Lately I've been having a bit of tumultuous relationship with social media and the unnecessary anxieties it brings into my life. This is primarily directed at Instagram, but can apply to other platforms that are equally addictive and emotionally consequential. I've had Instagram since 2014, close to the time it was first introduced, and it was initially a very interesting experience. It tightroped the line between Facebook and Twitter, both of which hadn't realized yet the desire from users across the world to watch a person's life unfold every day, right before their eyes. One platform was designed to connect with friends, the other for sharing thoughts. Instagram was the first time we could all focus entirely on ourselves and our journeys, improving our photography skills in the process.
At first, the thought of sharing your pictures, not only with friends and family, but with anyone who could find them was exhilarating. What would they think? How many likes did I get since posting? Which filter should I use??? The trouble started, in my opinion, when Instagram became a job for many. The spontaneous snapping of a bar patio during summer or the infamous beach "hot dog or legs" picture were replaced by well-prepared, perfectly lighted, completely edited photos of someone's breakfast. Don't get me wrong, Instagram has been a fantastic tool for photographers and other creatives to showcase their art, but rather than an appreciation for them grew a sense of competition by those living normal lives or writing on blogs.
I appreciate photo composition as much as the next person, but where has the real stuff gone? Is it all just flowers in green bottles, poses against a decorative wall, and elaborate flat lays? I follow a fair amount of people that don't subscribe to this way of using Instagram, and yet I still feel the need to forcefully keep up a certain image on the platform. I stress when I don't have content to post and actually feel my self-worth drop alongside my follower count. Our idea of acceptance seems to now come from a scrolling white screen rather than those around us and it's a devastating thought.
While I genuinely enjoy sharing pictures, experimenting with photo styles, and showcasing my work, I've also considered disabling my profile and that thought gives me more anxiety than it should. I feel a sense of loss, as though I'll be missing out on a world that is so glamorous yet toxic at the same time. But I also recognize that this might just be the way I've treated Instagram and might not be the experience for others. My life at times has begun to feel invalid because of the reception of it on Instagram, as though I'm not living life the right way. Much like a blog, I see it as a public journal of moments and experiences I want to share without the worry about whether or not they are aesthetically pleasing to others or worthy of their follow. I've had to re-evaluate my relationship to the online world the last few months because of how negatively it has been impacting me and the way I live my life and I'm not quite sure how to go about repairing it just yet. On the one hand, I am so grateful for the opportunities these platforms have afforded creators like me, but on the other, I hate how we have to compromise what we do just to be "search engine friendly" or clickable.
I'd love to know what your thoughts are on the topic and weather you feel like you've fallen into a dark hole with Instagram. Have you disabled your account or considered it? How do you experience life while also worrying about your follower count?