I feel like I should clarify that I haven’t deleted my actual account. I didn’t want to take that step in case I decide to return to Instagram, but I have deleted the app and haven’t seen an Instagram feed in about a fortnight.
I should probably explain why I made the decision to do this. I began to find that Instagram was just another stop on the rounds of scrolling through apps for whatever psychological reason it is that we do that (it’s certainly not fulfilling). I probably posted once every 3 months on average, and every time I did I would be glued to my phone waiting for ‘enough’ likes to come in so that I wasn’t as concerned about people judging me anymore. I remember when I was about 12 years old being allowed to create a Bebo account. Firstly I want to point out how much more creative and wacky Bebo was than any of the social media sites we have now, in many ways it allowed for a higher level of individualised self expression, but anyway… I think that was the first time I ever felt the panic of not having enough social media likes. On Bebo they were called hearts/ ‘luvs’ and you saw when you clicked on somebody’s profile how many hearts somebody had. I don’t remember how many I had at any given point but I remember clicking on some of the pages of the popular girls at school and seeing that they had hundreds. Actually, I remember at times this would put me into a panic and I think it was the same for almost everybody. People would practically beg each other for hearts and comment things like ‘luv 4 luv’ etc (late 2000’s text language was an abomination) on each other’s profiles to try and up their count.
Now, Bebo is long gone but it has been replaced with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The reason I decided to delete Instagram and not either of the other two is because, to me, Twitter and Facebook still have some inherent value that overrides the pressure and anxiety that comes with all social media. Facebook allows me to stay connected with the more obscure people in my life, to have a cheeky look at what people I went to school with are up to and Facebook Messenger is the main way I communicate with my friends on a daily basis. With twitter it’s slightly different, I don’t actually feel too much pressure to get a whole load of likes on my tweets. I also tend to find that there’s a genuine correlation between the content of tweets and how many likes they get. If the tweet’s shit it’ll probably get less than 5 likes regardless of how popular you were in school. The value of twitter to me is information. It’s a useful source of world news, pop culture trends and hashtags have become sort of a staple in the development of a lot of ideological movements.
Instagram, however, does not have any of these redeeming features for me. Personally, Instagram epitomises all of my anxieties with social media. One of my absolute least favourite things about it is that people are congratulated on physical attractiveness (whether it be false under a guise of makeup/filters/edits or genuine) as if it’s some kind of achievement. If somebody looks especially nice they “deserve” more likes. This is a mentality that many of us have without even realising, because when you actually think about it it’s completely MENTAL! Nobody EARNED the way they look. Angelina Jolie didn’t excel in some obstacle course before she was born that granted her the gift of good looks just in the same way that a baby with a deformity didn’t do anything bad to deserve it either. I’ve heard some of my friends say things like “if they look especially nice I’ll give it a like” and to be honest I’ve grown tired of the shallowness… I’ve also found Instagram to be a bit of a breeding ground for fakeness. We like other people’s content just to receive likes or portray ourselves in a positive light (kind of like the hearts on Bebo). The chances are people have only liked your picture in the hope that you will in turn like their next one. It’s not genuine and they probably didn’t spend more than three seconds looking at it, and what’s worse? You don’t care. You don’t care that it’s disingenuous as long as the numbers are there for everyone to see when they scroll past you looking for their own posts to fixate on. Really, what’s the point?
Lastly, but DEFINITELY not least, is the body image aspect of Instagram. The majority of pictures people post are edited at least in some way. You’re not looking at the face of your best friend sitting across the sofa from you each day, you’re looking at a construct. It’s easy to spot this with people you spend a lot of time with, but where it gets dangerous is when you begin to compare yourself to celebrities and acquaintances that you don’t see in person. You don’t have the reality to balance out the edited version and that’s when insecurities start to fester. I know girls that spend hours and hours a day just scrolling through images of toned girls in bikinis, this isn’t healthy.
I ended up finding that scrolling on Instagram was causing me more upset than any kind of rewarding sensation it was supposed to give me. I probably only spent about fifteen minutes a day (on average) on Instagram, but in those fifteen minutes I could go from feeling totally fine to feeling worse about myself, even if it was just a tiny amount. I’ve decided that, for now, it’s just not worth it for me. I’ve already had messages from anxious friends asking me to like their latest post and it’s only a reminder that social media can be a truly insidious way to make an enemy out of yourself and to commodify your friendships. Even though I’ve only deleted Instagram, it’s one less thing to worry about. One less thing to squander my time scrolling through.
Until next time,