It’s quite trendy to write about the ‘gram these days; trendy, but also unbearably uncool. Once again I must surrender to never being cool. Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the app and it’s been giving me a lot of feelings. Feelings that I’ve been parsing out and putting into place.
One of the reasons for my significant Instagram usage is that I don’t have Facebook. IG is the only social media I’m active on. Since I moved to a different time zone, the easiest way for me to literally keep an eye on my friends and be aware of what they were doing is to scroll through my feed. I am grateful for this. Grateful that this thing that someone else invented and doesn’t charge me anything to use, that is so simple and straightforward, allows me to stay in contact with, and share my work with, so many people. So thank you. Instagram.
But still, I’ve got feelings.
Like most people, Instagram makes me feel lonely.
I could say that I feel lonely because everyone I care about exists elsewhere. Spending time together, attending events and other nifty things that I can’t go to because I moved. And, thanks to the ‘gram I can watch these events take place, in real time from a variety of perspectives, whilst I lay alone on my bed. However, I’m not convinced that this is the case, that this is why I feel lonely. When I really think about it, I know I’m happier now than before, that I made the right decision in changing cities and getting a fresh start, and that I likely wouldn’t go to these things even if I were able.
But still, Instagram makes me feel lonely. It gives this illusion of connection, of being social, of interacting with each other, it is a social media, yet when it’s broken down, posting a picture and liking a picture isn’t very relational. There’s no conversation, no call and response, no exchange of ideas. It’s as if we’re all on our own little pedestals and shouting into the darkness. We never really engage. Sure, the content I post may inspire you to do something or think something, and if we’re lucky you’ll have the pluck to comment and I’ll have the humility to respond. Or alternatively, we can attempt a genuine conversation through the DMs. But really, that’s going beyond the basic setup that IG provides, the basic scroll and feed, the basic isolation we’ve all grown accustomed to.
On that note, Instagram makes me feel shitty about myself.
Our Insta profiles are a self-produced, self-curated collection of images about ourselves. Online manifestations of a self-constructed image, all of the things that we like, or do, or think we like or do, or people we want to be associated with, or the people we want others to associate us with, are piled up into this one place.
Our profiles can be considered extensions of our ego, in the sense that the ego is the little voice inside our heads; its running narrative holding onto our idea of ourselves, our histories and lived experience. I know egos. They can be helpful - despite the fact that being egotistical has a bad rap. Having the knowledge of who you are, your interests, boundaries and needs makes the world a bit easier to navigate, such as enabling you to stand up to mistreatment or chase down an opportunity. Egos can be an asset to our lives, but rarely are they the best part of ourselves.
This interior idea of self is fragile and defensive. On some level, we believe that this pile of ideas and narrative - in our heads and online - is us. That it forms the core of our identity. With Instagram being a projection of our identity, of our self-defined self, it’s hard not to take the outside world’s response to our content and our profiles personally.