I think social media is the bomb dot com; 9 times out of 10.
Scrolling through my feed is like getting glimpse after glimpse of other people’s joys. Sure, there’s some ego and narcissism wrapped up in there but I’m okay with that. Gimme all your vacation pics, pet pics, toddler pics. Post it all! “Pay attention, be astonished, post it on Insta” (-my botched millennial version of Mary Oliver’s words). And maybe we haven’t seen each other in over a decade but I genuinely ‘like’ your new haircut, or those pictures of Taco Tuesday. I’m on board with it all…9 times out of 10.
This April I took a social media sabbatical; 32ish days of no facebook or instagram. Partly to rewire my zombie brained obsession. Partly because I watched a documentary that turned me off from the whole thing–– the currency of ‘likes’, overly branded feeds, and number of followers. But the biggest reason I stepped away was because my super sensitive soul needed a mental health vaycay.
Because Instagram makes it really easy to be depressed. It’s not like I open the app and immediately become upset. Every post does not shout “you’re not good enough” through a stadium sized megaphone. This kind of discouragement moves in slower, more subtle ways. A little comparison here, a little fomo there. Teeny tiny doses of guilt, jealousy, and despair that occasionally stay in my system because I internalize ev-er-y-thing. Unfortunately in my experience that kind of combo often leads to what I like to call…a meltdown.
Here’s what I’m talking about. In March I had hit that rare 1 out of 10 mood. Right away I knew I had woken up on the wrong side of the bed. Then it started to rain. We were out of eggs, I didn’t have any clean underwear, Clay couldn’t find his wallet or his keys. All of these minor annoyances were amplified because life has been heavy and hectic lately. So, I was in a mood. And then I went on Instagram to ‘decompress’.
I follow a lot of designers, environmentalists, minimalists, activists, and wellness accounts. If my Instagram feed was a magazine cover it would read: “Idyllic mountain views, 300 ways to save the planet, cook more!, travel here!, plastic is the devil, chemicals are the devil, food waste is the devil” Mostly constructive things, unless I am having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, like I was.
The second I opened the app I saw preachy captions (sorry sometimes I write those too), pictures of the ocean drowning in plastic, and social injustice galore. Then I scrolled away from that despair to see Jane Doe Super Human’s post showcasing her all-day every-day fancy five star life. And here I am eating peanut butter off a spoon for breakfast, staring at a giant medical bill, and yelling “your wallet is stuck between the couch cushions, CLAY!”.
By the end of the day I realized I hadn’t left the apartment, brushed my teeth, or had any water. Then I saw an innocent post evangelizing the importance of ‘self-care’ and it pushed me over the edge. I thought, “wow…what is wrong with me? I can’t even do basic self-care right. I’m effed. ” At that point I think I looked at Clay and wailed something like “Why can’t I do anything lately?” …. “I’M BROKEN” before collapsing face first onto the bed for extra effect. [kinda funny now, not so funny at the time]
I cried through my rolodex of failures, pointing out that my life is not shimmery like everyone else’s and therefore I must be human garbage. I’m not ambitious enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not athletic enough. I need to wake up earlier, meditate more, and stop eating popcorn for dinner.
Deflate, deflate, deflate.
Go ahead. Give me positivity and tough love. Tell me to buck up and brush my teeth because there will always be someone smarter, and better looking, and more talented. I get it. I know it. On a good hair day when I see @PerfectZerowastePrincess’s stylized refrigerator I’m thinking “Wow! Cool! Good for her!” (not a real @, at least I don’t think so). Her post might even inspire me. Hearts and thumbs up’s for everyone. I toss ‘likes’ through the internet by the fistful, as if I’m throwing smarties to kids at a parade. That’s where my head is at 9 times out of 10.
I’m talking about those bad hair days when chipper spirits and confidence have been zapped to ash. Those off-days when everyone else seems to have it figured out but you. Even though you try to tell yourself that they probably have bad days too. (Do they though? It sure doesn’t look like it.) Of course I know that I’m not human garbage. I know that I am beautifully and wonderfully made. I know that I am enough. But I don’t always feel that way. I also know that the photogenic lives I see on social media are filtered and curated. That’s their ‘brand’ or whatever. I get it. Sometimes it’s just hard to detach the fake and filtered from the real.
Fast forward to present day. I survived the 30 day social media detox and even kept going for a few extra days. It was refreshing. I loved it. I recommend it. I will probably do another one again. But I missed the good parts of my news feed; the shared joys & connectedness. (I also really love making elaborate Instagram stories so there’s that too.)
Taking 30 days off did not magically cure my self-doubt or comparison problems or my poor phone habits. To up the ante I could permanently delete my account, or cut back on my screen time even more. But in the name of balance I did start unfollowing the people that consistently make me feel inadequate in any way. Any account that I notice regularly bruises my confidence, gives me intense fomo, or consistently bums me out. It’s such a simple, no-brainer solution but following people on Instagram is a sneaky way for me to hoard things. And with all hoarding, it’s hard to let go at first.
These are some honest to goodness fears that crossed my mind before unfollowing people: “What if I miss out on an exclusive deal?” or “How will I get my intel for cool camping spots?” or “Where will I get my inspiration/insight from”
I powered through all of that nonsense and managed to unfollow 100+ random people (i.e. these aren’t even people I know in real life). What’s surprising is that most of these are the ‘good’ accounts that post productive & inspiring content: zero waste environmentalists, popular minimalist icons, wellness gurus, hiker-bloggers, political activists, even the hand letterers have started annoying me.
Maybe I sound like a total curmudgeon but oh well. Here’s a big fat permission slip for all of us to do what it takes to downsize and purge all of the junk from our lives. Right now that means I’ll ruthlessly unfollow whoever I need to in order to know and feel like I am already enough.
So if my stuff bums you out, unfollow me! Unfollow her, and him. No hard feelings. We’ll be here if you want to revisit us later. It doesn’t have to be a great time consuming purge. Just start thinking about the content in your newsfeed, slowly start unfollowing the accounts that drag you down.
Last thought: If you want to style your refrigerator and take pictures of it then good for you. That’s kind of what I did with my closet pics so if you’ve got that in you, go for it. Post away. The world absolutely needs your insight, and energy. Truly truly.
And…in case you’re not a millennial or don’t believe that #refrigeratorgoals are real modern day standards that people aspire to, I assure you…they are…