Instagram: the love-hate relationship that won’t quit.
March 8th, 2013 — the beginning of my longest-standing love-hate relationship, in other words, the first time I posted on Instagram. Now over a decade later, what have I got to show for it? I have a virtual photo album that stands as evidence of how much I’ve changed (and not changed). I have taken cheersing boomerangs and I have stopped. I have a repository for documenting many of the good things that have happened to me (my engagement, bread, friendships) and sometimes some of the bad (death, heartbreak, loneliness). I have archived photos I was once proud of. I have seen many great memes and many bad ones. I have been fed a steady stream of innumerable cute videos. I have learned how to contour my face. I have learned my face needs to be contoured. I have used exclusively white borders and then I have stopped. I have refined my own taste by witnessing others’. I have felt white-hot envy. I have felt guilt. I have felt a sense of community. I have cringed. I have hated and loved myself. I have learned vocabulary on millennial pink infographics to both love and hate myself with.
Since the inception of the Stories functionality, I have posted fairly regularly and this has fostered many conversations, and I have enjoyed this fleeting diary pretty much every day. I have also used Stories to flirt, to subtweet, to seek approval, to pretend I don’t want it, to prove to myself I’m interesting and have overwhelming evidence that I’m not.
If offered the chance, I probably wouldn’t take all the time I’ve spent on the app back. But looking forward, peering into the next ten years, I somehow don’t feel as hopeful. In the past few years, my approach to Instagram has not changed all that much, but the problem is, neither has anyone else’s. It’s boring. Everyone’s boring, including me (sorry). We’ve all been at the same party for ten years and we’re still playing the same songs. If I have to see another hot-photo-hot-photo-pixelated-meme carousel I think I’m going to put my phone in a deep-fat fryer.
Recently, I’ve gotten really into Indian Matchmaker on Netflix. In an episode, the love-seeking client is in conversation with one of her best friends. She’s been in the words of Kylie Jenner, “like, realizing things” and has been putting herself out there while building herself up. Her friend, perhaps noticing the positive change says, “Your Instagram is even different”. And that maybe encapsulates my Insta-malaise. I know for certain we’ve all evolved and grown and are far better now than we were, and yet, I don’t feel like this is reflected on the app. However, I can’t bring myself to leave. After all, it’s still a party. And a party, however bad, is still probably better than the difficult and amazing reality of what exists outside of any app: our own lives that we have to make ours every single day. Contemplating the agency and action we can (and must) bring to our lives is incredible and overwhelming and maybe a little respite in the form of an Instagram break is a kindness. However, the sameness of it all means that whatever mental break Instagram once provided is now replaced with a monotonous vision of capitalism, vanity, and bots. Where we were once entertained, we’re now bored and so we seek another break, another place to rest, and maybe that’s the most interesting thing Instagram has given us lately: evidence that we really don’t need it.
(image from @heatherloveslove's Instagram)