Exposing Myself on Social Media: Here’s What That Caption Really Means

There are few things I dedicate more careful attention to than my Instagram profile. Silly, I know, but I have my reasons. First, let me acknowledge that although I’m active on most if not all social media platforms, my drugs of choice are Instagram and Twitter. I value the brevity of information they convey while still allowing for as much or as little self-expression as any given user might like. You might argue that most social media platforms offer more or less the same cocktail of services, but I think Instagram and Twitter resonate more closely with a millennial demographic that is as self-aware as they are socially conscious. For example, I find Facebook to be a bit clunky—and I know many others do as well—plagued with long, irrational debates put forward by distant Aunt Kate who, to be fair, has very little connection with the world beyond her circle of 25 Facebook friends. But, that’s a topic for a different day.

Admittedly a very guarded person, I share more of myself on Instagram than I do on any other platform. The whole process is less about public affirmation and more about personal fulfillment and storytelling. Every photo on my Instagram profile takes me right back to a specific moment in time, even if it’s not the moment in which the photo was taken. Every photo means something, reminds me of something or someone and tells my truth. This collection of once-square photos is, to me, the most spectacular time capsule of a life well lived and better loved. That’s not to say I think my photography skills hold any professional weight or that every photo reminds me of a happy time or place; in fact, posts that I’ve shared at my lowest points often hold more meaning than vibrant captures of a summer away. Not one for long, detailed Instagram captions, I tend to pair my photos with seemingly out-of-context snippets from whatever I’m listening to or reading at the time. I keep a collection of these phrases—far larger than the one on here—on my phone so, often, the photo caption is one I connected with several weeks prior.

The whole thing is an odd mishmash of careful science and beautiful chaos, and I love it. It is the most personal thing I’ve ever shared with a public audience, even if they fail to realize it. That’s actually what I love most about the endeavor. It is equally as personal as it is public. And isn’t that the idea behind social media? Behind the filters and the memes? It’s about sharing a bit of yourself with someone else—hundreds or thousands others if you like. The interaction among all participants is potentially identical but rarely ever so; everyone takes away something different from the experience, just as everyone shares something different.

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