I grew up self-conscious, anxious, and with a tendency towards depressive cycles solely because I am genetically prone to those things and very sensitive to my environment. My supportive, loving parents, amazing friends, and idyllic childhood had nothing on the damage a few tweenage girls could do at a 7th grade sleepover. However, right now, I am grateful that I wasn’t growing up in a time with smart phones, social media accounts, #fitspo, and makeup tutorials. Emails and AIM were just getting started, and being online meant asking Jeeves for help with your math homework.

This upgraded online life has two sides to it. On one side, the advancement of connectivity has lead a revolution in creative, online entrepreneurship. It’s allowing many young women and men to not only pursue their dreams but also make a living off of it.

On the other side, is the seedy underbelly. A breeding ground for comparison, anxiety, and insecurities. Where the perfect caption, aesthetic, clever snap-story, and amount of followers can rule your life. I’ve known people who would delete a post off their account if it didn’t get a certain number of likes. I’ve seen female influencers, who live what looks like a beautiful, cultivated “dream life”, admit to a struggle of insecurity and anxiety because of their career.

I was out to dinner recently and watched a group of pre-teen girls organize themselves into the best angles for their insta-stories while they sang happy birthday to their friend. It had to be captured – it had to go online. What happened to just singing happy birthday? Instead of laughing, clapping, and watching the guest of honor make a wish for their upcoming year – everyone was busy making sure their post looked perfect. While this group of pre-teens may have been an example, I know just as many adults who do the same. Myself included.

What are we missing out on? What are we trading? What are we getting in return?

We are trading joy, precious moments, and memories. In return, we get an insatiable hunger to be, or at least look, our best online. For women, especially, it has become another set of standards to try and live up to. It’s worrisome to think that, even though we are living in a time where women are rising up, we may be setting the younger female generation up with a higher level of anxiety and insecurity than anyone has encountered before.

I find myself digging into the “real” life, honest blogs and influencers who are charging forward. If you look hard enough, you will find people striving to represent reality amongst a seemingly never ending sea of online perfection. They are showing the bang-ups and bruises of everyday life. They speak about everything from bad-hair days and zits, to miscarriages and traumas. Having this kind of representation is absolutely necessary to show us that we, the imperfect, are not alone. To reveal the online standards for what they are, too high, too unrealistic, and harmful.

I am personally grateful for the women who are pioneering online vulnerability. They are providing the balance in this online life. For every page of perfection we view, these women provide a dose of real love, life, and sisterhood. While we watch girls top-knot, cat-eye, and selfie their way through their younger years, we can have faith in this revolution of honesty and realness. I hope to not only admire and respect the movement, but join it, and watch it continue to blossom into the online support system that women, young and old, need.