In September, I had to take another break from Instagram. The scrolling had spiralled out of control and my mind was sinking deeper and deeper into the darkness. Without any fuss, I deleted the app from my phone. I didn’t pause my accounts as I knew that I was going to return to it. I was just taking a couple of days off.
Those couple of days turned into a week and that week turned into almost 3 weeks. The longer I stayed away, the less I missed it. Did I still spend way to much time on my phone? Of course I did. I stilled scrolled through Facebook. I still deep dived into the bottomless YouTube. But it was Instagram that bothered me.
The thirtysomething-year-old Eeva with a Master’s in literature knows that Instagram is just a highlight reel of perfectly curated lives. She knows that the photos are edited to look amazing, the lives that are presented in squares and stories are just pretend or just a tiny fragment of a much bigger reality. No one is as perfect as their Instagram feed. However, the little anxious Eeva, who is still stuck in the middle school friendless zone and desperate to have the cool kids to like her, she doesn’t hear the other Eeva and she looks at those photos and sees the perfect lives and feels like hers is just so bland, plain and pointless and gets very upset.
So I had to take a break. Again. And it was good. It allowed the more rational Eeva to convince the anxious Eeva that maybe everything you see isn’t exactly the truth. Eventually I returned to Instagram. I posted a photo as I wanted to celebrate and let people know about my 5-year anniversary here in Cumbria. I posted another photo boasting about my 100-day stint of daily exercise (161 now!). And then I posted a dreamy photo of my 6am swim in Buttermere. At the same time, I realised that I can’t lie anymore and I had to admit that I was posting on Instagram as I was looking for attention. I was looking for the likes and the comments just to boost my ego. I was looking for acceptance.
And I didn’t like that realisation. In fact, I felt quite embarrassed. Looking for acceptance from the numbers online rather than cultivating real friendships offline just seemed wrong. None of these people even noticed when I went from posting a story on Instagram most days of the week to doing nothing on the platform. Are these the people I need to impress? And also, do I need to impress anyone at all? I know that my home, life, adventures etc don’t look like the perfectly curated Instagram feed and I don’t have the patience or skills to make them look perfect, so I’m never going to find that acceptance.
When I returned to Instagram and started to think through what I wanted to get out of that platform, I realised that I have the option to make it into more positive place for myself. So I unfollowed lots of accounts and I also ended up muting quite a few accounts of my friends. I’m also a bit more mindful of how I consume the content on my Instagram and I scroll less and pick and choose what stories I want to see.
The realisation for me was that I have no time in my life for perfect people because they are not real. I want to see people who are willing show vulnerability and whose whole idea isn’t to paint a picture of a perfect life online without normalising the imperfections that come a long with the real life. And this is why I had to mute some of my friends as what I saw on their Instagram and what I saw in their real life didn’t overlap. I’m not critisising anyone wanting to create is perfect life online – more power to you! As long as you’re doing it for the right reasons, go for your life. If that’s your creative outlet, that’s awesome! I, however, prefer the messy parts of life. The real parts. And I won’t be “supporting” your perfect life online. I’ll be more than happy to be there in real life instead.
I have stopped posting on Instagram except for a very occasional photo as the things I want to say at the moment are not the things I feel would be received well on that platform. So I just keep them to myself. Unless I need to vent, which is what I did this weekend. I don’t want to have lots of followers and likes and no one to turn to when I’m feeling bad. I want to make sure my life is good offline rather than putting on filters and perfectly angled photos on Instagram to make it look good. I still have a long way to go and I still have to calm down the anxious Eeva most days but it’s something I’m working on. I want to also allow myself to be imperfect and be okay with that.