I met Marisa during the first wedding I was hired to photograph last year (she was in the wedding party). When I posted about needing more people to interview for this segment, she quickly responded and we were able to set up an interview pretty quick. This was our first time hanging out but it felt like I had known her for a long time. She is so sweet and I really admired her willingness to be vulnerable. Thank you, Marisa!
How long have you been using social media?
“I was never allowed to have a Myspace, but I was allowed to use Facebook my senior year. It was when it changed from just being for older/college kids that I started using it. I grew up pretty sheltered, and I think my parents were just worried about what a website like Facebook or Myspace could open me up to. I started using Facebook in 2009, and then I used Instagram probably a year later. It’s so weird to go back to my first posts and see what I was posting…several posts didn’t even have any ‘likes’ or comments on it because people weren’t using Instagram like we use it now. It was just a fun place to edit photos and post random stuff.”
How has social media benefitted you? How has it negatively affected you?
“As far as benefit goes, it has allowed me to connect with people. I moved away for school for a couple years, so since moving back it has helped me be able to keep in touch with the people I met there…I get to see a glimpse into how their lives are going if I am not able to have a lot of communication with them. That has definitely been beneficial.”
“I feel like there are way more negative things about it, if I’m being honest. For me it’s a constant battle of not posting a lot just because of what people will think, or maybe not posting enough. I remember I decided to fast from social media for six-weeks when I was going through a rough time…I knew that Instagram was a place I found comfort, so I decided to take some time off. I didn’t realize how addicted I was to it. When I got back on it, I realized how sad it was to want someone else’s life based on the little glimpses they are sharing. However, I have totally been that person too, that posts things that make it look like I am totally fine because I wanted people to think I had it all together. It’s an easy way to live surface level.”
“In ways it has benefitted…I am learning to be more transparent and to share about the harder things in my life. I think that can be really helpful because then other people might feel comfortable to share vulnerably as well. I feel like we need more authenticity, but a lot of people struggle with that. I can be open about my marriage, or about my struggles with self-image, and that could maybe help someone feel like they aren’t alone.”
Have you experienced insecurity in your life? If so, in what ways? And has social media helped heal those insecurities or has it enabled them?
“I think people would be lying if they said they’ve never dealt with insecurity. It’s been something I’ve always really struggled with. I was always bigger than the group of friends I grew up with. I always wondered why I couldn’t be thin like them. My sister is really small and petite, and I would have family members tell me that I was bigger than my sister. I don’t feel like it became really hard until high school. I would see someone who had the boyfriend, and a lot of friends, and always looked really good, and I came to the conclusion that I didn’t have those things because I was ugly. It’s crazy that I tend to be more insecure about the way my body looks than my personality…I’ve never been insecure about who I am as a person…it’s just the stuff on the outside I have been insecure about. When I moved away for school, I gained about 40-pounds. I didn’t think anything of it. I was so stressed and living in a new place, but people saw what they got and I loved that. There was no expectation or standard on me because these people didn’t know me before moving. I got to be whoever I wanted to be. But gaining weight was really hard.”
“I moved home after my first summer being away, and I could notice the difference in my body. I decided that if I was going to lose weight, I had to do it for myself and not what other people thought. It is still something I struggle with years later because I am constantly comparing. I was in a relationship before I met my husband…it was a really verbally and emotionally abusive relationship. I got told all the time that I couldn’t eat certain things because it would make me gain weight and that I had to work out to look a certain way. That’s when I started feeling like who I am at the core wasn’t good enough either because those qualities were being attacked. He would tell me that I am way too sensitive, pathetic, over-dramatic…that was 2-years of my life. I spent all my time with this person, constantly hearing those things about myself, so that became my perspective of myself. I never felt comfortable sharing that with people because I didn’t want people to think I was in a horrible relationship, which was when I started thinking, ‘maybe I am too emotional or too sensitive because I care so much about what people think.’"
"He broke up with me, which was really hard. But I was able to start questioning all of the things he told me I was for so long. It took me a long time to get over that, and to realize that I am not defined by what one person says about me. I feel like from then on, the insecurities weren’t really there…but I ended up finding them again once I was engaged because of the pressure of wanting to fit into a wedding dress and wanting to look a certain way. There is an expectation to be really skinny and tan when you’re engaged, and I am neither of those things. I had to realize that my husband has always loved me the way I am, and if I listen to the lies in my head that I am not good enough, it would destroy me.”
“As far as social media goes…I play the comparison game all the time. What people see on social media is such a small glimpse at one second of a person’s life. Maybe people are unhappy so they are looking for glorification through social media. They could look really great but be a really sour person, so I don’t want to compare myself to people, especially people that I don’t know because I never know the whole story of who that person is. I don’t want to keep comparing and wondering why my life doesn’t look like that of someone else’s because I would be comparing to something that isn’t a complete reality.”
Some studies have been released linking social media to depression and anxiety in teens. What is your perspective on why that might be the case?
“I think it’s an easy place to just get lost in. You can look at a lot of things on social media and just feel sad about your own life. They might feel like it is an outlet for them to deal with their anxiety and depression, but I think it just makes it worse. A lot of that can trigger those things. Teenagers are always wanting something else…especially if they are wanting to feel that gratification that sometimes comes from social media, if they put themselves out there and they don’t receive the kind of gratification they were hoping for, that could be a huge let down. That could cause someone to spiral and constantly feel like they aren’t as good as what they are seeing someone else post about. Nothing good comes from comparison. I could not imagine growing up with social media as a jr. high/high school student. Maybe that’s why my parents prevented me from having it, because I think there was that concern that I would use it as an outlet. Jr. High and high school are already hard enough. Being a teenager is already difficult because that is when we are trying to figure out who we are. But then add social media in the mix, and they are looking to that to help them feel good about themselves…but I think it just makes it worse.”
What would life look like if social media didn’t exist? And what how do you think people would react if social media crashed and ceased to exist today?
“Honestly I think life would be better because it would force people to be intentional. At some point it wouldn’t be ‘forcing’, it would just be everyone’s habit. People wouldn’t feel like they need to earn gratification through something shallow, but instead they would be more intentional in their relationships and tapping into themselves to figure out who they are. I feel like things would just be better. Relationships would be real relationships…there wouldn’t be as much room to ‘check out’ by pulling out a phone and distracting from the harder things about maintaining friendships.”
“If it crashed, I think people would have way more time. When I fasted for 6-weeks from it, I found myself reading more. I didn’t have Instagram to look at to fill time. The first thing I would do in the morning after waking up was check Instagram…it was so mindless. It’s hard to think of a world without social media, but I went without it in high school, and I even though it would be hard at first, I feel like people would adjust.”