For a long time now, I have wanted to live off the grid – the Instagram grid, that is.
I constantly found myself thinking about what other people were putting on the grid. In my mind, I saw other people’s days, outfits, meals, and family moments alongside my own. Continuously, I felt weirded out by how many personal details I knew of strangers. Yet being just one of their thousands of followers, this stranger didn’t know I existed in their mass following, let alone know any details about me. In an app boasting constant connections and updates, it more often provided for a very isolating and indignant experience.
I noticed that I felt weary, worn-out, and tired from all of the flashing messages about failure and insecurity alongside Strouffer’s Mac and Cheese ads (why even?!), stuffed between someone else’s great achievement, self-promotion, or pep talk that, with their help, I too could do this thing that is living my own life. It seemed that everyone was either an expert in self-help, politics, or bullying others into bending to their ideals. None of that stuff is fun for me to experience.
I told myself I could use social media healthfully and look at just the good stuff, the things that were important. Try as I might, there were just too many negative things that I couldn’t get out of my head. Moreover, I felt that none of the posts were important.
Another sore spot for me was that Instagram Stories allows viewers to glimpse into another person’s kitchen, see their children running around, track their lives. What I was too polite to say before is this: I am appalled when a mom-influencer shares intimate Stories of her children with her thousands of followers. Call me old-fashioned, but the blatant disregard for privacy and safety is deeply disturbing.
When not creeping me out, social media stole irreplaceable space from my own thoughts and ideas. The more attention I paid to another’s ideas, words, and actions, the less I paid to my own. This led to festering feelings of discontentment and disconnect within myself; it was my soul that suffered the most. As I get older, I am more interested in finding out who I truly am. What do I think about things? What do I most value? Most of all: what does my own kitchen look like; how is my own child doing?
At the doctor’s office, a nurse showed my son a picture of a rotary telephone and he couldn’t tell her what it was. We joked that they needed to update the vision test cards to show tablets and iPhones. I felt a twinge of sadness for him, for how he will never know the simple pleasure of talking on a house phone; for letting a phone be just a phone and nothing more. I mulled that over for a while and found myself longing for that simple house phone with an answering machine instead of this tiny computer appendage posing as a “phone.” I decided it was time to end this madness.
Driving down the road, I fantasized about throwing my phone out of the car window. But instead, I removed from my applications anything that made this less like a phone and more like a social media control center. I deleted the accounts and contacts that were no longer serving me well. I went outside and took a deep breath of freedom.
For too long, since my MySpace account in 8th grade, I subscribed to the notion that a social media presence is necessary. But one by one, I have deleted my accounts, deciding that for me, social media does not matter. I want to live and love and be alone with my thoughts. I need to be concerned only with that which is meaningful, and will continue to matter throughout the days of my life, beyond a two-minute scrolling session. I need to spend my time and my mental energy more wisely. I only want real life now.
It’s been a month since I deactivated my Instagram account and I can honestly say I haven’t missed a damn thing. Without all of that excess noise, I can hear my own thoughts. When I close my eyes, I do not still see today’s trending topics of hate and intolerance; though what I have previously seen does still haunt me a bit. Still, my goal is to live fully present with that which is physically in my presence.
On my first official day off the grid, I received only two updates from people outside of my household: my best friend and my mom. It was enough; it was good.