Perhaps the thing I dislike most about my job is how much time I spend coming into the office on weekends. Though working at an opera house is probably the best job I could ever ask for, it’s hard to balance work with being a full-time graduate student when the time I’ve scheduled to devote to school work is interfered with, and subsequently overpowered by, impromptu trips to the office.
The only upside, apart from hearing glorious music from below stage, is getting to play dress up. Since beginning my time at L.A. Opera, I’ve had to update my wardrobe significantly in order to keep up with the formal attire that is expected. I don’t have to wear a suit every day, just on weekends and show days —so 60 percent of the time. And as someone who wore t-shirts and Tretorns without fail almost every day, it’s been an adjustment. I’m so damn hot all the time. I mean that both in temperature and self-image. That probably makes me sound arrogant, but hey, I recognize beauty when I see it. And I’ve felt the need to share my self-love with the world. So the inflation is not only seen in my updated, ornate wardrobe, but also in my ego as well.
Without fail, when walking past mirrors, I find myself taking photos of myself to upload to Instagram. Before the photo shoot even begins, I have to confirm that every button and clasp is in place. Is my shirt tucked in correctly? Check. Are one or both sleeves poking out from under my suit jacket? Double check. Do I want to button up my shirt all the way to the collar for a tailored look, or am I feeling more relaxed today? Should I show a bit of chest? All of these aspects must be checked like a laundry list before I can even think about taking the first photo. Then I’ll need to check the lighting. Is there enough natural light to complement my olive-toned skin, or will I need to add a filter to avoid being washed out? Lastly, I’ll take a second to make sure no one is around, because what’s more embarrassing than being caught in the middle of a selfie?
After I’ve completed all my checks, I’m finally ready for my close-up. I’ll take somewhere between five to 50 photos of myself. And that’s not even the last stop. Factor in the time it takes grueling over which photo is best to upload, followed by editing, sharpening and repositioning, and you’d think I was Patrick Demarchelier. The process is excessive and self-indulgent. And I’ve only recently realized how much I hate myself because of it.
You, the reader, may think it’s sad how much time I spend over a single snapshot that will eventually end up lost in the sea of others’ selfies in a matter of hours. And I agree — it is sad. But I didn’t realize how bad the ordeal was until a few days ago, when I uploaded a picture of myself and had to put my phone on airplane mode because I couldn’t bear to look at how many likes the post got. Would the number of likes exceed the number of minutes since I posted it? That’s how I measure if a post is successful or not. Otherwise, I’ll probably end up deleting the snapshot.
But in looking through my own Instagram feed, I realized that the way I portray myself is obnoxious because I’m creating a caricature of myself. Why do I need to upload a picture of every single book I’m reading? Because I’m so afraid of coming across as unintelligent that I feel the need to let the public know what I’m reading at all times. Additionally, why do I need to show the public the outfits I wear, or when I feel attractive? Sometimes I’ll get a nice comment or a compliment, but these outfits — the ones I spend hours grueling over for the sake of a lit pic — will be forgotten by day’s end.
My relationship with social media is presented in a series of paradoxes. I am socially anxious in general and find that I care way too much of what people think of me. That’s one of the reasons I deactivated my Facebook last year, as well as to moderate the excessive amount of time I spend on social media. However, since leaving Facebook, my Instagram usage has skyrocketed. It didn’t happen right away — it took a few months for the transference to take place. And as someone whose self-esteem fluctuates from a dumpster on a USC gameday to Xerxes, High King of Persia, and nothing in between, I thought my newfound self-love was merely an increase in confidence. But really, it’s just made me annoying and bumptious.
And it begins and ends with all the selfies. I find that my devotion to this so-called social media “persona” began as a way to compete with all the six-pack gays that flood my newsfeed on an hourly basis. Like them, I’m not satisfied with the affirmations from close friends and loved ones — I need them from strangers as well.
I really dislike this part of myself, which is why I’ve decided to take a break from posting. I was too caught up in my own narcissism to even notice how much time I spend thinking about my social media presence. But it’s hard not to think that way when our society places so much importance on influencers. Even all of my classes this semester have a unit on social media use.
But since coming to terms with my Narcissian tendencies, the first step to recovery is to cease and desist. I’m not saying that I’ll never upload a selfie again, because we all know that’s a lie. And besides, there is no problem in priding oneself on physical appearance. But the whole world doesn’t need to know anymore, because my self-love should come from a place within myself, and not from the validation of others.
Arya Roshanian is a graduate student studying library and information science. His column, “From The Top,” runs Tuesdays.