I first heard about Instagram back in high school when I didn’t yet have an iPhone. I remember all my friends would tell me to download the app but since I didn’t have access, they made it their own personal mission to find a way for me to get one. Unfortunately for them, they just had to wait. So while everyone was starting up their Instagrams, I was the odd one out.
I didn’t really feel out of the loop until I went on a trip with some friends my summer going into my Sophomore year of high school. They were all on Instagram, obsessed with taking pictures, and picking the best one to post (spoiler alert: I was the camera man.) But I really didn’t care. I loved taking pictures even if no one would ever see them. So when I realized that there was a way to share my little adventures, I wanted in.
To tell you the truth, I only really wanted an iPhone for the apps. I didn’t have access to Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter… so I was behind. I finally did get an iPhone for my 16th birthday and I remember that the first thing my friends asked when they found out was “did you download Instagram yet?” I hadn’t. To me, Instagram was sort of a concept than an actual thing; I didn’t get the hype because I had never used it, but I knew it was popular and I knew my friends were really into it.
So right then, on my 16th birthday, my Instagram was born. I started following everyone, even the people who I had never said more than 3 words to. The longer I used Instagram, the more I began noticing the trends amongst my friends and friends of friends. In these trends I realized there were a lot of unspoken rules, much like the one involving your “ratio.” A lot of these were don’t post too much, don’t use hashtags, make a funny or clever caption, and have a common theme with your pictures… and if you did this you would be considered cool.
Fast forward to the later years of my high school career where people really stopped posting for themselves and more for other people. I’ll be the first to admit that I am no stranger to FaceTune. I think it’s a great app to erase an unwanted zit or whiten your teeth, but things started to get out of control. We’ve all see it: bad photoshop. And when you don’t pay close attention or notice something wrong with your editing, you can bet someone else will point it out to you. But here’s the thing: your damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. That is one of the saddest realizations I had.
Along with this bad photoshop we are all familiar with, I should mention the persona of living the “perfect life.” I hate to break it to you and I know this might seem shocking, but life is not perfect. But Instagram can make you look like you have it all figured out. My mom always says “a picture is a snapshot in time” and I cannot tell you how many times I have seen people fake a pose to get the perfect picture, then slump back 5 seconds later after the photo has been taken.
So with all of this, I needed a break. I wasn’t following my friends and people I didn’t talk to were looking at my life, I wasn’t posting what I wanted when I wanted to, I felt pressured to edit my photos to look perfect, and I wasn’t being genuine.
Even though I knew all of this and that everyone was doing it, I still found I was comparing myself to other people. It is hard enough trying to find your identity, but doing it in an age where social media is so prevalent makes it 10 times more difficult. Not only was I comparing myself to the likes of Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner, I was now comparing myself to my peers as well.
And the biggest problem was that no one was talking about it. No one was admitting to editing their photos or keeping up with their ratio. No one was talking about how that one picture was taken 10 minutes after getting into a fight with their friend or being rejected from their dream college. But it didn’t matter what was really happening. All that mattered was what your face-self looked like. So how are we supposed to improve with a toxic system like this one?
Despite my little rant, I don’t think Instagram is a bad app or invention. In fact, I loved Instagram and will probably download it again at some point. What I do hate, however, is how the app is being used. And when I say “everyone is doing it,” of course I exaggerate — I’m sure not everyone is doing it. But from my experience I can say with confidence that a majority does.
So I deleted it. I cut myself off and I have never felt better. I don’t find myself thinking “why don’t I look like her” or “they are having so much more fun than I am.” We all have our own struggles and insecurities, and I think Instagram and other like social media outlets have helped to mask that and help us create the ideal person we want to be. On Instagram, we don’t have to be the shy kid who’s insecure about their acne scars or the person who is struggling with school and finances. We can create a new personality and thrive off of it. But when we forget that everyone is dealing with something, we start to feel inferior and lose ourselves. So instead of competing for likes and followers, I think we need to start being more authentic and realize there is so much more beyond than what is posted.
So that’s my own personal truth to Instagram. Hopefully you didn’t find this post to be too negative, but I wanted to reach out to those of you who might also be struggling with similar things. Maybe make it a challenge to disconnect yourself for a week or so and see how you feel, or stick to the three questions before posting: is is kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?
I love you all so much,