A few months ago, I was leafing through GQ, creaming away the confirmations of trendiness in my own wardrobe, and patiently awaiting my medal for being a member of one of the last households in America to deforest in an attempt to bolster the vestigial print offices still littering New York City. More than anything, we’re a magazine family because I believe in the notion of reaping what you sow, and also in that suppositious, Dickensian precedent that I, too, could, in fact, some day, be paid by the word.
Now, amid those glossy, scented pages, the ones often beseiged with pretty nonsense that could pay my rent for years, I was surprisingly enraptured by an unassuming, yet delightfully rich articlette hinged on the condemnation of the ‘gram.
For weeks, then months, it precipitated more than a few nebulous conversations with friends and coworkers regarding the evils of social media and the vague, empirical evidence I sort of recalled from the halidom of science that is the Gentleman’s Quarterly.
My ramblings as I grasped for the facts that indefatigably linked Instagram to the severe deterioration of one’s mental health oft fell of deaf ears, as well they should have, for I concurrently had six selfies queued and ready to be validated by two thousand people I didn’t know.
I should have realized that the medical and analytical particulars of this piece, even as poorly as I recounted them, couldn’t hold a relevant flame to the nightmare I was actually living. There I stood, haranguing my poor compatriots with my laughable recollections of clinical corroborations, when the real headline was a little more narrative, and much more personal.
I was no stranger to taking breaks from social media. We would have a sit and a cry, I would offer my Facebook accounts a somewhat sincere, “it’s not you, it’s me”, but in the end, our codependency and my incessant need for reinvention or approbation had always been stronger than my self worth.
This was a vicious, familiar cycle that I had normalized over the years. So much so, that it took me months to realize that the damn GQ article was written for me, and that I needed to make a change rather than keep projecting my own self sabotage unto others.
I was spending hours of what little free time I had posing for myself. Fixing my hair, biting the inside of my cheeks, fluffing my package. . . and the unhealthiest part is that I rationalized it through a mindset of creation, of entertaining others.
I don’t know two thousand people! The people I do know, whose opinions actually matter to me, can all be found by opening my messaging app. Those are the people for whom I create, for whom I derive genuine pleasure from entertaining - and they couldn’t possibly have cared less about my carefully curated and meticulously timed self portraits.
I was checking and rechecking my likes and comments and how many people had viewed my stories with the frequency a sane person might blink. Even worse, when I had exhausted any report my profile could offer, I turned to my feed where I was under a barrage of infuriatingly hot dudes and rich teens laughing at fruits in the Maldives.
How badly I wanted to be or be with those hot dudes and rich teens, trying desperately to communicate through the carefully cultivated stills of my life, “Me too! I’m one of you!”
I was not, and am not one of them. What’s more, after I deleted my social accounts, I realized that I didn’t want to be. When I opened my eyes to the Adonises who deigned to walk the earth around me, I saw them for who they truly were. Not Adonises, but Narcissuses. Narcissi? At any rate, I saw men whose negligible thoughts were consumed with muscle groups and the complexities of certain proteins, when and what their next meal could be, or their practically Islamic devotion to the gymnasium. Pass.
And what’s so goddamn funny about the exotic fruits with which the glitterati of instagram love to pose? I’ll tell you what: nothing. As Kourtney Kardashian once rightly reminded her sister in Bora Bora as she wept over the loss of an insured $87,500 diamond earring, “Kim, there’s people that are dying”.
There are more important, and even less engrossing things than being incredibly fit or having such a good time. It began to appear to me that an enviable life almost always ran parallel to one truly well lived. Or, at least, that appeared true of the lives that I had conditioned myself to envy.
On the other hand, Instagram does have the potential for such wholesomeness, such connectivity. But ever the glutton, sharing the best of my life quickly turned into curating photogenic situations, and eventually paying Instagram to force feed those mirthless posts to strangers. Gotta spend money to make money! Or to be seen, or to feel significant.
Instagram became for me the inspiration for my life, rather than a place to share that life with people I love. It wasn’t an afterthought, it was the only thought. I would dress thinking in terms of backgrounds, feel unaccomplished in the things I did that went undocumented, and despaired when my life fell immeasurably short of the people whose lives were lavished with money and attention they neither earned nor deserved.
I was abusing Instagram in the same way that I had abused any other recreational stimulant I could never quite regulate for myself. “All or Nothing” is on a running list of ideas for a chest piece along with “Go Big or Go Home” and a hyperrealistic black and white portrait of my dog.
Perhaps you can relate. To my brilliant tattoo ideas, sure, but also to the precarious feeling of control you might have with social media outlets. It may behoove you to ask yourself, “for whom am I really posting this”, “do I know most or any of these people”, “is this necessary”, “does this make a difference” “does my involvement with this platform spark joy or envy”?
Not everyone is as flamboyantly irresponsible as I am wont to be, and again, I’ll say that social media can be a miraculous bridge building tool, even de rigueur for a formidable business in the twenty-first century. I will also say that since I have started living and producing internally, I have experienced a weight lifted.
A photo of myself, looking expensive and apparently having the time of my life, as it turns out, isn’t worth much to me no matter how many “likes” it receives. What does matter to me is finding the time to do something I actually love, like writing this very piece.
If it then resonates with even one person, maybe you, and inspires you to evaluate your more paltry internet propensities, maybe even to forsake them for something productive, that is worth more to me than any fleeting sense of instant gratification.
If not, at least I am entertaining and producing with the merit of my aptitudes, rather than with desperate gambits. And if, at this point, you’re feeling a bit defensive, I suppose I can only offer my condolences and faith that you want to live your best life. If you can do that attached to your phone, God bless. You are a completer person than me.
If, however, you do find that model unsustainable, I implore you to delete the apps for just one week and see how little you’ve actually missed. If anything, you will likely find that you are even more attuned to the actual lives of your loved ones. You will feel better connected with yourself, your art, your friends and family.
Send them a compelling thought in lieu of a meme. Stop comparing your own brilliant life to those fabricated online, and you will unshackle the contentedness from which true joie de vivre and creativity flow.
And in my case, if any particular readers happen to be wondering, know that, no, I didn’t block you. I did, however, clear a space for unfeigned connection, and to nurture the existing, genuine relationships in my life. So if you would like to grab brunch some time this week, you’ve got my number.