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More than 140 Characters

By Shannon Keane, copy editor (skeane3@uic.edu)

“Define yourself in 140 characters,” they said.

“Tell us your favorite things,” they said.

“Post pictures of yourself, but filtered, because that looks better,” they said.

And so I did. And within just a few months, my life was dependent on things like this. Likes on Facebook. Retweets on Twitter. Something so stupid, so arbitrary. I made hashtags, I use filters, I freaked out when the boy I liked thought my slightly-too-revealing picture was good enough to click on the like button for.

But what those sites don’t tell people about me is this:

They don’t know that it took me two months to figure out why I wanted a lightning bolt tattooed on my wrist, why I can’t seem to get out of bed on rainy days. They don’t know why I think lowercase letters are more poetic, why I love coffee but only with my dad on Sunday mornings. The sites don’t show me in my yoga pants and sports bra, they don’t care about the days when my hair looks bad.

I have defined myself in 140 characters, have put together a personality to satisfy merely the smallest group of people, all for the purpose of believing that this is something, someone, that I am supposed to be. But none of my 276 followers know why I was up all night Tuesday night. No one knows that when I’m feeling anxious I watch the Hannah Montana movie, not because I like it that much, but because it reminds me of home.

No one understands that I love to color and make people think that I’m a child again, I want to make a difference while still being who I am. They all know I love to write but no one knows that I’m blocked, and I have been for a really long time.

But that changes today.

Today I stop defining myself by the laws of social media, today I stop believing that the likes I get are in some way a reflection of the kind of person I am. Today I will sit on my bed in the rain and the humidity, and I will write. Not so that I can tweet about it and not so that I can tell everyone but so that I can spend a few hours looking inside myself for whatever happened to mess my head up and fix it. I have everything I have ever wanted sitting right here in front of me and I need to stop being crazy and I need to own it all.

Everything that happened to me turned me into the person I am today. Every little thing. I need to stop hiding from my past, stop thinking that it was something other than a way for me to learn the biggest lesson I’ve always needed. No one following me on Twitter understands the beauty I feel wearing my white beanie and a tattered flannel, the taste of chocolate heavy in my mouth. Why I bite my nails when I’m nervous, why I believe no day is ever wasted if art was created that day. No one understands the dustiest corners of my stupid soul. Until today.

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