In a world that’s increasingly dominated by visuals, I want to be a writer. In a world full of kids who couldn’t tell you when they last picked up a book, I want to see my name in print. I’m a journalism major. Maybe I’m crazy, or maybe I’m a media-confused millennial.
I posted my first Instagram photo on my birthday in November of 2012, four months after I graduated high school. The photo was a collage of all the gifts I’d received for my 18th birthday, not including the iPad Mini I used to snap the photo. I hashtagged, “#18,” “#wine,” “#candles,” and “#happy.” The photo got 14 likes. Since then, I’ve posted almost 200 more times, and I admit, I am totally wrapped up in the Instaworld.
I am more grateful every day for the 18 years that came before that first post. I’m not saying I wasn’t a victim of the selfie age as a teenager. I have my fair share of side-bang-and-dark-eyeliner selfies with the small, yellow Kodak date at the bottom of the frame.
But Instagram was a game changer, and I’m glad I was able to grow up without it. I was born just early enough that my high school experience was untainted by the Valencia filter, likes, or follows. I love Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat as much as the next millennial, but I grew up before it could raise me. I grew up falling in love with characters in books, not strangers on the Internet. I know what it’s like to enjoy a party or social gathering without having to constantly look photo-ready. Like most people my age, I’ve spent the majority of my life getting to know myself, and the last bit of it getting to know the world inside the tiny computer in my hand.
Yesterday, I watched as my 14-year-old sister spent her entire first day of spring break sitting quietly on our hardwood living room floor. She stared blankly at her iPhone 5c, which she left plugged into the electrical outlet. She was unable to leave the Instaworld even for 30 minutes to let the device charge. She looked like she was tethered to a leash. The worst part is, I’m sure she wasn’t the only ninth grader who spent her first day of spring break that way.
So, if everyone’s wrapped up in the Instaworld, why major in journalism?
If young people are growing up reading no more than 140 Twitter characters at a time, why do I want to be a writer? Who will appreciate a well-written longform journalistic piece in 30 years when people’s attention spans are even shorter than they are now?
Well, I know there are people like me who get goose bumps when they read a perfectly written sentence. I know that no matter how many hundreds of photos I consume on a daily basis, I only trust a certain number of sources to give me valid information. I believe that as media evolves, the mediums of communication will have to work together to create quality content that is as fast and efficient as Instagram is. Maybe it will look like the New York Times reporters, who post beautiful, intriguing photos on Instagram with a link to a full story in the caption below. Maybe it will look like Snapchat, the app that only the smartest of news sources have paid to be featured on. Or maybe, it will look like me, sat alone on my hardwood floor, laptop in front of me, hating myself for choosing to major in journalism when I was 21. But, who knows? I guess I’ll take a leap of faith.