(By the time I finish writing this article, I will have un-followed my ex on Instagram. There, I said it. It’s got to happen, now. I want it to happen — I’m ready for it to happen.)
I guess the beauty of social media is that it connects us — with friends, with family, with long-distance lovers and, more often than not, with complete strangers. It’s the DIY glue that holds the ever-so-fickle fabric of our new-age society together. It indulges us the instant polaroids of a traveling sibling, access to breaking news in the click of a hashtag; the ability to discover art, make art, and share our art with the world.
The ugliness of social media, however, lies in this same connectedness; the way it prevents our moving on emotionally, the way it creates such a constant presence through burning absence. It essentially allows us to carry around a categorized list of our failed relationships; always there, in our pockets – forever accessible in the glorious, modern-day convenience of a smart-phone app.
That’s a decent 112MB of personal history; 50MB of which — give or take — is your ex’s timeline. That’s a few too many Emotional Mega Bites – they’re weighing you down, dragging your every, misguided footstep. I know you don’t want to hear it – but it’s time for a personal software update. It’s time to free up some life-data.
It’s time to hit “unfollow”.
Facebook isn’t so hard; after all, you can just block them from ever appearing in your timeline. They’d never know, and you’d never have to see them again. It’s passive aggressive, sure, but it works. But Instagram is a different beast.
I suspect it wouldn’t be such an issue if Instagram actually showcased the truth; if it showed your ex vomiting over a toilet seat or lying, bloated, in the feverish grip of a hangover. If it showed them picking their nose, waiting at bus-stops, chugging beers and chain-smoking through chapped lips just because they’re bored. But it doesn’t. It shows them with their new haircut; the one you always said they should get – the one that brings out the smile in their eyes and crinkle in their brow. It shows that new lover of theirs, too; the way they hold each other in the same, easy way you once did, glowing in the warm-hued afternoon sun/Valencia filter. It shows you their long days by the ocean, it shows you their sugar-rimmed cocktail glasses, it shows you the way they’re looking good, the way they’re doing well, the way they’ve moved on.
And you don’t need it — you don’t need to know; their presence is stunting your timeline, diverting your path.
I think un-following your ex on Instagram is so difficult because you’re essentially severing the one remaining tie that holds the two of you together. It’s ripping off that gross, proverbial bandaid; acknowledging that your once-deep emotional wound has, with time, healed over, leaving nothing but a dirty, rectangular sheet of fabric hanging from your otherwise sturdy skin. I know, you’ve grown attached to it — we tend to do that with proverbs.
So here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to start by thinking about the way that it feels. Think about those mornings when you wake up, foggy-eyed and yawning; just to see their beaming, sun-kissed face emerge from the digital abyss with 42 likes and 3 emoji-infested comments. Think about that perpetual, nagging temptation; the one that usually arrives three margaritas into a Sex & The City marathon — the one that compels you to type the first three letters of their name into the “explore” bar. Think about the way your phone knows exactly what you’re doing, how it types the rest in for you; how they’re always just one click away.
Let the endless, minuscule pixels of their presence fill you to the brim and overflow; focus on the business of it all, let the weight of it press you down, let it become agitating, annoying – suffocating. Open Instagram, click on his profile – breathe.
Now stare at that little, green, rectangular box – the one that says “following.” Zone in on it, allow each letter to consume you; all the positivity that the color green connotes. Fill yourself with the dewy leaves of a tree in spring, the unassuming song of a passing bird, the freshly mowed lawn you once lay on so peacefully. Fill yourself with champagne picnics by the beach, with the roaring laughter and with the crashing waves. The hands held tight, the bated breath before a kiss.
Imagine your ex immersed in all that greenery, all that beauty – but with someone else. Imagine all the moments to come; the ones you so wish you were part of, the ones you’d die to live over once more — but can’t. Let the pain sweep through you, accept it, identify it for what it is — embrace it.
Now, quickly grab a pair of earphones. Grab them and blast your favorite song; blast it so loud that you can barely hear yourself think, barely hear yourself breathe – can barely notice the monumental thudding of your heavy “no data remaining” heart. It’s tired. You’re tired. It’s time.
Move your finger towards the screen, towards the greenery; let it hover. Take a breath.
Watch it turn blue; so immediately, so gracefully, without sound or occasion. Stare at it, dive into an ocean of it. Think back to the last time that very same button was blue; back when you were bursting with youthful optimism, with unbridled anticipation – when your pulse was racing a-mile-a-minute from all the safety of your bedroom walls.
Remember that feeling – hold onto it. Wrap it up and slip it in your pocket. Cherish it. It’ll come again – it always does; usually when you least expect it.
At least now you’ll have the life-data to, once again, hit “follow”. This time, with somebody new, with new photos and filters and now, even better memories.
(PS. I did it.)