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  • Madeline Topf

Why I deactivated my instagram account

I've seen The Social Dilemma.

I've read Jia Tolentino and Haley Nahman. I've waxed poetic about how social media is "ruining our lives."I've deleted the Instagram app off my phone more times than I can count, still keeping my account safe and active. None of it was enough for me, and my profile, to get off of the app completely. Until now.

My reckoning, surprisingly, came after listening to Call Her Daddy. In a recent episode, the host Alex Cooper speaks on her experience"getting caught photoshopping." She had edited her body in an instagram photo only to have her friend post an un-edited version. She was caught in the act. As context, she talks about when she first started photoshopping her pictures (in high school, using picnik) because she felt it would help her fit in and feel pretty. She talks about how the prevalence of photoshopping has lead to her own unrealistic expectations of her looks, how she will take hundreds of pictures before choosing one and editing it. She is both a victim and a perpetrator- she feels bad about her looks due to other, edited Instagram photos, so she edits her own photos. She discusses how Facebook has kept secret internal data on how Instagram exacerbates body image issues in teen girls. Real data. I think she is going to remove herself from Instagram entirely; she only vows to never photoshop again. I was disappointed.

I don't photoshop my photos or stress too much over how I appeared online, now or in high school. I knew, somehow, that I could not rest my self esteem on external validation of my looks, even though of course I wanted to be seen as pretty. I knew I should try to be smart, funny, and fashionable instead; I should pick battles I could actually win. Maybe this has saved me in a way-- I wonder if I have been blessed by being average, by not being extremely attractive like Cooper. But I have always used instagram to get across these traits by posting "funny" captions, screenshots nodding to my time working at Stanford. Being average doesn't save me from having body image issues, or inattentively comparing my achievements to any picture I see.e it's almost worse, because my career success or whatever is something I have control over, unlike my bone structure. I think I have control over my weight, too, but we really don't. That's for another blog post.

I have an odd reaction to jealousy. A couple weekends ago, I went to a Brewers (baseball) game with my aunts and boyfriend. I was pretty much watching the game and chatting with the group. A few rows in front of me were two pretty young women, one blond and one with dark hair. I was jealous of their looks and their body size. When I'm jealous, though, I just think of something bad about the person or how I'm better than them in some other way. The entire game, they took selfies of themselves. The entire game. What kind of life was that? I thought. At least I am not obsessed with my phone. I am not desperate for attention. In reality, though, it's just quite sad, thinking about all of the things we miss out on.

Perhaps the Call Her Daddy episode was the last straw. I had known until then the damage Instagram causes, the comparison, the mindless scrolling, the pressure. But perhaps it was important to hear someone who would garner every benefit from the app to talk about their struggles. If it's not working for her, who is it working for? If the hot girls at the baseball game were struggling, the girls who in theory would be gaining more "likes" and attention than I-- what was it for?

We know they're watching us, tracking our eye movements, listening to us. We don't really care about that, though, because we get something great. We don't care because everyone else is doing it. The world has changed, Instagram is just part of our lives now, it's inseparable. Never mind you didn't pay attention to the sunset because you were trying to capture it, that's what life is now.

I guess there is a bit of boredom, too, a bit of disinterest in the lives of other people I haven't talked to since 2019. Perfect pictures and updates from other people's lives stopped being entertaining. I'm not sure if that is sad or freeing. My close friends stopped posting as much. If they did, it was factual information or calls to action, otherwise political-- important, necessary, but not entertaining. Perhaps it was a bit of a downer, too, a reminder of problems of the world instead of an escape.

My favorite follow the past year was a guy who went to my high school who recently came into a lot of money somehow; I personally believe through nefarious ways. He bought a house and a car in Arizona. He filled his house with people for parties at a time when it was extremely contentious (ok and dangerous) to do so. He went on hikes, went to restaurants, gambled. I was captivated. His life seemed relatively unaffected by covid-19, aside from being on the local news for one of his parties, resulting in his optional or non-optional moving out of his house. I stopped watching his Instagram stories and following along after I got vaccinated. It became less of a fantasy.

I knew I made the right decision to de-activate my account when I was thinking about what to be for Halloween. I felt no pressure to orchestrate a photo of my costume. Of course, if I wanted to post one I could always re-activate, I hadn't deleted it. The relief I felt, though, was amazing. I didn't have to run in the race anymore. I didn't have to see myself through the invisible eyes of my "followers", judging how I looked or what I said. I could just exist, as Tanya from White Lotus, with my flowing caftan and ziplock bag of ashes.

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