I’m Finally Leaving Instagram

Clearly a non-event for anyone besides myself but I would like to somehow share how I ended up with what seems to be a rather trivial decision.

One morning, as I went through my routine of checking my phone (I know), a Facebook memory popped up. It was a post I wrote four years ago about finally getting myself to quit smoking. Impulsively, I clicked on the Share button and began typing what came to mind.

It never saw the light of the Facebook News Feed nor my Timeline. Something in me stopped me from clicking the Post button after typing what I now find as nothing but an empty, self-absorbed declaration. I realized I was having a moment of enlightenment and I asked myself, why am I sharing this? What is my purpose? What do I stand to gain by letting others know about this fact?

Am I sharing it to inspire others to quit smoking as well or am I sharing it to gain likes and be filled with my fake sense of affirmation? As much as I’d like to believe it was the former, going on a complete pause and asking myself the question again and again only made me conclude that it was instead the latter. I was trying to share something new because my previous post had run its course — it wasn’t getting any likes nor attention anymore.

When reality doesn’t meet our expectations

Most of our frustrations stem from unrealistic expectations and social networks like Instagram, where the goal for some people is to curate their feed and optimize it for likes, the gap between our reality and this artificially-made expectation widens. Once, I overheard a conversation between two people where one of them was contemplating on posting a [possibly good looking] photo because it wouldn’t blend in well with his feed.

We only need to pause and ask ourselves the reason why we’re posting content in such platforms to realize the effect it has on us. Is it educational? Does it serve to help others? What is the intended purpose? Most of the time it’s to fill a hole, a hole within ourselves craving for a quick dopamine hit  when we get likes and hearts— and these platforms are more than happy to fill it just as long as we participate and bring them revenue. It has become a rather systemic disease affecting our whole lives and everything we do in between.

I recently read an article by Kara Swisher where she described Instagram as “performative; it makes people feel badly, even if it’s beautiful; it has turned into a brag book of strivers; it is a museum and not a place to connect..” and it’s exactly how I feel about it now.

There’s also one on Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, where he talks about how “the web has evolved into an engine of inequity and division; swayed by powerful forces who use it for their own agendas.” He also talks about how we value (or undervalue, if I may) our privacy when we choose to participate in these platforms. He goes on to add, “It’s also not entirely clear how much we actually value our privacy when we so readily give it away. Yes, we complain bitterly about how our data is abused and monetized and yet we gleefully expose our lives, innermost thoughts, buying habits, locations, and conversations in countless digital communications and interactions each day.”

Either way, I’m really looking forward to his version of the internet — where control is given to the users and not to monolithic companies to take advantage of dopamine-craving individuals in exchange for profitability.

Digital cul-de-sacs

These are just some of the reasons why I’m slowly trying to rid myself of this dependency on these platforms in dealing with personal relationships. They are digital rabbit holes rigged to fool us into thinking they are essential to our lives. What if we miss a post by our lovely aunt? Wouldn’t it give way to a much more interesting conversation when the two of you eventually catch up? And what about the stories of our lives that we fail to share as they happen? I don’t think the world would stop nor will people be taken aback by the lack of it.

Or maybe it’s because I’m not the intended use case for Instagram. Maybe the intended use case is someone who loves one-upping their friends and mimicking random celebrities (I think the politically correct term is influencers). Maybe the intended use case is someone who delights in panning their phones from left to right trying to get that perfect story to share with a couple of followers instead of enjoying in the moment. Maybe the intended use case is someone who get their jollies off by watching their views and likes go up. Whichever it is, I don’t think they were picturing a run-of-the-mill INFJ like me using it when they were designing it.

Instagram is a great product, I get that. It’s my go-to place for beautiful images (usually by National Geographic photographers and astronauts) and NBA highlights. But the lack of control (and perhaps, privacy) and the constant push of sponsored posts—most of the time by random personal accounts desperately wanting to become an influencer—felt too divisive for me. And I guess the bigger problem is it’s not just Instagram where this is an issue but perhaps in most (maybe all) social networks and once you realize its other tendency to mostly revolve on selfish self-promotion instead of meaningful conversations, social media itself starts to lose its illusive allure.

As for me, it might as well be Instagram today and Facebook tomorrow—it’s too early to tell. I guess I’ll know when I get another moment of enlightenment. Right now, I’m feeling really good about this decision. It’s somehow like deciding to finally quit an addiction like smoking. It might feel like I’m missing out on something but I know it’ll be good for me down the road. Who knows? Maybe a Facebook memory will pop up 4 years from now and I’d be compelled to write something that sounds pretty much like this, only by then it won’t be Instagram (oh God I hope not) but another social network I’ve managed to get myself disoriented with.

I write these essays to express myself and learn more about certain topics that pique my interest. If you have any thoughts or ideas related to the entry above, please leave a comment below.

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