The Silver Lining of a High School Bully Liking My Instagram Photo

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The other day, I opened up my Instagram app to a notification showing that a girl from high school had liked one of my photos.

Now, I don’t really have that many people from high school on my Instagram feed anymore. I’m not sure how many people from high school follow me on Instagram, but I only follow a select few.

Let’s just say; high school wasn’t my time. When I think back on those five years, I get this tight feeling in my chest; reminiscent of the anxiety I used to feel each day when I walked through those gates, my backpack and the pressure to fit in weighing me down immensely.

I think it just comes down to the fact that I didn’t find my people in high school. I felt like I was constantly hitting walls as I tried to fit in with different social groups, not finding any aspect of it easy. As a pretty social and confident person, I couldn’t figure out why I found it so hard to be a part of my high school social groups, when I never struggled outside of school. Eventually I gave up, and just became friendly with everyone.

Except for a few girls, that seemed to have unbreakable vendetta against me for reasons that are still unclear. Although I never called it bullying back then, when I reflect on the consistent passive but snide remarks; a whisper just loud enough for me to hear as I passed them in the hall, a Facebook status that could seemingly be about anyone but was directed straight at me, or an online group dedicated to creating gossip about me… it sounds a helluva lot like bullying.

So, you can imagine that it caught me by surprise, when I opened my Instagram app to see that one of those girls had liked a recent photo of mine. The notification stood out, as she liked it a few days after I posted the photo, so her ‘like’ was a standalone notification. At first, I was surprised that she still followed me. Then, I wondered why, and assumed it couldn’t be simply because she liked my content. And then, I went through a few of my other recent photos and noticed that she’d liked them all.

I wasn’t sure how to feel. How, after all of that targeted bullying, could she be “liking” me and what I put out into the world, almost ten years later? Obviously, I stalked her profile.

She looks the same. She’s engaged to a dude who also went to high school with us, they’ve bought a house, and she drinks wine at the same vineyards in the hills with the same friends that used to whisper about me in the hallways. None of them follow me on Instagram (you bet I checked), but she does.

I thought about reaching out to her. About reconnecting, writing the wrongs of the past, or something like that. But as I went to click on “Message”, something stirred up inside of me. I think it was anger. I don’t blame her or those girls for my tough time in high school, but they didn’t have to be so blatantly cruel. How could anyone behave like that towards another person? I certainly had moments throughout my teen years that I’m not proud of, but I was never a bully. Being a bully is a choice. Maybe she’s regretting that choice.

This got me to thinking; in a world with social media at the forefront, we can’t really escape the past. Those people that bullied us in high school still exist in the online world, and there’s nothing stopping them from popping up and liking your Instagram photo, sending you into a full revaluation of your high school experience. Unless you block them, I guess. But I’m not really the blocking type.

If I search for the silver lining — which I tend to do — then this little moment of reflection has made me realise just how strong I was, during a period of time where I needed to be. Truthfully, it feels to good to be on this side of things. I don’t have these people in my life anymore, but they’re still observing mine and “liking” it, which although may sound superficial, actually makes me feel pretty damn good.

So, is it fair that because of social media, we often can’t escape the people of our past? I would say that it might not be fair, but if it wasn’t social media, it would be something else. Life has a way of bringing back the past when you need to be reminded of something and to be able to deal with it, learn something and move on, is what growing up looks like.

I’d just like to say that if you were ever bullied in high school, or perhaps, if you’re being bullied right now… that it won’t last forever. All you have to do is get through it and one day, maybe they’ll come across a photo of you on Instagram and be reminded of their cruelty. Or maybe not. The only thing you can control, is you.

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