Last night, I uploaded a picture on Instagram. The next morning, I woke up to only three likes on said picture. It’s kind of embarrassing to admit that I was disappointed, but I was. I wish I could say it was the artist in me that wanted others to appreciate my work, but alas, it was the loser who was dying for attention that felt like a failure as I stared at those three likes. Then, as I started getting ready for school, I looked in the mirror and saw how sleep-deprived I was due to staring at my cellphone screen every night.
I had a moment of realization immediately afterward. It was one of those “Oh shit, I’m gay!” or “Oh shit, I’ve got math homework!” moments, when you realize something that has always been there, but your slow mammalian brain just recently recognizes as fact. Here is what I realized: Instagram is a vain, manipulative little app, isn’t it?
There I was, tired and sleepy after having invested hours of my life on Instagram, and all it was doing was making me feel horrible about myself.
Anyone self-aware enough to really LOOK at the society we live in already knows why we let meaningless phone apps dictate our lives. The question isn’t “Why?” but “What now?” We already know we live in a shallow, narcissistic society, but what are we going to do about it?
Social media isn’t the source of all evil, but it can be the little devil on our shoulder, especially when you really really REALLY need to focus on other things. It allows us to delve into other people’s lives and become completely obsessed with their image, and by extension, our own. It can make or break you, either by expanding your network for business success, or distract you from what’s truly important. It can also help you find new friends and interact with the ones you already have.
However, in a digital world where our thoughts are limited to 140 characters, one like translates to someone acknowledging our existence, the comments under our profile picture only fuel our ego, and people are satisfied with leaving a quick “HBD ❤” on our wall, can we really say we use social media to connect with people? If not, then why bother?
Oh yeah, we know why.
SO WHAT NOW?
The truth is, this isn’t something you can read a guide about and figure out in one night. Sure, you can listen to an hour-long Alan Watts lecture on YouTube and get so inspired you delete all your social media accounts and feel like you’re the Dalai Lama of your neighborhood, but trust me, it won’t last long. Those kinds of spur-of-the-moment decisions are prompted after listening to a guy who spent years trying to figure out what you want to do in two hours. Once you hear your classmate/friend/coworker talk about that hilarious new meme, you’re gonna regret deleting that Tumblr account (ask me how I know). This kind of thing needs to be done on your own; not because you want to be the most enlightened one of your peers or because you want to “break outside the norm,” but because you really need it. In my case, I really needed sleep.
I’m not ready to delete the app. (Yes, I’m still attached. The first step is admitting it. Baby steps.) What I did is unfollow everyone who I already have on Facebook or people who can easily see me in person. I went from following 300+ people to only 28 artists whose work I admire and whose careers I want to see prosper. Hopefully now, I’ll be able to concentrate on the things that truly matter. Already, I feel more focused on my own life and projects. (But let’s see how long that lasts because not only is our mammalian brain slow, but it can’t really stay focused for very long.)
It’s a process, but one day I hope I’ll be able to just get rid of Instagram completely. I’m sure that when that day comes, my head and my phone storage will feel a whole lot lighter.