I took myself off Instagram over a month ago now. I delayed telling anyone about it to ensure I stuck it out (so weak is my resolve!) and am proud to say, that this time, minus the odd snoop on a couple of accounts, I have. And it’s been interesting.
But why quit?! I hear you cry. First a little history and some context.
My love of Instagram began pretty much as soon as I got an iPhone. As a creative type, naturally interested in ‘arty’ things I started an account with no real intent other than artistic experimentation. I took the types of pictures I usually would on my camera or phone, but I could edit them! And that was all I wanted from the app – an intuitive way to change up the look of my photos, the fact that they were then shared with my followers didn’t matter to me, yet.
It was when the app’s audience, and my followers, grew that I started to think about the pictures I was sharing. Instagram had stopped just being a way for me to edit photos and became a new mode of online communication and self-expression. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long until I felt judged by what I posted and started to judge others by their posts. Despite my followers mainly comprising of people I knew, I felt pressure to be perceived in a certain way and have my account fit that desired perception. This was undoubtably a desire fed by the accounts I followed, the majority comprising of women living lifestyles I envied. My big three jealousy causers? @Gypsyone @yoga_girl and (the now mega famous) @essenaoneill. It’s easy to see why I, or anyone else, might envy any of these gorgeous, successful, globe trotting women. I know the images these and many of the app’s 400 million users share aren’t representative of ‘real lives’, we’ve all heard Instagram likened to a ‘highlights reel’, and the hard work people put in to their lives, careers, bodies etc. goes largely undocumented, but, regardless of that knowledge, is using Instagram in this way helpful, constructive or a good use of my time..? Hmm.
Despite having zilch Instagram ‘success’, I understood Essena O’Neil’s decision to hi-jack the app, deleting or recaptioning her photos with the unseen ‘truth’ behind each image, causing a media frenzy late last year. I also understood the backlash she received, most notably from Social Media CEO Zack James who said ‘Social Media isn’t a lie, you were the lie.’ It is not Instagram or Facebook or any other platform that are fake, but the way we might choose, or might be led, to use them. Personally, I felt the need to share a more interesting, happier, stylish, healthier and ultimately fake life. And this falseness left me feeling discontent with my actual life. No matter what the filter, that’s ugly stuff. We, as users, must be mindful of how we use social media and that responsibility lies with the individual, not the application. Which brings me nicely to my next point…
I am not judging your use of instagram, or social media, I am sharing my opinion and doing what I am most comfortable with after careful consideration and reflection. If you share 20 selfies a day on Instagram, have thousands of followers, spend half your life scrolling and this makes you happy, then great – I’m happy for you. But I found it to be a tool of self destruction, another space where I could compare myself to others and feel lacking. Without Instagram I feel I am able to look at my life through my own lens, without the seemingly perfect lives of others clouding my vision. What I’ve also gained is time to do things like read and write and blog and consider what I want from my life (and it’s only been a month!) Now I am not saying I will never, ever go back to Instagram, but for the time being its one less thing to worry about, one less infringement on my creativity and, more importantly, my self esteem.