Until we meet again, Instagram

Photo by: José Moutinho

Photo by: José Moutinho

Social media is not something anyone can easily escape. We try and try and try, but let’s be honest. It’s frikkin’ hard to resist the urge to connect virtually. So, instead of shunning the grid, I decided to be more discerning and minimize the effects that trolling (yes, trolling) the Internet has had on my psyche.

I have always favored Facebook because I usually find breaking news stories there, links to stories and videos that are inspiring, silly, informative, nonsensical, gut-wrenching, enlightening, and even enraging. Yes, I could find the same stuff on Twitter, but it’s too fast for me – three tweets per millisecond is too much for my poor, overstimulated brain to handle. In order to keep up, I’d have to check Twitter every hour. I could do that, but I have a life that needs tending to, so… With Facebook, I could sort the stuff I wanted to see, hide posts from people that ignited some sort of negative reaction in me, and pretty much control the information I got and churned out.

Then came Instagram.

Oh, that magical application that turns us all into our very own version of Steve McCurry and Michael Moore. We’re all photographers and documentarians here. It’s an enchanting medium that allows us to publish images from our daily lives for our followers to see and, hopefully, like. I was hooked.

No, I didn’t take and release too many photos of myself and whatever it was I did with my time. I had nothing to promote and was never very good at promoting anything about me, anyway. Food shots were out because who would want to see images of what I ate? I haven’t travelled in a while and I live in a traffic-ridden metropolis, so no scenic nature shots from me, either. If I weren’t so lazy I could’ve found stuff to document, like my erstwhile ant problem, or the kittens I rescued, but, why think of something to shoot when you can simply scroll down? So, I became a watcher, which was and will always be a more comfortable position for me to be in instead of being the watched.

And so I hopped from one profile to another, just like any friendly neighborhood voyeur. I found inspiring, enlightened people I admired, gushed over cute animal photos and was buoyed by memes about empowerment, yoga, and talk of spirit. There were so many products I wanted to buy, places I dreamed to see, gorgeous women taking selfies of their gorgeous selves with or without that equally gorgeous boyfriend – at the beach or the gym, in a bikini or teeny weeny workout gear – celebrities being celebrities, yogis coming into one-hand handstands, scorpions, and unsupported headstands…

Suddenly, there was so much to covet. That item, face, body, yoga pose, life.

I had never been more discontented. Envy, that monster that eats up whatever good sense you have left, thrives in discontent. Being a watcher of people’s lives, consuming whatever it was they wanted to show, became not just a pastime but a source of sadness and, worse, slight madness. I wanted what everyone else had except what was in front of me. Someone else’s life was better than mine! She’s perfect and so is he! What a beautiful house they live in! She’s got a nice tush! I suck!

Intellectually, I knew that what I was being presented with was a version of the truth, because who wants to post a photo of them chowing down leftovers, being bored out of their minds at home, and a selfie of cellulite or a tear-stained face? Still, my warped mind took everything at face value. Until, one day, I woke up and decided I’ve had it. I wasn’t going to be a slave to this mind, this curiosity, this need to compare. If I’m to make greater strides at living the life I deserve, I’d better start loving everything about me and this one precious life I’d been given. Enough with the comparisons and wallowing in unrealized dreams. I did the unthinkable and deleted the Instagram app from all of my devices. My account is still active but has not been updated. You could argue that one should quit social media altogether, but I feel I’m better at handling words than images. I can decipher BS from truth a lot faster on Facebook and Twitter, but not Instagram. There’s something about imagery that makes illusions real and reality illusory. Lines can be so easily blurred when a picture is involved. A photo somehow makes even the unreal valid. Isn’t that why Photoshop is so maligned and yet essential to the creation of an image?

As any communications tool, Instagram can be a force for good. It is and was meant to be a showcase for creativity and talent. It can’t be denied, though, that it has become a drug of sorts for people who ache to be admired and loved, and those who hate their lives so much they live vicariously through others. It’s awful if you fall under both categories. Good for you if, unlike me, you are able to simply enjoy the images for their aesthetic value and not attach your worth to what you find.

So, it’s goodbye for now, Instagram. Perhaps, one day, I will return. Until then, I will remain oblivious to what you have in there and be okay with what I see and touch around me, pretty or not.

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Note: There is one Instagram profile worth following. @thedailyst chronicles the extraordinary kindness of ordinary folk. Do check it out and stop stalking James Franco.

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