Breaking Up With Instagram

The familiar story of casual flings, breaking up, feeling things — and learning important lessons about yourself in the process.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

I’m going through a breakup. With Instagram, that is. And it wasn’t the result of some sudden self-realising experience of empowerment and independence — no. After over six years together, I was broken up with.

I woke up one morning, and rolled over to do my morning yoga routine, that is, the finger stretch and mind awakening exercise of staring at social networking pages with sleep still stinging my eyes. I attempted to open my Instagram account, and was confused when I was logged out and couldn’t get in. Something about suspicious activity and security verification needed.

After a series of fumbling attempts to rectify the situation, I made a fatal mistake: I clicked on the only live link on the help page, which ended up disconnecting the email attached to the account. Rather than getting back in via email, my Instagram world was severed with a single, sleepy tap of my finger.

After the slight shock of what I had done wore off, the feelings set in. Now, I was surprised; not only by the fact that I had feelings at all about this, but by the intensity of them. There was, on the one hand, the loss of years of time and effort put into cultivating this gallery of my thoughts and experiences, as well as connecting with innumerable others. But there was something else too, something ego-driven: over the years, I had convinced myself I was only involved with Instagram as much as I wanted to be. I had put concentrated effort into assuring myself of my impartiality to my social networking pages, and was proud of it.

It was, so I thought, a relationship of convenience. At first, I’d only call when I needed something, using it because it was easy and available. ‘Friends with benefits,’ you might say. However, when the ‘relationship’ lasts for over six years — and then suddenly ends — it doesn’t matter what you had been telling yourself. Because you realise, really, just how much you had been putting into it; how much you relied on it; how much time you had devoted to it. And above all, you realise that in spite of your constant self-assurances, you had, in fact, become attached.

My easy, harmless casual fling had turned into something akin to love. Okay, well, love is a strong word. I doubt any one of us would say we love our Facebook pages like we love our partners, or our pets. And yet, if you have ever gone through a ‘hacking’ situation, you realise that your profile is definitely more personal (and important) than you’d like to admit. It becomes a part of you. A shallow, cyberspace version of your deep and complex life experiences, yes; but the time and thought we all dedicate is tangible.

Now, I had previously deactivated all of my social networking accounts on multiple occasions — hello, Black Mirror — but I had always come running back, usually with some kind of watery excuse about needing it to talk to my friends or check-in with family. Sometimes, I was just bored.

This time, however, going back wasn’t an option. I had been broken up with. It wasn’t up to me, anymore. Still, I desperately attempted the equivalent of Facebook-stalking an ex: the endless Google searches and tech forums and unanswered messages, coupled with random attempts to sign back in, in hopes that I would suddenly find an answer (to no avail).

So, I gave up.

Like with any breakup, I experienced the five stages of loss: denial, anger, bargaining, (I won’t pretend I went through any legitimate form of depression, so we’ll just go with ‘sadness’), and finally, acceptance. Acceptance of the reality of my relationship with Instagram — that it wasn’t what I thought it was, and that’s okay.

You see, oftentimes, it had been the first thing I reached for in the morning, and the last thing I saw before I went to sleep. I would spend hours on it, neglecting the real people and feelings and beauty in the world around me for something that, in reality, gave almost nothing back. And if you’ve ever been in a ‘casual relationship’, you’ll recognise those as what are generally called ‘warning signs.’

So, yeah, I miss it —the funny memes, the incredible artists, the distant connections I formed or maintained, the parts of my life I had shared, the quantitative proof that I was ‘liked’— yet, deep down, I know that this was good for me. I was never going to end it on my own, not really. But now that it’s over, I’ve started to remember (and actually believe) what I had been halfheartedly telling myself over these past six years: I don’t need it. I never did.

It’s been about a month now. And in each of those moments I would have reached for my phone, I’ve actively worked to do those things I would have otherwise neglected: listen to music, read the news, observe and engage with the world around me, practice (actual) yoga in the mornings…

I can now say with total confidence that I’m glad it happened. Because in all honesty, I have better things to do — and that, in and of itself, is a pretty empowering reminder (no matter who broke up with whom).