My nieces have been singing the praises of Instagram for a while now. They both have children of their own and use it to post their beautiful growing families. I have always had a love-hate relationship with social media and any action that involves sharing photos of myself. But these are unusual and strange days so with extra time on my hands I decided I was ready and curious enough to follow the masses and finally join Instagram.
I watched endless YouTube videos for Instagram beginners with my iPhone within reach and followed the instructions for setting up my account. I knew going in that this would be a challenge—not because it’s difficult to learn but because I was not sure that an app emphasizing photo and video sharing would convert someone like me. For context, I loathe selfies, and I am rather private—I don’t even have a Facebook account. Instagram boasts one billion users and claims it’s a great way to keep up with not just your family and friends, but your favorite celebrities or political figures. I mean, really, why read a great book when you spend your time stalking other people’s photos and videos?
But still, I had to know what all the Instagram fuss was all about. I admittedly had no brand, business, or noble cause that I was trying to peddle—unless you count spreading kindness. I decided to just use whatever I could find in my library of limited photos or stock images through the web. Also, because I am a self-proclaimed clip art enthusiast, my edge would be inserting clipart into my photo and tying it in with an appropriate caption or quote.
The Lure of Likes
The thing with Instagram is that it thrives on constant posting and most importantly garnering those critical likes! Before I knew it, I was checking my phone constantly. Did anyone see my post? Did they leave a comment? Or give me the coveted heart emoji? I had to check it, but wait! Did I not just check it five minutes ago? What was happening to me? I began thinking of my next photo and obediently made sure to add new ones daily. I became increasingly mesmerized by all the different glossy content and cute dog videos that popped up regularly.
I spent unknown amounts of time viewing the suggested “people” I could follow. With glazed eyes, I started following everyone from those recommended celebs, to pseudo-reality stars, to whoever I could follow in the hopes they would follow me back. And then I checked my phone for any new activity. Did someone new want to follow me? I would watch the small number of my followers (honestly just my nieces and a few friends) and feel an unsubstantiated sense of discouragement and disappointment over my inability to attract a greater audience. The most disturbing of it all was that I was becoming more and more obsessive about checking my phone.
The Decision to Disconnect
I question my true intentions for joining Instagram in the first place. Was I truly in it to enjoy the process of placing a photo and attaching a borrowed quote? Or was I secretly hoping that my foray into Instagram would catapult me into a maelstrom of social media notoriety? My need to have someone “like” me was turning into self-destruction. After all, my husband adores me, isn't that enough? Apparently, not! I needed some form of instant gratification and validation. I was spending an inordinate amount of time exploring tips for better faking my “Instagram-worthy” persona, all in the hopes that I would feel more engaged in real life. It wasn’t working for me, I was feeling more and more like an imposter, and worse, I still felt so empty afterward. This whole notion of “following” someone and having them “follow” me back was reminding me of when I was in grade school and hoping that I would be able to collect as many cards as I gave out on Valentine's Day. This experience was leaving me feeling anxious and suddenly fearful that I wasn't being “liked” by the popular kids. That’s when I knew I had to disconnect.
Do I think this Instagram craze merits any value? I sincerely do, as it serves a worthy purpose for those who enjoy having something to share, sell, or promote. It’s wonderful for anyone with a blog or brand and is essential for organizations in order to connect with their fan base and get their word out.
Although there are ways to have a healthy relationship with social media, It’s just not the right fit for me. In the meantime, I removed my account, and I am learning to wean myself off the pressure of feeling the need to post anything except a smile on my actual real face. My next endeavor will be to see how I can better volunteer my services, learn a new language, or simply take my time nurturing existing friendships. I’m looking forward to investing in genuine experiences and making authentic connections.