Dubai Diaries: You better 'like' this one

A zoomer's take on social media and the virtual world


Meher Dhanjal

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Published: Mon 20 Jun 2022, 5:38 PM

Last evening, in the middle of an endless scroll on Instagram, my phone dies in my hands. As my reflection stares back at me, I wonder where the hours went.

Of late, I have been spending almost every waking second in front of a screen. I don’t really know when this obsession began, but it shouldn’t have been this way. Growing up in the age of up-and-coming social media meant that I was on Facebook in Grade 6 (without my parents’ knowledge, of course). My naïve little brain was unaware of the scrutiny I was going to encounter from the world at large; all my online activity would manage to follow me to school.

My friends would discuss others’ new profile pictures or funny posts from the night before. We were in the era of the fake mustache and ‘Keep Calm’ textposts, however, quite a lot of us never found any humour in what we saw online. Nobody was spared from the wrath of teen girls — not even they themselves.

Posting a picture online was a ritual. Every picture I posted online had to fit ‘the standard’, else it wouldn’t be worthy enough. Consulting friends to find the perfect caption and to help edit my flaws to a blurry perfection was the new norm. I was obsessed with people’s likes and comments on my photos.

The ‘like culture’ started ruling my life. Somehow, the number of ‘friends’ I made on Facebook mattered more than the ones I had offline.

My early and mid-teens were spent online, exposed to whatever the internet decided to throw my way. I grew up comparing myself to ‘perfect’ girls – taller, skinnier, better hair — were the standard.

By the time Snapchat and Instagram came into my life, I was well versed with how I had to present myself online.

Now, I consciously try to make an effort to take a step back from my screen and ‘go touch some grass’. It shouldn’t have been like this, but it already is. Somehow, I end up spending most of my day in front of the dreadful blue light.

It wasn’t just me, I realise in hindsight. When I look around, I see that most of my peers have had similar experiences. Numerous articles online address the damage social media does, proving that adolescents in this day and age grow up with poorer mental health. Studies have also observed links between teens’ social media usage and various mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. However, the impact can vary drastically — one could find support, love, and care online, while another could be a subject of bullying.

It’s not all that bleak though, having grown up online also means that I can easily relive my adolescence (with all of my old posts set to ‘only me’). Just as my phone was about to die in my hands, I took another look at a post I made in 2015, chuckling at my ‘witty’ (read: cringey) caption.

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