“Anna, what’s your Instagram?” I’ve gotten that question countless times. I sheepishly reply that I don’t have one. Usually, people want to know why. “It wouldn’t be good for my mental health,” I say. “I already compare myself too much to others. It’d be so much worse if I’m only seeing the version of themselves they choose to broadcast.” After years of responses ranging from the thoughtful nod to the “If you say so” shrug, my no-social media policy has become part of my identity.
But cherubs made me change my mind.
The decision was not dramatic. I was polishing off a Hinman oatmeal raisin cookie and cracking up with friends about Ariana Grande’s donut-licking antics. Doubled over with giggles, tears leaked out of the corners of my eyes. I wanted to freeze the moment and live in it forever. But lingering somewhere in the back of my mind was the inescapable truth that we would all go our separate ways soon. I’m notoriously flaky over text. For other summer programs, I accepted gradually drifting apart. But this felt different. I knew I wanted to keep in touch with these friends for longer than just a few months or even a few years.
I’ve never liked the posed nature of Instagram. But I feel more comfortable with many of these people I’ve known for five weeks than with people I’ve gone to school with for six years. Here, I let my nerd flag fly and learned to be vulnerable, sharing insecurities on late-night walks to Andy’s for frozen custard or while sprawled on couches in the third floor common rooms. Besides, when your followers have seen you in peak sleep-deprivation mode — the day trend stories are due — posting a less-than-perfect picture on a private account isn’t all that daunting.
I want to know where my friends go to college. I want to see their prom pictures, their birthday parties and their successes. Sure, I won’t see them every day. I’ll miss belting “Our Song” with Abby Murphy and Julia Robbins, brushing my teeth alongside Camila Trimberger and becoming the definitive expert on Evanston’s rocks with Adam Levine. But when I need to see a friendly face or reminisce, I know I can turn to the tiny orange and purple icon on my home screen.