By Erin Waks
This week I deleted Instagram. A shock, I know, coming from a 20-year-old prolific social media user. For those who know me, this may come as quite the surprise. I know my followers will surely miss my regular posts and updates, but I thought it was the perfect opportunity to reflect upon the role social media plays in our lives. I’d like to clarify my reasoning, why this has been a long time coming, and my plan moving forward.
I think it is always worth reflecting on why we keep things in our lives. All the way from friends, to jobs, to minor elements of our daily routine. For me, social media, especially Instagram, has served both a positive and negative purpose in my life. It’s important, I guess, to appreciate the value apps such as Instagram add to our lives. Right from their basic function as a communication tool up to their role in spreading news and information, we cannot deny their importance in modern society. We have come to a point where many of us struggle to envision a life without social media. How can we keep our friends updated on our lives? How can we make sure we don’t get left out of large Facebook events? How do we see what is going on in the world around us?
A few weeks ago, I had an open and honest discussion with a close friend who deleted Instagram herself several years ago. Whilst we discussed Instagram, the same arguments remain for other apps too. Having considered, and then decided against, deleting the app, I was quite open to the concept. I wondered, though, whether I would feel a sense of social isolation. Would I feel as though I were missing out on vital information? As though I had been forgotten? As though I were separate from my friends?
Quite the opposite. In the (albeit short) days since I did the deed, I’ve felt a regained sense of connection with reality.
The obsession with perfection has made the Instagram community extremely toxic in recent years, particularly in light of the preoccupation with fitspo and other hugely damaging accounts focused on diet culture. Despite my conscious efforts to replace these accounts with far more positive ones, it is almost impossible to escape the dreaded algorithm, and its desire to suck you back into an image-obsessed culture. The pressure to look perfect can, and does, have a hugely detrimental impact on so many of us. This focus on looks, on bodies, can distort our sense of reality.
Avoiding the need to photograph everything, for the purpose of posting a similar kind of image, does, for sure, mean you have fewer tangible memories to look back on in the future. On the positive side, though, it does mean you get to live in the moment. As someone who errs on the side of obsessive planning and organisation, constantly considering my future self, it is refreshing to sit back, have drinks with my friends, and stop worrying about the perception others have.
I have never been concerned with how others view my social life – I’ve never felt pressure to be cool, and I’ve always chosen friends based on their character, morals, and the way they make me feel. Yet even the lack of the option to inform others of my happenings has instilled within me a higher regard for the select few with whom I choose to spend my time, and a complete disregard for what others see.
It also made me reflect on those with whom I share photos. Do I really care what mere acquaintances know about my life? Does it matter if Kate who I met on holiday in 2015 thinks I look nice at drinks with the girls? Absolutely not. Now I can share these moments with my favourite people, and I have photos for myself, and myself alone.
It’s quite beautiful to focus purely on my own view of things.
Illustration: Victoria Cheng