Lilli, 16, faced a different kind of struggle with technology. Once a dedicated ballet dancer, a serious back injury at 13 left her unable to dance—and searching for a new identity. Lilli, who asked that her last name not be used, created a glamorous persona for herself on social media, often snapping selfies with an alcoholic beverage in hand. “The person I was portraying myself to be didn’t really match up with the morals I had had before,” says Lilli.
But Lilli’s posts were a hit, receiving hundreds of likes from friends and classmates. When people encountered Lilli in person, they expected her to be the life of the party. And Lilli felt a rising sense of anxiety as she tried to live up to her online image.
Lilli enrolled in a residential treatment program, Paradigm, in Malibu, California. There she got sober and learned to talk about thoughts and feelings honestly. Since leaving the program, Lilli posts less frequently on social media and tries to present her authentic self. “I have a totally different perspective on social media now,” Lilli says. “I portray myself in an honest way, as the person I am deep down.”