The title of this book comes from a teenage diary entry of mine which lists “beautiful moments from my simple, sweet life thus far.” This kind of strange, self-aware naiveté so perfectly describes the experience of coming of age as a young woman in the 2010s. This book describes this sometimes glorious, sometimes agonizing experience, with special attention to how technology and female friendships inform one another to create a simultaneously individual and collective “teenage girl” identity. I’m interested in the related ideas of friendship, sexualization, and beauty, along with the ways in which constant surveillance (in the form of social media) has come to describe those concepts- all in relation to a feminine coming of age experience.
The images in this book are sourced from my personal archives; they were all created between the ages of 12 and 18. Some of these are sourced from my teenage Instagram. Before I deleted this Instagram account, I requested all the data; in return, I was sent every photo I ever uploaded or sent in a direct message. I had no memory of most of them. I find it intriguing how, in this way, Instagram has a more thorough memory of those years than I do. What does it mean when technology remembers things that we do not? As young girls, we tried to emulate what we thought a teenage girl should be, cultivating personas built around what we saw online- but what we saw online was cultivated by an algorithm, presenting its own interpretation of what a teenage girl should be. How different could we have been? How much of our lives have been determined by social media, both through algorithmic content and through the creation of a virtual social hierarchy?
Another theme I am highly concerned with is the unsteady transition from little girl to young woman. We always seemed to be awaiting the next of life’s checkpoints. These perceived checkpoints are not only arbitrary but ultimately nonexistent, as the journey from girl to woman is much more complex and nonlinear. As a result, we very often pushed aside the last of childhood whimsy in favor of feeling older. I’m interested in moments where this perceived line between child and adult was blurred, and why we felt the impulse to blur it at all.
I sought to explore all these questions in what became a semi-chronological monument to teenage girlhood, a celebration of the young women I grew up with, and a memorial to our childhoods.