The Dramatic Shift in My Relationship with Social Media

— Written February 7, 2020 —

I am not one to make concrete New Year’s resolutions, but the beginning of 2020 marked an unintentional, but notable difference in the way that I use my social media platforms (Instagram, specifically). I write this essay not to advise or preach, but as always, to express my experience and share the value increase in my life since coming to this realization.

I think that my generation and demographic fall in a unique short period of time that saw the fruition of many platforms and the ways in which they have penetrated our livelihoods. It was not long ago that I was standing in the living room begging my dad to let me have an Instagram. Many after-school hangouts in 2011 consisted of secretly looking at my friend’s Facebook that she started by lying about being 13 years old. Life was truly so much simpler. Now it feels as though parents are avidly posting about each month of their child’s life when, in actuality, all that has changed from the first month to the second is that the baby now likes mushy carrots and mushy peas. This is all to say that I feel part of a community that has seen this drastic change in relationship to access of social media — and there were plenty of changes prior to me as well.

When I first got Instagram, it was still in its social infancy and did not have the rules that it has now. It was a place for me to post cringey Tumblr quotes (do not even get me started on the fever dream that was 2013 Tumblr) and pictures of anything I thought was cool. I was not even allowed to post my face on my social media for a while. I do not remember being particularly concerned with likes and engagement and genuinely posted what I want. It is clear, in retrospect, for better or for worse, that was truly a unique time for social media to exist and we will never ever go back to that. At some point, I remember usage turning into a sort of game that had a right/wrong and win/lose. I found myself deleting pictures if they did not accrue enough likes and comments in enough time or reconsidering the value of the content altogether. This led to me to stop using the app for a while. It became complicated and unfun and a tool that served only to stress me out. I am certain I am not alone in this feeling of being completely unable to win. I understood what type of pictures got the most likes (well-edited pictures of my friends and I), the day and time that was best (weekends in the evening), and that if there was not a certain amount of likes by a certain time I probably would not get any more, and may as well delete the post. I could dive in further to the unhealthy aspects of this parasitic relationship, but I am sure that you all have your own personal stories that closely align to practices such as these.

At some point, however, a switch flipped, and I decided I really, really did not care. I wish I had more of a concrete explanation about what changed, and why and how, but I do not. Ultimately, I had experiences I wanted to share, people I felt were special, and moments that I thought were important. What numbers were there to tell me that what I wanted to share had any less or more value than I determined myself? I am in the genesis of this new mindset, but my life has genuinely improved. I take more pictures, because I am not worried with how they will look on my feed, or if they will get posted at all. When I have a picture I truly enjoy, you bet I’m going to share it. I have no advice on how to stop caring about likes or comments other than I post what makes me happy and am secure in its value because it has value to me. I lost interest in calculating how others will engage in my memories and friends, and gained interest in not giving a sh*t.

All this is to be said, I have found what works for me. I am thoroughly enjoying Instagram more and have a far healthier relationship with it as of late. Please engage and use however fits with your own lifestyle.

I really think I know what’s best, so if you take that with a grain of salt, my essays are far less annoying.