Marketing would be more old fashioned. But I think we would take more intentional time to be with people because we would be able to quickly recognize when we haven’t seen or talked to someone in a while. Reading what friends are posting about gives us this idea that we are actually connecting with them even though we really aren’t. We would reach out more often because we wouldn’t have any other frame of reference to know what is going on in someone else’s life. However the positive parts of social media would be gone as well. We would miss out on the opportunities that come from social media and the relationships that can come from it. Just like everything else, there are pros and cons.”
“If everything just crashed right now, I think the world would freak out. People would be so angry. I think it would be an existentialist moment for a lot of people, people asking themselves ‘what is my life,’…it just brings this picture into my mind of a group of people sitting in a circle all looking down at their phones, and then everyone’s phone dies at the same time, and they all look up and realize that they are all there together. It would be interesting to see what would happen. I think it would bring a lot of perspective and help people realize that they don’t need it to survive.”
Have you experienced insecurity? If so, in what ways? And has social media enabled those insecurities or has it helped ease them?
“There is no one who hasn’t experienced insecurity. A big thing for me has been my age. I started my photography business when I was 16, and shot my first wedding when I was almost 18. I had confidence in knowing what I was doing, but I didn’t want people to perceive who I was by my age. I didn’t want to share my age on the internet or make it apparent, I didn’t want that to affect someone’s idea of my abilities. I want people to take me seriously. Over time that insecurity lessens, but I still feel that sometimes. It has been important for me to recognize those insecurities and not let them affect me too much. Comparison is a struggle for me. This career is based around social media and marketing myself, and trying to earn people’s trust to tell their story…I feel like sometimes I have to promote myself even though I’m feeling those insecurities. I have to put up this face of confidence even though I don’t always feel that. I fight that still. I feel jealous sometimes, which is a clear indicator of just how broken I am. I don’t want to let negative feelings get in the way of being happy about something good happening for someone else… that self-awareness is really important.”
“I’ve noticed that being open about my fears and weaknesses helps take power away from those insecurities. I shared about the struggle with my skin, and having bad skin for most of my life which has been a huge insecurity. But I just felt like I needed to share it. It’s not going to help anyone by keeping it inside, but instead speaking it out and wanting people to know that, if they struggle with the same thing, that we can get through it. The worst part about insecurity is feeling like we are alone in something and that people won’t understand. So it’s important to give words to those feelings because that is what causes fear to dissipate.”
Why do you think that people love social media so much?
“I know that there is a science behind it. Dopamine releases in our brains when we receive that affirmation from likes and follows. It’s natural to want people to like you, and to know that people appreciate what we are doing. We want to be loved. But that’s why it’s so easy to become dependent on social media. Myself for example, I am a people pleaser. I need people to like me, and if people don’t like me, or if I feel like someone doesn’t like me, it gets to me. I question all the things I might have done wrong, and I just want to make everyone happy and good. I’ve realized that about myself, that how people feel about me and how I can please people has way too much power over me. I have over-extended myself to make sure that others are happy, but in the long run it still doesn’t work because it is impossible to make everyone happy all the time. I’ve had to learn how to prioritize the people in my life that I have a responsibility to.”
“I am a type 2 on the Enneagram, which is called The Helper. I have learned a lot about the weaknesses I have over the past year, things I didn’t realize were there. I am changing the way I operate. I am aware that I want people to like me, and that influences how I share things. But I think it is important to be humbled, which might mean posting something that might be uncomfortable for me, or something that might cause someone to think of me differently. And not just posting it on social media, but being honest about those things in my face-to-face relationships as well. Being vulnerable fights addiction to social media because the bubble that social media is, is not reality. It’s not full reality. It’s important to be aware of how much social media engagement affects us. Too much of a good thing is bad. We need to take breaks as to not let certain things rule over us. Social media is a powerful tool, but it is just that…a tool. The end goal should not be social media itself, but the person on the other end. When you view it in that way it influences what we share. I want people to feel encouraged by what I share. Since sharing about my skin, I have gotten messages from people expressing that my post boosted their courage to be okay with who they are. That is where the beauty of social media comes out is in those conversations about brokenness. Nobody can relate to perfection.”