November 23, 2015 - 8:00 AM
Twelve years ago, along with five other 16 year olds, I was granted detention for painting a provocative and non-age-appropriate team name onto the back of a tank top during lunch hour.
Not thinking about the slogan with any seriousness or ill intent, we high-fived like rebels on the run and hung the shirts to dry in the courtyard. As we sat like mean girls in the social studies classroom, counting down the seconds to 4 p.m., we planned the rest of our outfits more meticulously than we would later plan our university careers.
The year was 2004 and Facebook had only just begun its rise as the platform of the future. Social media itself was still relatively new, with dial-up internet only just having left most of our homes and platforms like MySpace, Hi5 and Nexopia holding their own, but not going worldwide.
Miles away from Harvard and the big dreams of Zuckerberg, our classmates were the only people we feared would ever find our online existence. The Internet was all still a mystery and our parents were still not interested. It was a safe and seemingly secure place for us to explore our personalities and problems in relative confidence.
I remember, vividly, the picture of the four of us lined up in our horrible shirts. My you-can’t-get-me attitude pierced through the pixels and made me — for a brief moment in time — badass.
That photo ran its natural course on the Internet. As we aged it was deleted out of our albums, out of our tagged photos and, for a while, out of our memories. We grew up. We made other mistakes and wore other bad outfits. It’s not a photo I would be proud to have surface today, but it was a lesson in maturation that I am happy to remember.
This past Saturday I found myself sitting in a circle of respected adults talking about what social media means to us as an intentional community. That is, how do we remain people of a strong moral compass while also being authentic on online social platforms, knowing no one is perfect?
The normal fear tactics were used: don’t put anything online that might offend people, don’t have any conversations online that could come back to haunt you, expect, at all moments, for your online pasts to come back and haunt you.
I sat there, thinking to myself: gosh, it must be nice to be new enough on social media to not have to live and learn.
It is wonderful that youth nowadays know the do’s and don’t. It’s easy for adults with only one year in their Facebook history to account for their actions and keep an honest and appropriate face at all times, but what about the entire generation of people who grew up in the dial-and-error era?
I’ll tell you what: there are a great majority of us who are royally screwed if we ever decide to go into politics.
I made the decision long ago to give myself the permission to be my true self and in order to do that, I had to share that authenticity with other people. I had to open myself up to vulnerability and accept that my story — however messy, pointless, or outrageous it is — is what makes me deserving of the life I have today.
As I sat in that circle, surrounded by people who were so fearful of their true selves becoming known, I felt sad.
There are many moments in my past — both recent and long ago — that I am not wishing to pop up on Throwback Thursday, but they aren’t steering my ship.
I will live the best I know how to live on my good days and my bad days and I will not apologize for things I have already been forgiven for.
Social media is a tool that above all else, allows us to connect, and the absolute best way we can do that is through remaining real, showing courage and taking ownership of the nature of human life — it is yucky, it is sometimes embarrassing, it is occasionally uncomfortable, it is ever changing and it is always worthy.
#TBT or not.
— Andria Parker is an Instagram-obsessed idealist with at least 600 words to share on every topic, ever.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015