Social media is a scary place for me. Quite honestly, I often think about the days when I was growing up and I didn’t have a phone, let alone an Instagram. All I cared about was finding my neighbor friend, Katelyn, to go ride bikes and pretend we were detectives or babysitters. My nights were filled with hockey in the streets, and my mom yelling out the front door telling us to come home for dinner at sundown.
I remember my parents bringing out the giant videocamera for special moments, like opening presents from Santa on Christmas morning, or the big dance recital. Other than that, they were sans phone or camera, and fully present in what we were doing. Even the most simple moments of sitting down and talking were just that. Simple, real and without distractions. Where has this gone?
I have a daily battle when it comes to my phone and using social media. As a television personality, they say it’s important to build an online presence and brand, to promote our shows and to connect with fans. I actually do love this a lot of the time because it allows me to chat with people I otherwise wouldn’t normally have a chance to meet and our ability to relate has drastically changed over the last year.
When I got into television, I thought it was really important to show my hair and makeup and outfits. I had never had my makeup done before, I had never hosted shows or had people watching my every move, live. So I went deep into the dark selfie world of Instagram and Twitter and would work so hard to show everyone what I was doing all the time, in order to get validation and make sure I knew people were paying attention to me. In case you couldn’t already tell, this is exhausting and incredibly narcissistic. I had no idea what I was doing to myself and the image I was portraying.
Fast forward a few years, and I hit a wall. A constant need for people to tell you you’re pretty and good enough takes everything out of you. It was the middle of 2016 when my mind really started shifting. I chopped my hair about a foot, leaving it at shoulder length, and started wearing way less makeup. My selfie game was cut about 75% and my reason for posting started shifting as well. I was posting with purpose. I started to value myself for who I am and what I have to offer, rather than the leggy young television host starved of attention and love.
My followers made the transition with me, and I am so grateful. I started posting about my myriad of health issues, my eating disorder, my insecurities and my desire to connect on a very real and honest level. What you see in my Instagram stories is exactly who I am in person; pimple cream and dirty hair and singing voice to boot.
There was this story about a girl named Madison Holleran that I heard about a couple years ago and it sticks with me to this day. Kate Fagan of ESPN covered the heartbreaking story of a young student athlete from Penn who took her own life. On social media, she was happy, had friends and was successful. But behind the scenes, she never felt good enough. She wasn’t happy and her life wasn’t going as planned. Kate went on to start a hashtag called, “#thesearethehighlights” which began trending and helped everyone see that what we post online tend to be the highlights, the good, happy stuff, with filters and poses, not the tough days when we feel lonely, or the day we lost our game and feel like it was all our fault.
I keep Madison in mind every time I post. I want girls to feel safe, understood, connected and welcome when they see my picture and read my caption. I am not perfect and I struggle every day with many of the same things as those who follow me do. My goal is to be true and real, which lets the need for validation and perfection fall away. Those are not real. Life is not easy, and that is what is real.