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I’ve taken a pretty big break from Instagram.
Between finding more interesting and meaningful interactions on Twitter and getting the blog going, I just hadn’t had much drive to go on and look (or post) on Instagram. Which is probably a good thing for me.
I used to really like Instagram, but, it’s gotten a bit ridiculous
Instagram had been my preferred social media platform from about 2011-2017. I’ve watched it grow from a lot of arty photos to what feels like one giant advertisement and a spin off of Youtube. People I follow who used to just post real life photos of them in some cool vintage clothes now have carefully curated feeds that make them look like they are living on the set of Madmen.
People who I followed because they were raising chickens and doing some gardening now have photos with the perfect sunny sunshine lighting and a little bit of “fuzzyness.” Their barefoot children are wearing hand dyed with avocado and turmeric organic cotton t-shirts and wearing mini Birkenstocks and Dr. Martens. They seem to have time to be “homesteaders” complete with farm animals like goats and said chickens, dogs and maybe even honeybees… but they also have the time and funds to travel to Europe and India and Thailand.
And despite spending tons of time curating a life for Instagram, they have tons of happy friends and family. And all the friends and family cook (well), and only in cast iron. Their houses are a perfect mixture of whimsy. Not too dirty, not too clean, with plants thriving indoors. Their homes have perfect lighting throughout, especially in the kitchen, so everything always looks beautiful.
Their babies, nearly all born through perfect, beautiful home births with candles and doulas, or maybe at birthing centers. They have only the perfect neutral natural tones in all organic supplies. They sleep in handwoven ($300) moses baskets. They wear cloth diapers. When those babies get older, they are homeschooled in beautiful home school rooms with dedicated libraries by stay at home parents.
Ok- maybe this is just an odd section of Instagram that I’ve followed my way in to
But it wasn’t always this way. The people were more real and normal (though with their own unique aspects). And there are other types that I follow. Such as the shoe collectors who have these crazy extensive wardrobes, but they live in like 400 sf apartments. Where does all that stuff go? I have a hard enough time with my not so special wardrobe and making it all fit. What do their lives look like off camera? Is their apartment such a mess of stuff that they have an anxiety attack looking at it and have to spend all their time out of the house?
Clearly, I can see why Instagram has become the place for “brand influencers” and “brand ambassadors.”
My husband says it just a streak of jealous envy and I need to get over it. There may be some truth to that. But I think it’s more just a recognition that a lot of it is fake, setup, and even knowing that it still effects me.
Having taken a bit of a break from Instagram and going back to check it out a bit, it was clear to me that my contentedness was reduced after a session of scrolling.
Day to day, I am pretty content with my life. I am often taken aback with how good things really are. I amazed at what we’ve been able to build in a relatively short time and with a relatively small budget. My child is happy and healthy and pretty amazing with a great stay at home dad. We have a pretty low stress homelife.
Realistically- now let me say that again, realistically- there’s not much more I could or should ask for.
Yet, after an hour on Instagram I feel myself wanting to get out and travel more (ok, ANY, since we aren’t right now). I want a hipper wardrobe. I really want that tattoo I still haven’t quite settled on the idea for, but I want the tattoo! I feel like I need to start cooking more exciting things. I wonder what kind of vintage clothes I can find for my kid on Ebay. And the list goes on.
These are all kind of background thoughts. I just realize they are there as I go about my day. Instagram has both subtley increased my desire to consume and made me less content with what I have.
I even noticed, after just talking about how happy I was with my low key Mother’s Day, that I thought, maybe my family could have celebrated me a little bit more (even while being frugal).
Are the connections real?
I suppose it would be one thing if I had ever actually made a “friend” off Instagram as some say they have. What’s funny is, the people who seem to be making friends are making friends with other heavy users, dare I call them “influencers.” I wonder how many non-sponsored users are making lifelong friends through Instagram.
After years of being on Instagram and seeing that the real connection part never really came to fruition I have backed off posting. Add to that a child who has no choice in what image of himself is presented, and I’ve really, really slowed down.
Being a mother is the biggest aspect of my life right now and they greatest source of pride I want to share. But, I don’t think that’s really fair to my child. Between my desire to not impact myself professionally as well as the want of privacy for my family, I’ve always chosen to stay relatively anonymous and not focus on my “whole life” on my Instagram feed. I’m sure that’s what others do too and why, in part, things end up so oddly focused without being a representation of real life.
Are my real relationships any better for it?
What about REAL friends? I do follow a few on Instagram (and them me). But even with those I know and care about, I’ve realized I find that it decreases my level of contentment with my real relationships. I have found myself somewhat annoyed at times to find out about something going on in a friends life via Instagram.
Call me crazy, but, I guess in this case I don’t want to be part of an “audience” to the lives of my friends. There is some abnormal psychology at work here, but, I want to find out about things from them, not at the same time as however many other hundreds or thousands who follow and don’t know them. Like my “real friend” status should get me early access information before the rest of the internet or something.
In all seriousness, I don’t know what it is that bothers me about watching my friends lives unfold online, but I do think it diminishes the quality of the relationships. It can be really hard to keep up with demands of your own adult life and stay in touch with friends. I know that if I only talked to someone every 3 or 6 months and then found out about whatever cool thing they had been doing I would be excited for them and I would want to know more.
But when I already know about something that happened because I saw it online, it leads to this odd place. Do they assume I already know so they don’t mention it? Do I assume they assume I know so I don’t mention it either? Do we both feel weird for talking about something we both already know about? What if I missed it altogether and they never mention it because it was posted online? It really makes things confusing.
At this point, I would rather just not know what is going on in the lives of my friends unless I am going to hear about it from their own mouth (or fingers, in a text or email). That might mean that some friendships fade. But that is how things are supposed to be isn’t it? We’re not supposed to stay friends with everyone forever.
I’ve already limited my Facebook use
The same factors apply to why I have largely tried to remove myself from Facebook. I felt it diminished the quality of relationships with friends and family. It made it feel like a relationship was there when it wasn’t. It kept me in touch with people who I otherwise would have lost contact with. Sometimes that is a bad thing. There are some people I do want to stay in touch with. But as life goes on and I’m busy being a parent I’m really trying to pare down to relationships that matter.
In a really pathetic story, I’ don’t even speak to a group of family anymore over something on Facebook. Story goes, I was annoyed that I never spoke to said family in person but they got to see everything I was doing on Facebook. I thought, maybe they don’t feel the need to get in touch because they can see it all already. So I “unfriended” them. Months later we moved away to a new state. They were well aware we were moving through other family. My take on it during a move was, I’M BUSY, if you want to get in touch with me please do, but I’m not going to track down every last person to say goodbye (especially since we don’t really talk). Fast forward to maybe 9 months after we moved. I became aware somehow that they were vacationing very close to us, so I sent a text inquiring about visiting, and got told “well you unfriended us on facebook, so we thought you didn’t want anything to do with us.” Since I’ve long decided that you can’t reason with unreasonable people, I haven’t talked to them since.
I’ve got plenty else to say about Facebook (which I AM still on, but I try to keep it minimal), but this post is too long already!
Quality over quantity
That’s what it boils down to regarding real life relationships and social media, quality. There are only a handful of my personal relationships that have really been improved in any way because of Facebook. For the most part, it was just added mental energy thinking about people I wouldn’t have otherwise. And like the Black Mirror (Netflix) episode “Nosedive” I just can’t/won’t keep up with the “strokes” (units of attention that provide stimulation to an individual) necessary to keep some people I know happy with me on social media.
What’s the take home message here?
Ultimately, it’s to practice self awareness. For one, take breaks from whatever social media you use from time to time. Hopefully these can be breaks that just kind of come up, not ones you have to force on yourself. You can find tons of articles if you go searching about the benefits of social media and tech hiatuses.
Like any habit, the longer you do it (or don’t) the easier it gets. When you do go back to it, think about how you feel while involved/after. Do you feel any better? Are you more stressed? Were the things you were missing out on really that important? What were you doing with the time while you were on a break? Practice that self awareness. It’s much easier to do if you can take a break and contrast yourself with/without the stimuli.
Then, decide what’s best for you. That’s really the point isn’t it? Less stress. More contentment. Better relationships with those who matter to you.