I disabled my Instagram account today. I can reable it whenever I desire. But I’m going to stay off it for two months. This year thing is a long time. So, I’m denying myself things in smaller chunks of time.
I have been flirting with the idea of leaving Instagram for awhile. I go into settings and stare at the disable button, but have never had the courage to pull the trigger.
And I like Instagram, don’t get me wrong. I also love shopping. But I think there is a tipping point. Scratch that, I know there is a tipping point and as a society we have tipped way over the point.
To quote the playwright Howard Korder, “Just because it happened to you doesn’t mean it’s interesting.” But we seem to believe the exact opposite of this. We have grown to believe that everything from our morning green juice to our airline tickets is worth recording and sharing.
If you are a brand or selling something Instagram is a great tool. It has worked well for me when I’m selling a book. I have talented friends like my friend the jeweler @MarlaAaron who basically built a big business through her Instagram feed. But for many the posting and the consumption simply becomes lifestyle porn. Especially this time of year. If I see one more person sitting in Santorini or dancing in Ibiza I will scream or delete my account. Wait, I just did that.
I’m not jealous. I travel plenty and I’m sure people have looked at posts of mine in various places and wanted to throw up. I know they have because they wrote and told me so. But some people have also liked them. Sometimes not enough. Measuring our self-worth by how many ‘likes” we get on doctored photos of a sunset in Turks and Caicos is not a healthy way to live.
And sharing the highlights of life is a lovely thing, I suppose. But Instagram is a very one-sided portrayal that leaves many people feeling like life is one big party that they have not been invited to.
In fact, I have been hurt by seeing parties that friends have had and not invited me to. No one ever said I was mature.
But I think a big part of our over consumption of merch is a first cousin to our not feeling like we are enough. And I think between those two is a direct link to over sharing and more importantly, only sharing the good.
There is a wonderful quote in Dani Shapiro’s new book Hourglass where she says, “No one ever Instagrams their bank statements or the tuition bills.” Pardon me, Dani, if I didn’t get that exactly right. But I can’t get to my Instagram account to see what it is, as when I read it I immediately posted in on my Instagram.
But she is so spot on.
Instagram is a lot of look at my new handbag, Don’t I look hot in these jeans? Here I am having a glass of wine peaking over my Gucci glasses, holding hands with this hot guy. There is not I can’t afford the bag or I’m feeling guilty post to somehow buffer people’s response. As that is not the response people want. They want to say, see my life is better than it is and maybe it’s better than yours.
Which immediately leads people to think if I bought those Gucci glasses I get to sit in Santorini with a hot guy drinking rosé. Not a new principle – Don Draper 101.
Madison Avenue has been doing it for decades. But it was not a 24/7 affair. It was in magazines you got once a month. It was on TV which only had four main channels. A TV that allowed you to watch shows one at a time and not binge them.
There was not a tsunami of everyone projecting their idealized, filtered selves to make them feel better and often make others feel worse.
I’m not saying that is everyone all the time. I’m not saying the basic motivation behind posting endless photos of ourselves doing mundane and interesting things is a malevolent act. But it has a flaunting passive – aggressive tone to it much of the time.
I read an article the other day called ” The Ten Most Instagramble Locations.” It’s become a verb, and a way to choose where you want to vacation. If it’s not Instagramable is it not worth seeing?
There are restaurants that are putting selfie backgrounds in the booths to attract customers. Alvin Toffler is surely laughing in his grave. And if you don’t get the reference you are too young or spending too much time on Instagram.
But we are breeding a culture of narcissists that is extraordinary in its breadth. I have had to unfollow people I liked because they posted too many photos of themselves all day.
We all do it. My daughter just came in and reminded me of all the obnoxious things I have posted. I told her it does not bring out the best in people, me included. Which is why I want to spend some time away from it.
Nobody’s life is perfection and to portray it as such is distancing. Friends used to sit down and catch up and talk about the good and the bad. You walked away feeling like you connected on a real level. You knew the whole person, not just the part they wanted you to know. And you didn’t know every detail about people who you’d never met who seem to have everything you ever wanted.
People used to talk on the phone, they used to write postcards from holidays. Now everyone sees each other through meticulously staged snapshots, with well thought out captions.
I have friends where all our interactions are on Instagram or Facebook. That is not relationship. It’s a soundbite of a connection and ultimately not very satisfying.
And we end up buying things we don’t need because after scrolling through our feeds we have engorged on so many people’s belongings and well filtered lives we feel we too deserve a helping of what they are having.
Proceed to purchase please.
My husband, who we mercilessly tease about still being on a Blackberry and having absolutely no social media presence asks me every night while I do my before bed Instagram stroll, “What can possibly be so interesting?” I say, “You’d be amazed.” He retorts sarcastically, “I would” and returns to his book.
He just may turn out to be right.
To be cont…