An Instagram-Famous Teen Photographer on the Downsides of Social Media
In just a few short years, 16-year-old New Jersey photographer Lauren Tepfer has won a cult Instagram following for her ethereal depiction of suburban teenage life. But while the high schooler—whose dreamy aesthetic takes inspiration from the likes of Petra Collins and Olivia Bee—appreciates the platform that social media has given her, she's learned that it's also a double-edged sword. Everyone curates their Insta feed to present the prettiest possible mood board of their lives. But for a budding artist, things get even more complicated. Take it from Lauren, below….
Tavi [Gevinson] really made me think about how we use Instagram to showcase our lives. I have a lot of friends on social media, and people who I’ve found online, and we hang out in real life. Even though everyone knows that what you see on the internet isn’t real, it’s still hard not to get caught up in it. It’s so strange, because people will be like, “Oh, my life sucks compared to this person on Instagram,” but you don’t know what’s really going on with them. Nobody is going to take a picture of themselves in the hospital or going through something awful.
I’ve thought about this a lot because I was in the hospital for the entire month of January. I’m OK now, but I didn’t post about it online because it’s not the kind of thing that you want the world to see. I felt weird, because in some ways I felt like I was cheating or deceiving people by not telling them what I was doing. It’s this issue of filtering what you post so that you can make people see whatever you want them to. Not lying, exactly, but we’re all curating our lives so that they look a certain way.
One of my favorite photographers is Olivia Bee, and she did an interview about the same kind of thing. It made me feel so much better knowing that I’m not the only one who goes through this. Another thing I’ve been noticing is people making plans with Instagram in mind, like they want their photos to have a particular aesthetic. I’m not saying that it’s terrible; I find myself doing the same thing! But at the same time, these experiences aren’t as authentic, especially as an artist.
It’s an easy thing to get caught up in. I love tweeting, Instagram-ing, blogging, and such—and social media has given me such a great outlet for my work and for me to just be myself. Although, the internet can get messy. I spend probably five full hours out of 24 per day on my phone or on my laptop, if I'm being completely honest. No shame here! I am constantly surrounded by people who are posting everything that they do on the internet, and that's okay.
But as a teen girl who is currently in her junior year of high school and someone who is constantly aware of her surroundings I struggle a lot with self esteem issues, emotionally and physically! We all at one point or another find ourselves caught up in what this person's wearing and what size she is compared to me and I'm just so fat or too skinny and my hair is so ugly and why can't I look like them. Social media can bring about so many unwarranted feelings of self-hatred!
I've learned to surround myself (not only physically) with people who are practicing good habits of all around self-positivity. I purposely follow people on Instagram who are loving themselves and are constantly posting inspiring things. Social media can be scary and intimidating at times, but once you know what you're looking for, you can safely navigate your online world.