I have a serious question about social media, which is one I’ve had for a long time: if someone posts or shares details/photos about themselves or their lives that are either unflattering, tasteless or just plain dumb – is it acceptable to judge them on it?
Last year I decided to get rid of Facebook, since being on it was a time drain and adding on to misery during a stressful time. I had come to the realization that I didn’t particularly like sharing the good or bad about my life online to high school acquaintances or co-workers. I was burnt out on pandemic posts, as well as the political ones regardless of which part of the spectrum the original poster fell on. Having any opinion could be met with pitchforks, and while I never posted anything that could open controversy, I didn’t want to walk on digital eggshells either. So last June I deleted it, told only my immediate family and boyfriend, and haven’t missed it once.
I tried having Twitter on two separate occasions, and after the second time last year, I remembered why I never cared for the platform and got off it the first time. That was a no-brainer deletion.
Instagram is a bit different. I like taking pictures and sharing them of things my boyfriend and I see whenever we go on hikes or to new places – freshly bloomed tulips, the foothills of Appalachia, the Atlantic Ocean from 2019 when we went to Virginia. I make an effort not to follow celebrities, avoid most fitness accounts – seriously, why do fitness influencers have to model themselves after soft porn? – and generally stay away from the goofy topics that don’t interest me.
Last month my app stopped working entirely. I had gotten myself into a habit of logging in and out of Instagram so I wouldn’t have a bunch of notifications blowing up my phone at odd hours, and on a Thursday morning I tried logging back on unsuccessfully. Ok, I figured. Maybe the app is just down for everyone.
So I tried again. And again. And again. And again some more.
Eventually I decided to uninstall the app from my phone entirely. If there was something I felt I needed to post, I could log in on my mobile browser and share it that way.
I’ve been logging on via browser the past month and sharing that way, which worked out fine. However, I started feeling different inside, more aware of something even though I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. I was starting to feel down and numb, the kind of numbness I could have experienced as a kid if I had been stuck in the backseat all day while traveling.
I found myself checking on the same people, most of whom were women I knew briefly in college who were new mothers. One of them is married to my first college infatuation. I stumbled upon her in the feed, and decided to see what’s new with her. She’s now an at-home mom to their baby, and involved in some networking marketing position. What really stood out to me was the captions she wrote.
Previously she worked in the medical field and had to leave her job from pregnancy complications, and since hasn’t gone back to work because of her health and not wanting to bring anything home to her family. She’s written several times about being unemployed, working so hard to get into her old job and then not being able to work, as well as the postpartum adjustments. Frankly, I think she’s dealing with a mild depression and struggling with the shift in her identity from professional to mother. I feel sympathetic for her.
Then I had to ask myself why I kept snooping on this woman. I used to justify it by figuring if wannabe influencers are putting it all out there – and I mean it all: selfies in the middle of an emotional breakdown; pictures of immediately postpartum bodies with rambling, insecure captions; and all the passive-aggressive “I dislike my husband/child(ren) but it’s okay, I’m totally fine and blessed” paragraphs – then they must not be too concerned with a stranger looking and wondering how they’re really doing. After all, nobody can judge what they don’t know about, right?
But then I started to feel like a voyeur, like I probably shouldn’t be seeing or reading that stuff. That was followed by a guilty “ick” feeling.
The other half of my regular snoops were folks lacking self-awareness. One of the women had a photoshoot for a milestone birthday, which on its own is fine – no complaints from me about wanting to dress nice and do something fun for yourself. However, the pictures she uploaded were, well …. all I could think to myself was, Do you not have anyone in your life who’ll pull you aside, ever?
I started to write several paragraphs describing the pictures, but then read them back to myself and felt like there was no way to accurately describe them without sounding like a mean girl. All I’m going to say was that the pictures were not flattering to her at all, and instead of communicating fun, sexy, self-confident woman moving into a new stage of life – she looked like a mix between a gigantic toddler and an adult woman wanting to draw out the youthful coquette stage long past its time. They were in poor taste and ridiculous. Self- unaware is probably the best (and safest) way to describe this.
After seeing those pictures – which were stunning but honestly not a surprise coming from this woman – the unsettled feeling kicked in. The woman was celebrating her 30th birthday. I’m turning 30 at the end of this year.
Back when I turned 28, I was hit with the feeling that I’m not so young anymore. Then when I turned 29 last December, that feeling came back stronger than ever. I’m not calling 30 old or acting like I’m milk about to expire, but I’m definitely feeling the psychological shift of approaching 30.
I’m acutely aware that I’m not inexperienced or naïve like I was in my early to mid-20s. I feel more grounded and I’m better able to not sweat small stuff, but I’m also more aware of myself and the world around me now.
And with that self-awareness came the realization: I have no business being on Instagram anymore.
It had become a time drain and my biggest source of procrastination. Scrolling the lives of happier people wasn’t helping me feel better when I was battling depressive episodes, and I was becoming way too judgmental and petty over crap that I know deep down doesn’t matter in other people’s lives. I could give myself a pass if I were in my late teens or early 20s, but I’m pushing 30. I don’t need to be snarking on questionably photoshoots or even looking at them. I’m too old for that, and I shouldn’t have time for that if I’m doing what I need to in my own life.
So just like I did last year with Facebook, I decided yesterday was the last day on Instagram. I didn’t delete my account, but I did upload a quick post announcing that I’m no longer logging in and uploading pictures there. Then I went back onto my browser, removed any traces of Instagram from my history and have enjoyed the calmness in my home.
From now on, it’s blogging only. Writing makes me feel alive and joyful even when no one else reads what I have to say. And I prefer writing anyways – there’s no pressure to put on makeup and stay selfie ready, or even think about my appearance. Which is for the best for anyone.
If you’ve made it to the end, I appreciate you staying with me. Happy Thursday and show today who’s boss.
Yours in writing,
very well written and honest post on life in social media
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