Hello and welcome back, to those of you who are led here for the very first time, I'd like to introduce myself: My name is Sabrina. I am 23 years old. And I'm everything people see in me, and nothing else than the surface of a 'perfect' life on your computer screen.
Whether it's on YouTube, where I share snippets of my life in video form, or on Instagram, where you can stare into the void of several versions of my face, my body, costumes, wigs and make up, I am whatever you chose to perceive.
And that has been a trap to me I cornered myself into little by little.
Becoming who people saw in me, constantly trying to outrun trends and an avatar I could not shake.
Now get yourself a snack, a nice cold drink this summer day, and settle in for a ride.
Because I have found something in the mirror-image of my social media profiles, that you will hope to know about before you even get started on yours.
Put down your guard, this is not a thriller, though it could be, depending on who you ask.
The Dark Corners
I am surely not the only one skimming the dark corners of the internet about themselves, as many who hail from corners of a certain subculture I have often been subject to whatever makes other peoples lives more exciting.
And don't get me wrong, there is a certain thrill that must lie in anonymity. You don't have to look for what I'm talking about anywhere, as soon as you have an opinion, as soon as you put yourself online, they can and will come to you. If you can lie to yourself and say "I never got hate" you are either privileged enough to never having upset anyone from your offline life or haven't really reached anyone yet.
And I was obsessed with the latter one.
I was so focused on trying to find the concrit in insults, trying to cater to people I saw as "the ones I didn't draw in yet". Well, the harsh truth about this is that some opinions can't be changed that easily.
And people love blowing things out of proportion.
Remember that one person you upset? That one break-up that was messy? Or that one time you said something dumb in front of someone? No? Don't worry, as long as you are out there trying, there will be someone reaching into the furthest corners of the feed of your life and pulling out something that you already forgot about, butter it up with some shiny polish, covering it in whatever they want your internet self to be hated for and present it to the world.
You don't want that to be there? This might give new people you meet a bad idea about you? You want it gone? Well, good luck trying, because once it's uploaded it's here to stay.
The Life Of Your Avatar
With jealousy we scroll through feeds, we see numbers, smiles, money. And we know, deep inside, that most of it is fake.
We look at peoples ideal versions, at photoshop creations and thoroughly saturated images of food. We don't see the fights that went down, we don't want to see peoples struggles, we don't want to see them unfiltered. We care about their characters and the characters they play only. After all, who wants to be reminded of the world we live in when we can indulge in a fantasy of that being us?
Well, we can. And we do.
If you are pleading innocent on never having put on a strong face in front of others, never blurring your skin and never filtering what you say, I applaud you, for you are truly what you are trying to sell: A post on your social media platform of choice.
We are all fake here.
And we all know.
We don't need to be reminded.
Or are you, just as I caught myself, pretending to be who you are portraying to be?
Don't get me wrong. It's good to distract yourself sometimes, it's okay to pretend to be perfect at times, it can earn you a living, fame, success, your dreams coming true with the help of numbers and marketing.
Because after all we live in a world where aging, imperfections and giving someone the finger publicly are shunned.
Would we stand up against anything but our own spoon-fed paradoxa of asking people to be perfect, but shaming them for trying to cater to this illusion? When we tell people not to censor their words, yet speaking up about our problems and suffering are signs of grasping for attention?
Our real enemy isn't the internet, anonymity or lack thereof, when we expose our faces and lives to the world wide web. It's not media, gossip magazines, blogs and sites, that made it their business to profit of ruining reputations, no, it's the paradox idea of having to be loved by everybody.
Because most of the time, you can't please anybody.
Am I Real?
Yet, when i showed up late to this party I wasn't invited to I raised a few suspicious eyebrows.
And soon I was messaged, called impostor and asked to send pictures to verify it was really me.
It made me wonder. Out of all the fake profiles I had encountered in my life - some of which were created when I was still a mere high schooler and had no name or reputation to ruin - why was it now that people actually cared?
I had just come home after plastic surgery, cast off, swollen and fresh, when I was asked, for the first time in my short life: "Are you real?"
And it made me question, how if I had never shown my real face - or in that case my new face, right after surgery, that I hadn't even shared on social media yet - would people know it was really me?
Fact is, no one could ever be sure. I could find a double, I could find a new manager who would once again curate and tag my posts for me, and nobody would notice the difference. If I had never really been here, if I was a model, cast and posed to be this person for money, taking the blame and a name for a person that never really existed, living in a manufactured story that was weft deep into the corners of the internet, with the anonymous commenters being manufactured by a company just as I was...
Just who could even prove it?
The truth is you can't.
And you won't.
No one could stop a company with enough funds and resources out there, creating a viral hit, buying a model in via Adsense, connections, recommendations and making them what some of us wish we were.
Mirroring what we are posting, but shooting straight to the top.
When there would be hate, there would be fake profiles of companies taking over, defesive.
When there would be too much positivity online and it began to seem ingenuine, they could manufacture insults tailored to what some of us experience.
Copypasting the best possible versions of ourselved to social media, it's hard to not believe in a conspiracy of a cross-media lonelygirl of 2018.
We measure ourselves by the big numbers, but are they ever really achievable without conspiring against ourselves?
Everyone Is A Critic
But don't worry. If you ever lose your job or have someone step on your feet, you can pay them back. Bake up a fresh scandal, a blog, a fake person, blame it on them. Tell the world about your misery and they'll surely be there to pat you on the back and if they don't, hey, it doesn't take much to create a few more profiles, create believers and cause a chain reaction.
Nobody will question why you did this or that if you have a few masked versions of yourself out there, clearing your name for you.
There is much to be won with the world beneath your screen having the attention-span of a few seconds and never asking questions. Whip up a few lines and watch it spin. And you never have to say sorry.
Someone Will Buy It
It's the ultimate cross we have to bear, looking at our online-selves.
That we will not be the way we want to come across, because the prejudice of some will the the breeding-ground for bacteria that will grow and infect whatever clear and sterile image you were trying to portray.
But it's not all hopeless.
There is a thin line between being loved and being hated, but no mater how many times you will cross it in the life of your social media profile, you will soon realize that both sides have extreme feelings about you, what you create and who you are - in their eyes.
That the good deed you did makes you a saint, but it will also make you have an ulterior motive.
That your illness is terrifying and that you are brave to speak up, but you are also only talking about it to get attention.
That you following your dreams is inspiring to others, but also makes those who failed before you pull your name through dirt for the rest of their life, just so they can feel better.
You can always try and see the positive in things, you can always try and focus on becoming better, prettier, more likeable, fit in. But however bright your light may shine, what's in the shadows will always linger.
And it doesn't matter if it's true or not, if it has evidence or not, someone will definitely buy it.
The Right Way To Go
If I had to be honest about this, I wouldn't change a thing. The mistakes I make that give people material to pull my name through the dirt gives me traffic. The more I put out there about myself, the more people get offended by it, the more people get upset about my mere presence on the internet is feeding me revenue. Which in the end is - quite literally - feeding me.
Social media will never let you feel whole, it will not solve your problems and it might make you very, very unhappy.
But you can either writhe in the sadness, frustration and vengeful spite, or you can pull yourself back up, put on a smile and a gracious middle finger and move the hell on. You will always be casting shadows.
As long as people are talking you are not dead yet.