It's Not You, Instagram. It's me.
Instagram was the last social media platform standing on my phone, and last week, it got the chopper, too. I’ve been struggling with some feelings of anxiousness lately, and I wondered if social media might be having an effect on my attitude. I took Facebook and Twitter off of my phone weeks ago, and I didn’t really miss either one of them, other than habitually reaching for my phone when I didn’t need to. (Still doing that. I’m trying to reach for a book instead. It’s hard.) I still check Facebook and Twitter on occasion, though I’ve been checking Twitter less because Lin-Manuel Miranda has been on vacation. (I’m saying that seriously.)
I kept instagram on my phone because I love the platform. I love scrolling through pictures. Instagram Stories are funny. People are positive and creative and interesting on Instagram, and I enjoy the simplicity of the layout without being overwhelmed by ads. And Instagram is a social platform made for the smartphone, the laptop version isn’t nearly as seamless to use. Overall, I love the Instagram platform — until I hate it.
Instagram is the place where we show our best staged moments of life. It’s a platform where I feel like everyone is displaying their own pies for a county fair, making sure they look good for the judges. The contestants put in the finest ingredients and work on presentation and staging. The pies look beautiful — all lined up in a row, atop long, long tables of red-checkered gingham.
But county fairs are only once a year — one big celebration of a year’s work on a farm — and Instagram is every. single. day. Having to show my best all the time is exhausting, but not only that, I become tired just looking at everyone else’s best in show, too.
Mostly, I struggle with Instagram because I don’t want to show off my own pie. I want to take a slice of Karen’s pie, where she shows her beautifully decorated home, and a slice of Linda’s pie, where she perfectly captures the wonder of childhood, and Larry’s pie, who has an amazingly photogenic dog. I want a slice of Rose’s pie, who has a brilliant writing career and Tammy’s pie, who is an amazing hand lettering artist, and Chloe’s pie, who works out every morning and posts the results. I want a slice of social-justice Tina and poet Tim. I want celebrity Mandy’s wardrobe and comedian Robin’s humor.
Instead of baking my own pie, eating it, enjoying it, and loving my life because pie, I compare my whole pie with one sliver of everyone else’s multiple, individual pies on Instagram, and I somehow become jealous of a Frankenpie of My Own Imagination™.
No one has a Frankenpie. It’s impossible.
This is no one’s fault but my own. Realistically, I know that I can’t have a staged home ready for Southern Living, delightfully color-coordinated children, flawless skin, a gourmet meal every time I’m hungry, a hand- lettering business, a writing career, 8 million followers, and a brilliant dog.
No one’s life looks like that, even the people who make it seem like their lives look like that - and realistically, I know that. Of course I know that. I’ve been in other people’s homes. I talk to other people, and when I talk to other people, I know we don’t have all of our lives together.
But the barrage of pictures and stories and captions make our brains think otherwise. So, what steps have I taken to jettison the Frankenpie of My Own Imagination™?
I took Instagram off of my phone. I still have an account, just like I still have a Facebook and Twitter account. I will check those things when I’m on my laptop for now. I’m reaching for a book more than I’m reaching for a scroll through social media.
I’ve also noticed that I text more with my real friends, which is where we can be more honest about the entirety of our lives, rather than the one fancy moment of the day. I like the real parts better anyway.
I’m not sure if you struggle with these same sorts of feelings, but if you do, I want you to know that you aren’t alone, and you aren’t crazy. Feel free to step away from the Frankenpie.