BeReal Is The Newest Social Media App To Promise Authenticity. But Does It Deliver?

I was sitting at my college town’s Italian restaurant with some friends when a notification popped up on all of their phones. “Time to BeReal,” it said, as it prompted them to take a photo of their present state to post on the app. At first, I was confused. Why are they obeying some app when it asks them to abandon their good bite of chicken parmesan to photograph their lives within the next two minutes? Then, my friends broke it down for me: “BeReal is the new, trending social media app. People post their honest selves, and it’s so authentic!” A social media app? Authentic? You’ve got to be kidding me. 

The app — founded in 2020 by Alexis Barreyat, a French entrepreneur— promises to show “your friends for real”. After sending users a notification to capture a photo within two minutes, it uses a special camera feature to take frontal and selfie photos at the same time. Once the photo posts, app users or chosen friends can comment, chat, and react with a RealMoji. After those two minutes, the users move on with their lives until a random time the next day when the notification appears again.

Through its promise of being the “simplest photo-sharing app” and showing “life without filters”, BeReal has risen to 10th on the charts for social networking apps and has a 4.9 rating. App Store reviewers are raving about it, with one noting that “THIS APP BREAKS BARRIERS!”  It’s clearly doing something right. 

There’s a catch, though. BeReal claims to be “not another social network”. But it really is just another social network. BeReal might not have filters or FaceTune, but it’s still phony.  Users can retake their BeReal post as many times within the two minutes, allowing them to pose or fix up their appearance. I’ve often heard my friends say “Get in my BeReal photo! I want to look like I’m doing something interesting.” It doesn’t brand it on the surface, but the app also lets its users choose anytime during the day to start their two minutes. Are users really being real if they can wait until the most photogenic, appealing part of their day to take a photo? Letting users choose the time they want to take the photo is nothing but fake. 

As a society, we’re so far deep down the toxic rabbit hole of social media that we don’t know how to be real. For so many people, especially young girls, we are wired to curate our images on social media. We are so used to editing and exaggerating to promote the best version of our lives on Instagram, Snapchat, and every other platform. One social media app isn’t going to change that.

 If we are trying to be real, then why even turn to a social media app? Why not focus on real relationships instead of those on your phone? If you are truly living in the moment and being authentic, then there is no need to prove it to others. Social media is not, and will never be, the space for realness. Put your effort into real life, not something trying to emulate it.

The Toxic Side Of The ‘That Girl’ Aesthetic Taking Over TikTok

“That Girl”: she’s the 6am-waking, 10,000-step-walking, green-juice-drinking embodiment of wellness taking over TikTok. If you haven’t met her on your For You Page yet, you likely soon will. Despite many people’s efforts to be her, no one specific person is “That Girl”. Rather, she is an aesthetic composed of face masks, lemon water, journaling, Olaplex, and Aritzia. Once you remove the mask of “That Girl’s” perfect minimalistic and clean lifestyle, though, you can see her toxic positivity and homogenous view of wellness.

Starting last summer, “That Girl” made its way to TikTok feeds in small numbers. It took off as a trend last fall and had a sharp rise in popularity in late December as people were setting their New Year’s goals and resolutions. The TikTok hashtag #ThatGirl currently has over 2 billion views. Most of the trending videos are along the lines of “my morning routine as ‘That Girl’”, or “this is your sign to become ‘That Girl’”. Plenty of influencers are also posting shopping round-ups about what to buy to achieve this lifestyle including self-help books, yoga mats, or monochromatic workout sets. After diving down the trend’s hashtag, I noticed that one thing almost always present with “That Girl” content is some type of promise to “be the best version of yourself” if you adopt this lifestyle. 

If you are anything like me, learning about this trend—specifically, its “live your best life” messaging—set off blaring alarms in your brain. It’s reminiscent of the themes from dietitians and fitness influencers promising fulfilled potential if you adopt certain habits. The only difference is now this toxicity has just been repackaged as not just a diet, but a full lifestyle. Seriously? Are we really going to believe that someone on TikTok knows what’s going to changes our lives? I thought we moved past this. 

I’ll admit, some of the ideas are there. Don’t you think I want to drink more water, eat more vegetables, and get more than 5 hours of sleep every night? Don’t you think I want to put myself first and be more mindful? I sure do. But by wrapping these messages in the unrealistic, uniform, expensive, aesthetic bow that is “That Girl”, they appear out of reach and their significance is lost. 

There is one common denominator with “That Girl”: she is almost always skinny, she is almost always wealthy, and she is almost always white. She has more time and resources than the average person, giving her the ability to live this idealized lifestyle and make it look so easy. 

Even though being “That Girl” is inaccessible for most, it’s an attractive lifestyle. Sure, I would love to know what my life would be like if I spent every hour of my day working out, reading self-help books, and making intricate smoothie bowls, but for myself and most others, that’s not realistic. This trend is so idealized, though, that there is a sense of shame or disappointment in every normal person that can’t live “That Girl’s” perfect life. I almost feel like she’s staring through the screen as I scroll TikTok in bed at 1am and screaming “Oh, you can’t be me? Well, then you’re not the best version of yourself.”

It might seem like “That Girl” has it all: she has a fridge full of colorful foods, a clean room, clear skin, a wardrobe on-trend, and a healthy, relaxed mind. But she’s missing something. She’s missing balance. Does “That Girl” eat four slices of pizza with her friends after a night out? Does “That Girl” body a Chipotle bowl while lying on the couch in sweats watching Sex and the City? Does “That Girl” even cry? Judging from her constantly smiling videos, no she does not, and boy is she missing out.

So just remember that even though “That Girl” might wake up at 7am, don’t be afraid to sleep until noon. Even though “That Girl” works out daily, take a rest day. Even though “That Girl” wears minimalistic color-coordinated sets, wear your old high school sweatshirt and the same pair of sweatpants you wore two days ago. 

If you have become “That Girl” then… congrats I guess? But for every other normal person on the planet, just remember that being productive and being your best self looks different for everyone. As aesthetically tempting as it may be, stop focusing on skinny, wealthy, white women’s highlight reels, and start living the life that works for you. 

Image: Julia Volk /Stocksy.com

WTF Is A No-Bones Day, And Why Is Everyone Talking About It?

Well, internet. Congratulations. You’ve done it again. You’ve taken something that we all loved and you’ve crushed it in your cold, clammy hands. No, I’m not referring to Y2k fashion or even just like, the general concept of privacy: I am talking about “no-bones day.” 

For those of you who may be living under a rock (or at the very least have a TikTok algorithm niche enough to shelter you from the zeitgeist), a “no-bones” day is when a 13-year-old pug named Noodle is awoken by his owner, Jonathan Graziano, and shows no signs of having a single bone in his body. Graziano picks Noodle up and sees if he can stand on his own—if he can’t, it’s a “no-bones” day; if he stands, it’s a bones day. Noodle’s loyal followers have started looking to the state of the pug’s bones as a report for how their day will go, and obviously, a bones day is the ideal outcome. A no-bones day, however, is rough news. In an interview with The Washington Post, Graziano explained, “A no-bones day is not a bad day. It’s not that you can’t accomplish things, but you need to make sure to take care of yourself. That’s what Noodle does.” 

Now, before you come for me (I’m assuming Noodle stans are as deservedly as ferocious as even Swifties or Directioners), I would just like to note that I’m not here to bash Noodle. I’m simply pointing out that our collective reaction to the concept of no-bones day is exactly why we can’t have nice things. I’ve already heard “must be a no-bones day” mustered up as an excuse for technical difficulty on a Zoom call, and though I welcome any break from “Is Mercury in retrograde or something?” comments, I do worry for Noodle. I don’t want us to get sick of him, and he’s already flying dangerously close to the sun. Just a few days ago, John Bel Edwards, the Governor of Louisiana, co-opted “bones day” in an attempt to inspire residents to get vaccinated. Do you know what comes after that? If your answer was Fashion Nova referencing Noodle the pug in a promotional email subject line, you were correct. 

A message for Louisiana on a Bones Day 🦴 #lagovhttps://t.co/1J0Bld7oJm pic.twitter.com/omDkjUODd3

— John Bel Edwards (@LouisianaGov) October 20, 2021

Unfortunately, the internet is full of people who spend most of their time working insufferable jobs, and love nothing more than a silly, snappy little quote to sum up how miserable they feel throughout the work week. Once they get their hands on a new one to throw around, it’s game over. It will be part of the vernacular until the day robots take over, rendering a human workforce obsolete. And it’s not just that people will be saying “sorry, I can’t, it’s a no-bones day!” until the end of time, it’s that we’re about to have people try to sell us all things that rip the concept off in any way imaginable. I’m sure as you’re reading this, some Etsy shop owner is already breaking their back trying to hand letter mugs with the phrase “It’s a no-bones day. I need coffee.” Femfetti already has a crew neck. Eventually, Rae Dunn will catch wind of it, and the shelves of every HomeGoods across the nation will be full of little desktop signs that allow you to indicate if it’s a bones day or not. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Noodle the pug graces our screens in at least one TV advertisement come Super Bowl Sunday. He just has that relatable, commercial quality that makes ad executives go absolutely nuts, like Mindy Kaling, Ryan Reynolds, and the guys from Queer Eye

If you think I’m being dramatic, just think about how you felt the first time you saw a tweet noting that “the first five days after the weekend are always the hardest.” It was pretty funny, right? And now, it’s just an eyeroll-inducing phrase that’s plastered all over candles, notebooks, and T-shirts. The human brain is clearly incapable of seeing something humorous, thinking “haha, nice,” and moving on. 

In the spirit of saving the sanctity of Noodle, I vote we follow Twitter legend Dionne Warwick’s lead and “let the dog rest,” as she requested in an October 20 tweet. He deserves better than the overworked “HUMP DAYYY” Geico commercials treatment. Please, continue to excitedly search for Noodle’s bones report each morning, if it truly brings you joy. But please stop dragging this elderly dog into your attempt to be quirky while joking about your own unproductivity! Here are a few phrases that have already been beaten to death that you can use whenever you’d like.  

Images: @jongraz / TikTok; LouisianaGov / Twitter

If Gen Z Is The ‘Most Diverse Generation Ever’, Why Are We Still Idolizing Skinny, Rich, White Women?

As demonstrated by the most recent skinny jeans and side parts scandal that rocked millennials everywhere, tying ourselves to shared generational labels is a pillar of meme culture — or broadly, today’s culture. Generational stereotypes have fueled the formation of countless online communities, but they’ve also caused hot-blooded arguments across age lines. After Baby Boomers criticized Millennials for not buying houses, it sparked economic discourse around responsibility and capitalism, and the “OK Boomer” meme popularized during the 2020 election signified Gen Z refusing to feign respect for racist and misogynistic elders. To say the least, there is weight and substance behind these memed stereotypes.

As digital natives in a digital world, Gen Z’s cultural influence is undeniable, but the one stereotype that overpowers the rest is that we are “diverse.” A quick Google search will show you that Gen Z is labeled as the “most diverse generation in history” and that we “demand diversity in the workplace.” However, of the top 100 creators on the social media platform most commonly associated with Gen Z, TikTok, the vast majority are white or white-passing. Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae, the golden girls of Gen Z, are thin, upper-middle-class white women. Simply put, it ain’t adding up: if we’re so diverse, why aren’t the people we idolize?

When Addison Rae appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in March to perform multiple dances originally created by Black TikTokers, it sparked a conversation about white mediocrity. D’Amelio and Rae are certainly not as talented as Keara Wilson, who created the “Savage” dance that propelled Addison Rae to superstardom, or Jalaiah Harmon, the originator of the “Renegade” dance that did the same for Charli. But comparing talent isn’t the problem: these women took Black choreography and used it for their own benefit, and were rewarded. Whether it’s subconscious or not, the fame that we’ve given them is because they fit the mold of who women are supposed to want to be.

In the same way that millennials adore celebrities like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, the supposedly diverse and inclusive Gen Z continues the cycle of rewarding attractive, rich, white women for existing. While society’s cultural icons have evolved from supermodels (1990s) to celebrities (2000s) to reality stars (2010s), the skin color and proximity to wealth of our superstars has remained consistent. Despite their wealthy, white California childhood, the Kardashians adopted Black culture to differentiate themselves from the thin blonde stars popular in the 2000s. They injected their butts and lips to recreate features found naturally on Black women, appropriated Black hairstyles, almost exclusively dated Black men, and recreated age-old Black and Latina fashion trends

This look was, yes, a departure from parallel generational icons Paris Hilton and the Olsen Twins, but it wasn’t new. Black women, who grew up wearing wigs and had naturally big lips, certainly aren’t growing multimillion-follower fan bases or offered the cover of Vogue, but rather are discriminated against for living out their own culture while white women run through their trends faster than Fashion Nova can produce a rip-off. 

The Kardashians shared everything from their petty fights to brutal divorces, parental blowups, and personal anxieties on national television. But the “relatability” or “reality” they may have shown on TV does not a billion-dollar empire make: they wouldn’t have had the lip kits, curvy shapewear, or half as much media coverage without appropriation.

TikTok was supposed to democratize the social media industry with an algorithm that let anyone get famous — or at least “TikTok famous.” Instead, we’ve repeated the same process of propping up white women who manipulate Black culture to appeal to the masses, yet remain safe from systemic racism in their peach skin. As the biggest Gen Z idols in the world, Addison Rae and Charli D’Amelio pocket millions while the Black girls who created the dances, and the music they dance to, remain nameless or endure hate at an alarmingly higher rate. Black creators’ followings remain significantly lower, and their sponsorship deals even sparser. Meanwhile, these white TikTok stars are hanging out with the Kardashians, with nary a Black woman in sight.

Would we still be idolizing these people, however, if corporations like NBC (the network that airs Jimmy Fallon’s show) and TikTok itself weren’t inching us in that direction? In March 2020, an internal memo was leaked revealing that TikTok’s algorithm doesn’t push darker, disabled, or “ugly” videos, making it significantly harder to “blow up” as a Black creator even if you have better content. Most of the companies giving out these sponsorship deals are run by majority-white Millennials or Baby Boomers who are inclined to stick with the already-advantaged white women that look like them or their children. 

We won’t reach equality for these influencers until the most prominent corporations and influencers make a conscious effort to give Black creators the exposure their white counterparts get. Companies must do this through providing equally lucrative sponsorship opportunities, and the biggest celebrities must take responsibility for benefitting from the systems that allowed them to grow by offering slices of their fame to prop the culture originators up. 

Gen Z definitely cares about diversity, but the systems in place created by previous generations don’t allow that to be reflected in our culture idols. If algorithms don’t allow Black creators to make it on their own, it’s up to influencers and social media users to make conscious choices to highlight and reward that talent, or we’ll be watching history repeat itself for the next generation, too.

Image: Todd Williamson / E! Entertainment

Is Clubhouse Just Exposure Therapy For People Who Hate Phone Calls?

If you spend a lot of time on social media, you’ve probably noticed that in the last month, everyone has become obsessed with Clubhouse. Well, maybe not everyone, but you probably follow at least a few people who won’t shut up about the wonders of this incredible new app. It’s invite-only, audio-only, and for now, iPhone-only—and obviously, exclusivity automatically makes anything better. But what’s the deal with Clubhouse, really, and is it actually worth your attention? 

I first heard about Clubhouse back in September of 2020, but not because anyone I knew was actually using the platform. Instead, I learned of the fledgling app because of controversy surrounding a “room” where users were reportedly being freely anti-Semitic. Writing about the event, The Verge noted that the app offered the ability to report users for harassment, but lacked a robust moderation system required of a social network where people feel empowered to share harmful opinions.

Given that this was my first introduction to Clubhouse, I wasn’t terribly eager to secure myself an invite. I’m proud to have largely rooted out Trump supporters and conspiracy theorists from my social media feeds, and the last thing I need is to waste my time listening to internet randos having conversations that belong on Parler.

But fast-forward a few months to the beginning of 2021, and the conversation around Clubhouse had changed, at least from my vantage point. Suddenly, the up-and-coming app was a networking hotspot—the place to be for anyone who wanted to make connections and get ahead. Personally, I’ve always hated the idea of ~networking~, but I also hate being behind on social media trends, so when my coworker offered me an invite in late January, I accepted, and dipped my toes into the world of Clubhouse for the first time.

If you haven’t been properly briefed on how Clubhouse works, it’s sort of terrifying at first. The whole app is audio-based, and there’s nothing quite as unsettling as not being 100% sure that you’re on mute. When you first join, the app pings your contacts to join a designated welcoming room, and before I knew it, I was in a room with two of my colleagues, which I quickly exited because it stressed me out too much (it was 8am, and no one needs to hear my voice that early).

After the initial jitters wore off, I got the hang of it, and the app is pretty simple, really. You quickly learn that no one can hear you unless you ask to speak in a room. You follow your friends and people you find interesting, and rooms they join appear on your homescreen (cleverly called “the hallway”). You can dip in and out of rooms whenever you want, and even listen in the background as you do other things on your phone. In the few weeks since I really started using Clubhouse, I’ve even moderated in a few rooms, speaking about Bravo and pop culture, naturally. Overall, I feel like I’ve immersed myself in the Clubhouse experience, and I have some thoughts.

When Clubhouse is good, it can be really great. You never know who will pop up—from reality stars to A-list celebrities like Tiffany Haddish—and because the platform is so new, it lacks the PR-approved veneer that comes with more traditional interviews and appearances. There’s a tremendous range of content across rooms, from doctors talking about how vaccines work, to TV producers talking about how your favorite shows are made. You have to be in the right place at the right time, but if you get lucky, you might make a useful connection, or hear some tea on a new Bravo show, or get business advice that really helps you out.

But while I’ve enjoyed many different rooms on Clubhouse, and even met a few cool people (and by “met,” I mean we followed each other on Instagram), it’s really not as life-changing as the true devotees want you to believe. There’s no denying that some influential people are on Clubhouse, and the in-the-moment nature of the app can lead to some exciting conversations that you might not get elsewhere, but you have to sift through a lot of noise—literally—to find them. Clubhouse is fertile ground for social climbers and wannabe moguls, and for many of these people, you can hear the thirst through the phone when they’re brought on to speak. Pretty quickly, I’ve figured out whose rooms are worth joining, and I find myself ignoring 75% of the notifications I get from the app. Now that I think about it, I’m sure there’s a way to turn these notifications off, but god forbid I miss Jill Zarin spilling some dirt about something that happened behind the scenes on RHONY 10 years ago.

In my opinion, one of Clubhouse’s biggest pitfalls is its dedication to the audio-only concept. Rooms don’t have any kind of chat feature, which can make being an audience member kind of a boring experience, and from a moderating perspective, you get zero audience feedback. More importantly, it renders the app almost totally inaccessible to those who are deaf or hearing impaired. As closed captioning and other accessibility features have become more common across apps like Instagram and TikTok, Clubhouse feels like a step back in this department.

And a further complaint about the audio-only platform, which I’ve heard echoed in many conversations, is that Clubhouse has no direct message feature. In every other social media app, DMs are a key part of the user experience, but Clubhouse’s only comparable feature is private rooms. Still, I’m hard-pressed to think of a situation where I’d prefer talking to someone I just met rather than sending them a quick DM on Instagram. As a millennial who is pretty averse to phone calls, I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. 

In one room I entered, I heard a discussion about a phenomenon called the “Clubhouse high”—when users of the app become addicted to it, spending hours hopping between rooms, thrilled with the possibility of what they could learn from the next one they stumble upon. For me, this phase lasted approximately two days, before I realized that listening to people recite their career accomplishments before attempting to say something profound about building a brand wasn’t actually that interesting. These days, I’m content as a casual user of Clubhouse, and I don’t see myself getting addicted any time soon.

Images: rafapress / Shutterstock.com

The Cringiest Celebrity TikToks Of February 2021

Does anyone else feel like the last few weeks have been some of the bleakest so far? Nearly a year into the pandemic, the combination of terrible winter weather, vaccine frustration, and just general life stuff have created a perfect storm of bad vibes, and it seems like a lot of us have been feeling it. But you know who hasn’t let the less-than-ideal mood get in their way? The celebrities on TikTok. To them, February 2021 seems like any other month, and that means they’re still cranking out the content that just makes you go “…why?” From Gen-Z to Boomers, some of our favorite famous TikTokers have been doing their worst lately, and here’s your latest batch of cringe.

Heidi Montag

@heidimontagCan you pull down your mask if you see papperazzi? ##fyp ##foryoupage ##beverlyhills♬ original sound – heidimontag

Heidi, Heidi, Heidi… I’ve grown accustomed to Heidi’s weird TikToks around the house—the terrible lip-syncing and random product placement of Spencer’s crystals throughout the videos, but this is a new level of cringe for her. She and Spencer are walking down the street, and she asks if she can take her masks off for the paparazzi. Obviously, the answer is no, but seeing her get so excited to have her picture taken just makes me kind of sad. Idk, maybe I’m still in my feels about Framing Britney Spearsbut I have a hard time not getting angry at the thought of invasive celeb photographers. Heidi’s also been ramping up her content about #filming, so it seems like the new season of The Hills should be coming soon.

Bryce Hall

@brycehallroots @joshrichards @imgriffinjohnson♬ original sound – Bryce Hall

If you’ve read my articles in the past, you’ll know that Bryce Hall is my least favorite of the Gen-Z hot guy cohort on TikTok. Aside from practicing terrible COVID behavior, he also just seems like a f*ckboy, and this video of him and two of his Sway House buddies shotgunning energy drinks isn’t doing anything to dispel that notion. At least they’re wearing shirts in this video, because I was actually starting to wonder if they owned any clothes other than t0o-tight sweatpants.

Dr. Phil

@drphilThis new grand baby better hurry up!

♬ Rugrats Theme (From “Rugrats”) – Just Kids

Dr. Phil has always been one of my least favorite people on TikTok, and this video of him looking longingly out the window as he waits for his grandchild to arrive is so staged it hurts. Why does this old man have a BIB on his shirt? And how much did he have to force his wife to play along for the video? Also, he clearly hasn’t been able to get his botox during the pandemic, because homeboy is looking way older than I remember. Anyway, his son Jordan McGraw had his baby with Morgan Stewart, a girl named Row Renggli, so hopefully his weird videos will be replaced with cute baby content soon.

James Charles

@jamescharlessurprise… 🤰🏻💕 what should I name her♬ Still Into You by Paramore – Ariam

Last week, James Charles pulled two different social media stunts in the time it takes me to get out of bed n the morning. On the same day he tried to trick us into thinking he was bald, he also posted… a fake pregnancy announcement? We all say that bizarre recreation of Beyoncé’s nude pregnancy photos on Instagram, but you may have missed this TikTok where he shows off his “transformation.” I still don’t understand why this was ever a thing, but I hope James got the attention he was craving.

Charli D’Amelio

@charlidameliolink to sign up for @step in my bio💗 ##steppartner♬ original sound – charli d’amelio

I’m all for TikTok creators like Charli hustling and making money from their platforms, but taking financial advice from someone who was born in 2004 just doesn’t sit right with me. She’s advertising for Step, a banking and debit card service aimed at teens, which is supposed to help them build credit and learn about money management. Sounds like a smart idea, but I feel like they should be aiming their marketing at parents of teens, not kids who are scrolling on TikTok. We’ve seen people like Billy McFarland and the Kardashians market some questionable cards before, so I’m not trusting any famous person when it comes to financial advice.

Images: Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com; TikTok

Muting People Saved My Mental Health

For me, it all started with Myspace’s Top 8. In case you’re not in your mid to late twenties (b*tch), this was something we cave people were subjected to back in the early 2000s. On your Myspace page where you posted songs by the Black Eyed Peas and wrote your boyfriend’s name with a whole bunch of “<333333″s, you also ranked your favorite people on the platform. In order. For everyone else to see.

Now, your Top 8 wasn’t to be taken lightly. It was the space reserved for your BFF, your S.O., the popular girl you were trying to befriend, and your sibling who bullied you into putting them as number four. Got in a fight? Your frenemy got demoted or removed from the coveted section. Holding hands with someone new? They quickly got a spot on the leaderboard. It was the first big way to say “here’s who I like, here’s how popular I am, here’s how I’m judging others”, and we lapped that sh*t up.

When the Top 8 first started, it didn’t make me feel bad, exactly — it was more like a game. Find ways to level up, get on other peoples’ boards, gain virtual popularity. It wasn’t until my first serious boyfriend moved “Anna” (a random girl from one of his classes) in front of me that social media made me feel like a failure for the first (and definitely not the last) time in my life.

Myspace’s Top 8 was how I found out Tyler (name hasn’t been changed — hi, Tyler) was cheating on me (again, for the first, but not the last time). It led me on my first ever stalking spree, where I stared at photos of Anna, comments from Anna, likes by Anna all night, trying to figure out what she had that I didn’t (besides boobs). Trying to figure out why he wanted her when I was already in love with him. That night led me on a decade-plus long cycle of “feel inadequate, stalk, feel more inadequate, stalk.” It’s some sick, masochistic sh*t, and while I’d love to say that’s all changed in the 10 (okay, 12) years since I sat on my twin bed, crying to P!nk… uh, no such luck.

Social media has absolutely obliterated my self-confidence, my happiness, and my mental health. And it’s probably done some serious damage to yours as well.

Now, it’s pretty much common knowledge that social media is basically the devil. It’s addictive. It’s dividing. It leads to depression, anxiety, and unrealistic perceptions of beauty. It gives you sh*tty posture. But, in case you didn’t watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix like everyone else (which was probably suggested to you by a friend on, yup, social media), here’s the deal. From the National Center for Health Research:

“25% of 18-25-year-olds report having some form of mental illness. Depression is particularly increasing among girls. Some researchers have suggested that this increase in mental illness is, at least in part, connected to the rise of social media use among adolescents and young adults.”

Wait, there’s more. From Child Mind Institute:

“Teenage and young adult users who spend the most time on Instagram, Facebook, and other platforms were shown to have a substantially (from 13 to 66%) higher rate of reported depression than those who spent the least time … A 2017 study of over half a million eighth through 12th graders found that the suicide rate for girls increased by 65%.”

Last one for good measure, from McLean Hospital (affiliated with Harvard Medical School):

“In recent years, plastic surgeons have seen an uptick in requests from patients who want to look like their filtered Snapchat and Instagram photos.”

So yeah, social media is super bad, which is something you — just like I — probably already knew. But, much like tequila or texting exes, that hasn’t stopped any of us from continuing to pose, post, and peruse. And while once upon a time we had to log onto a computer and search for people to investigate, algorithms are now so smart, they decide who we stalk, when we scroll, and how long to keep us engaged.

It wasn’t until my wedding in 2018 that I actually realized how bad Instagram made me feel. After waltzing down the aisle, I quickly found myself jealous of engaged friends — total hater sh*t, I know. But after spending so long planning my own event, the post-wedding blues hit hard, and I hated seeing other people post their ring selfies and bachelorette photos. I was sad, I was uninspired, and I was jealous. So on a whim, I muted every single one of my engaged friends. Every. Single. One of them.

I didn’t want to unfollow or block them, because frankly, that felt too b*tchy, and besides, it’s not like I didn’t like them anymore. I just didn’t like seeing them so blissfully happy. I felt empty after spending months DIYing and pinning and being the center of attention. It wasn’t exactly rational, but their posts made me feel bad and instead of just continuing to feel bad, I decided to stop seeing their posts altogether. And just like that, my love of muting became a way of life.

After the engaged people came the girl in my friend group everyone else loved but I couldn’t stand. Then competitors in my field who always seem to be outpacing me. Then the really hot people. Then some of my best friends whose posts just kinda… annoyed me. I used to think muting someone was the ultimate “f*ck you,” but now I look at it as a means of self-preservation. I’m literally under no obligation to look at someone’s over-filtered picture. And just because I muted someone, it doesn’t mean I hate them IRL (unless, of course, I do). It just means their posts — at least at the moment — make me feel bad. So why not just stop looking at the thing that makes you feel like trash?

Nowadays I mute freely and without thought. Sometimes it’ll be just for a brief period of time and then eventually I’ll go back and unmute, and other times friends are muted for the long haul. It doesn’t really matter, because the worst case is I forget and I never unmute someone. And like, not to quote Kourtney or anything but, “there’s people that are dying” — not liking someone’s weight loss picture isn’t the end of the world. Ultimately, social media made me feel fat and lazy and untalented and jealous. Now, I’ve whittled down my timeline so it makes me feel, well, not good, but at least a little less horrible.

While it’s not a cure-all — muting is an avoidance tactic, and you need to do internal work to figure out why what you’re seeing makes you feel inadequate — it’s definitely a way to not only make social media more enjoyable, but take back a little control over what you view. It’s not a great idea to just stopping looking at things that make you feel uncomfortable altogether. It’s important to see differing political views and perspectives to form rounded opinions. But social media doesn’t have to be a way of life and if looking at your sorority sister’s abs a month after giving birth makes you feel sad, then bon f*cking voyage. Mute away.

Granted, deleting your social media accounts would probably make you feel the best and free you from the toxic cycle, buuuuuut if completely nixing your handles feels off-brand, editing your timeline is the next best thing. The next time you look at someone’s post and feel that pang of inadequacy, instead of spiraling down into a vat of self-pity, just mute them! Before long you’ll probably find that your self-confidence has risen and your screen time report is slightly less embarrassing. Win-win.

Images: Kate Torline/Unsplash; Giphy (3)

Why Is Gen-Z Trying To Cancel The Crying Laughing Emoji?

Making fun of the generation above you is part of the natural order of aging. We make fun of our parents for not knowing how to reboot the WiFi router, our parents probably made fun of their parents for being afraid of rock ’n roll, such is the circle of life (minus Gen X, which appears to get away relatively unscathed due to an intense dose of middle child syndrome). This is all to say that I’m not surprised that Gen-Z are clowning the generations above them, but I am a little surprised that they’re coming for millennials and not their own parents who, I just learned today and am now spiraling because of the revelation, are largely Gen X. What did we ever do to you? *Thinks back to all the times we called Gen-Z children, dismissed them as being 12 years old, etc.* It’s a mystery.

The thing is, there are many things that would make millennials an easy target for a good roasting — from the low-hanging fruit of mashing avocado and putting it on toast and treating it like culinary innovation for years to the obsession with a particular pastel shade of pink (what even was that, anyway?) to the fact that we made fun of our parents for wearing oversized round glasses only to, decades later, sport the same oversized John Lennon-inspired rims. I’ve got to hand it to the youth, though, because they continue to think outside the box. They don’t go for the obvious; instead, they mock millennials for things like sporting a side part, wearing skinny jeans, and the most egregious, using the crying laughing emoji. And that, friends, is where I draw the line.

I can admit that skinny jeans are not the look for everyone and we took our obsession with it a bit too far. Likewise, I’ll give you that I had some truly heinous exaggerated side part years (mostly in college, but I’ve burned all the evidence.). But you will have to pry the crying laughing emoji from my cold, dead hands, and I will tell you why even though I’m sure nobody asked.

Now I know what you’re going to be asking first because it was my immediate thought, too: if Gen-Z doesn’t use the crying laughing emoji, how to they indicate laughter? Apparently, they use the skull emoji.

There are a few things wrong with this.

Now, I do feel bad being harsh on Gen-Z because they are simply ignorant. They do not remember the time when we millennials had to figure out ways to differentiate between various amounts of laughter. They were simply not alive (or at least, they were nonverbal) for the agonizing days of deciding whether something was simply funny (lol), very funny (rofl), outright hilarious (lmao), or literally-falling-on-the-floor hilarious (roflmao). Certainly, there are situations in which something is so funny you’re (figuratively) literally dead, necessitating the skull emoji, but there are levels to this sh*t. Personally, I like to progress from the crying laughing emoji to the slanted crying laughing emoji to the skull, and if a joke is really good, to the coffin or the urn. Everything cannot be skull emoji because everything is not skull-emoji funny. To ascribe every joke to this level of humor is simply an impossible standard, one that waters down the very genius of using the skull emoji in this context in the first place.

On top of that, the fact that using this emoji for its intended purpose is scorn-worthy kind of makes me want to, to borrow their own phrase, yeet myself into the sun. Oh, what, it’s too predictable? Too literal? Would it be ok if we used the crying laughing emoji ironically? Because I do that sometimes, like when I openly and honestly express my feelings and then need to add a little something at the end so that nobody takes me too seriously. Is that ok??

The crying laughing emoji exists for a reason, and I will not be made to feel ashamed, and I welcome my eventual roasting on TikTok.

And by the way, anyone with a widows peak cannot rock a middle part, and I’m too short to wear any cut of jean other than skinny jeans.