Girl Online: How perceptions impact our relationships

Of all the things I value highly, my relationships with other people sit at the top of that list. I can say with confidence that my most treasured memories at Tufts take the form of discussions that I’ve had with my friends about many things in life. By nature, I’m more inclined to spend time with people in that setting because I am able to reach a deeper place and see them and their lives for what they truly are. 

Today, making judgements about people before we get to know them based on what we see on their profiles isn’t just commonplace, it’s routine. If we’re going on a date, we look to see if they sport any red flags online. If we want to hire someone, we consult LinkedIn to see their experience, and Facebook to look for posts indicating any questionable activity. A friend once told me verbatim: “If you delete your Instagram, how are you going to know if people are cool or not in college?” There are always going to be conclusions that you can make about a person — that they like baseball or that they’re politically active. However, what people tell us and what they show the rest of the world is constantly in conflict. Because of the incessant pressure to be happy in our society, it’s rare that a person’s true story ever gets told in full. Though as a generation we are more comfortable with discomfort as a concept, in our personal lives we’re often too afraid to tell the people we spend our days with how we really feel, because it will conflict with their preconceived perceptions of our lives. There’s always the assumption that everyone has better relationships with other people than they do with us, and that they have more interesting things to do than to listen to stories about our lives. It’s far from the truth. 

In middle and high school, I was under the impression that everyone’s lives were as effortless as they looked online. This was in the earlier stages of social media, before people were more forthcoming on a public level about their struggles. Now, I know that other people shared my experiences, but at the time I felt completely alone in my insecurities, and it affected the way I interacted with people. I felt like nobody really knew me. 

Since I deleted Instagram, my relationships with other people have become deeper and more genuine. I’m more matter-of-fact in the way I talk about my life, rather than sugar-coating it to match the version of myself that I show the world. This summer, a new friend told me that she felt as though she had actually gotten to know me better because she was not getting two versions of my life, but rather the nitty-gritty of it all. We talk about everything that happens, not just the event where said photo on Instagram was taken. It’s a sweet feeling. It feels like how it’s supposed to be.


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