Back when I used to be not happy, I constantly held within myself a great unease. On campus, the sun-emoji seemed to shine on every person’s keyboard except that of my own cracked, glass perimeter. None of my food emojis looked very appetizing, not even the shish-kabob with the three unidentified blobs of color poked high upon its pointy, wooden spear. The former joy I received from the alien emoji, in what seems like another lifetime now, had seemingly vanished forever. (Please, don’t inquire as to why I found it so joyful.) 

No, I must maintain. I’m not one to sulk. And I believe that I didn’t and still haven’t. 

Believe me, I have tried forever and ever to find a way to be happy. To breach a new, more profound platform for my identity: one that made me feel tingly and confident all at the same time, like I was regularly mixing the spice of life into my 50-cent ramen from Costco. If I knew how to properly identify an existential crisis, I might go as far as to say I was amid one: a very cloudy one indeed. 

Oh, the things I’d try. I remember following around campus tours intended for prospective freshmen for hours on end. Whole days. I thought they must know something about who I am. They must know something about why I’m here. If one feels one might be doing college wrong, wouldn’t it make sense to go back to the beginning? Wouldn’t it be logical? Oh but logic, that dirty game. That dirty trick the devil pulls out of the bag last, the one he keeps in the deeper pocket inside of the bag. Almost like “Temptation Inception.” Starring Leo as Jesus. 

Of course, it didn’t help. All I learned was that the UGLi is not just called the UGLi because it sort of resembles some faux-acronym. It actually once used to be ugly. As one might expect, I tried very hard to force an analogical comparison of the transformation from ugly to beautiful on my own story of my soul, but in the end, it seemed a B-interjection at best. I couldn’t get over the fact that I was already beautiful. Beauty and unhappiness aren’t mutually exclusive are they? In agony, I looked into the mirror and screamed my favorite line from Hamlet in my practiced English accent, “Death Hath become thee,” and then I moved on.

What else did I do? 

I played a lot of pool at the bar and at the Union. I thought about angles and math. What was my angle? Did happiness have a formula? What if it’s just some hard equation written on a chalkboard in a classroom made for ghosts? I didn’t have time to answer these daring questions because something quite out of the ordinary happened. 

One day, a random number texted me a shooting star emoji with a caption that said, “Make a wish, beautiful bae. and sleep tight.” 

I didn’t care that I had received someone else’s digital goodnight kiss. I acted quickly, and you already know what I wished for.

My wish came true in the form of a Facebook notification. It said, “Friend X has just joined InstaGram. Download InstaGram to view all of your friends v. cool pictures!” 

I did just that. I am not too dumb to see God dumping out the Devil’s bag of tricks next to the ravine and stomping on them while she does it. I, indeed, helped her stomp and then I moved on to collect my reward. 

Now you can find me @SparkmanCashAut. I don’t know how to use filters yet, but you better believe it’s a learning process that I couldn’t be happier to be processing. I’m an Insta-Machine. You can keep track of my every move when I throw a Chess Party now. You’ll see that pita kabob from Pita Kabob and that lobster bisque from Le Dog right before I eat it. You’ll know when I’m falling asleep on the couch at the University’s student-run radio station, WCBN, at 4 a.m. We’ll cherish the moment together. 

No, I don’t think I’ve actually found THE secret to happiness, but isn’t it enough that I’ve found a new, completely absorbing digital media to distract me enough from all the pain and poverty and injustice in the world? You guys can keep running the rat race. I’m going to chill with this cheese for a minute. Yes, cheese is a pun here. At the moment, I’m ordering Friend X to smile wide before I take a snapshot of her and post it for my loyal 32 followers, #NoFilter. 

To those who say that I’m late to the Insta-party, I’d like you to notice that I’m actually just showing up Insta-fashionably-late. Can’t you tell by the Arizona State hoodie that I’m wearing by that bonfire? Yes, I have style for days.

What are the other perks, you ask, of now running the Instagram game? For one, now I don’t need to actually look at my friends. I can just take a picture of them and continue to gaze into my phone like we’re long lost lovers. A bonus being that my phone-version of them doesn’t get upset with me when I take a break from being enticed by their existence to see if anyone has liked my most recent Facebook status or to see if that one magazine had accepted my fiction submission. They hadn’t, but it was okay because I could immediately take a picture of something new and get inspired all over again. Someone needs to write a fictional accompaniment to the Ants Mural on Maynard Street. When I’m Instafamous, I can’t help but wonder: Why couldn’t it be me?

Elijah Sparkman can be reached at esspa@umich.edu.

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