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It is no secret that I love Instagram. I love it: I love band photographers; I love the beauty bloggers; I love searching the #travel tag; and I really love going on long-winded celebrity stalking sessions via mutual follows. 

More than that, I love pictures. I love taking pictures, I love looking at pictures, I love constructing a picture and deconstructing a picture. Anyone who knows me will know that I am always taking pictures. I love cinematography and I love learning about cameras and I love editing videos. I love reading about photography, the history of photography, fashion photography and pretty much everything that surrounds the word. I find genuine pleasure in doing so. It's one of my very few hobbies.  

But at no point in taking these pictures do I do so to prove anything. I don't take a snap to show people that: I was here! Look at me! Look what I did! I have hundreds and hundreds of pictures backed up on hard drives that I've taken which I've never shared and that I've probably forgotten I've even taken. To me, there is nothing like the feeling of discovering a good picture you'd forgotten about. I have a terrible memory so when I do uncover an old picture of a good time it brings the warmth of nostalgia. It can act as a reminder on a bad day that, yes you're feeling down now, but you were happy once! Look how happy you were. All that comfort and reassurance from a picture. 

I'm sure you're aware of the Instagram model Essena O'Neill who had the world up in arms after her being very vocal about giving up social media. You can read about her story on your own time - her IG is now out of action but she's launched a website. I understand where this movement is coming from, really I do. But at the same time I can't help but feel that Essena is targeting the wrong area. If we want to make a difference in exploitative sponsorship then we need to challenge the modelling companies who are scouting these vulnerable girls and the brands who are endorsing this behaviour. We need to make sure companies are fully educated and do their research before making enquiries and business deals with young girls. I am 100% on board that brand endorsement should be completely transparent. Under ASA regulations it is obligatory to make it clear in a post or video that it's a paid promotion if the user is being endorsed in anyway - which usually involves a #ad or #sponsored chucked on the end of a caption or title.

People continuously say that us millennials are too obsessed with social media. I'm not exempt from this, and I'm guilty of feeling a burning hatred for SnapChat at gigs when I can't see for people constantly updating their story. But there are much worse things that we could be out there doing than scrolling down a news feed or taking pictures of our brunch. Yes, there may also be more productive ways we could be spending our time. But isn't there always? The thing I find most ironic with the whole 'internet-obsessed-youngsters' criticism is that I can safely say that I have continually been obsessed with something or other for my entire life. Up until the age of 5, I was addicted to Barney The Dinosaur and since then it's been a constant stream of obsessions with bands, boys, pink, animals, rap songs, make up and velvet. Know what I think? I think people are too hard on our generation when, in reality, we're making the best of the hand we've been dealt. Riding out a recession with a piling up student debt and lack of any confirmation that it will lead somewhere worthwhile means that the idea of escapism in social media can be quite attractive, and really isn't the most disastrous thing we could be doing.

Social media isn't real. So what? Your feed only shows people the highlight reel of your life. So bloody what? Who cares what people see into your life? Show them what you want to show them if you want to - or don't show them anything at all if that's what you prefer. They are just people after all. People with their own highlight reel and their own obsessions and their own escapisms. Why air your dirty laundry for the world to see? Sharing the good doesn't mean you are necessarily lying about the bad. Everyone has struggles, why dwell on it? Why not share a picture of your dessert because it was damn good, hella pretty and worth every sugar coated calorie? Why not capture the fun moments that at one point in time made you happy? Why not use those highlights as a reminder of the many wonderful moments we get in this life? 

I use social media, but that is not all I do. I have a Facebook profile, but that's not all I am. We as individuals are not limited to and not defined by our presence online. Every person has a depth to them be that can't possibly be construed on a mere webpage. And that's all it is really: a webpage. Don't take it too seriously. 

It all boils down to the fact that social media is what you make of it. If you are given a bucketful of cold water and you decide to use that bucket of water to soak a passerby, you have been irresponsible and inconsiderate. If you instead use that bucketful of water to nurture a seed and then turn the empty bucket over and sit in anticipation, you will grow a flower. It is entirely what you make of it. Cyberbullying, online exploitation and deception are non-excusable, but remember that these are misuse and abuse of the platform that social media provides. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and so on all raise awareness about important issues really rapidly, help charities connect with an audience who care, build careers and give us a voice to engage and take action. 

Before pointing fingers to label an entire platform as fake, look at yourself and evaluate where you are. If you are in a bad place, don't expect projecting that angst to the world to make yourself better. Placing your self worth into how popular you are online will be detrimental to your esteem and you are bound to crash eventually. So sure, of course, if it's not for you then step away. If taking that step back makes your head feel clearer then go ahead and put it down altogether and feel yourself set free. Do well by you. But don't let anybody make you feel bad for what you enjoy. If you want to post a picture of your pet, post it. If you want to share how cool the clouds looked this evening, do just that. Take a selfie, post that selfie and watch that little ❤️ hit double figures. Then smile, content in the knowledge that likes do not equal self worth. 

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