Life Beyond ASL

Dealing with the Unexpected; Embracing the Unknown

By Anne Richardson

January 2023
Instagram, Tik Tok perfection, and the Four Yorkshiremen

Does anyone remember Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen sketch? 

The four men sit around discussing “the bad old days,” with each one trying to outdo the other, to the point of absurdity: I had to get up in the morning at 10 o’clock at night half an hour before I went to bed. Eat a lump of cold poison, work 29 hours a day at t' mill and pay t' mill owner for permission to come to work… 

While Monty Python is now very dated, the perfection of Instagram and Tik Tok is very much current, with impossibly flawless people appearing to market and display the excellence of their lives, figures, accomplishments, offspring, pets, complexions and more, each one appearing more perfect than the last.

And then there is the high school version of all of this, which usually comes around at pressure points during the year: grades, college/university applications, awards selections, and more.  Conversations in the hallway abound, often with students doing the “4YInstaTok thing:” comparing GPAs, amount of homework, hours of test prep, number of APs, number of applications, number of leadership positions, number of clubs joined, and more. 

I can see how these conversations can also descend into the absurd: “I had to get up at 4:30 in the morning half an hour before I went to bed, study 29 hours for the SAT, take 6 AP practice tests in 4 periods, lead 12 club meetings during the lunch hour, and apply to 49 colleges in my free time.” 

Absurd, yes. 

But what I worry about is the day-to-day inner anxiety and sadness that these conversations bring to students who do not meet that Insta-Tok level of flawless perfection in everything they do.  And let’s face it, who really does? 

Can we please stop this?  

As we shared with the juniors last week, everyone is on their own journey in high school, and nobody’s journey matches anyone else’s. That’s the beauty of a journey; there is no one right path to get to where you want to go, and the twists and turns, the barriers and obstacles all become part of growth. 

So, people, talk with your friends, in your advisories, with your parent/guardian(s) and families, and call a moratorium on “4YInsta-Tok” conversations: instead, embrace your own journey, celebrate each other’s aspirations and journeys, and recognize that everyone is on their own, individual, wonderful path.

There are so many other things to talk about – and nobody is perfect.