One of my favorite quotes is from Brooke McAlary’s book, Slow:
“I don’t need a photo or a video to remember it. And I don’t need an audience to validate it.”Brooke McAlary, Slow
I’ve been thinking a lot about that quote since I [re]joined Instagram last year. In that time, I’ve been reminded of all the reasons that I left social media in the first place:
- A waste of time: No matter how good my intentions may be, my time on social media always feels wasted.
- A false connection: Even though I enjoy seeing updates from friends and family, this seems like an impersonal and lazy way to “keep in touch.”
- A need for validation: Social media creates a need for approval and a dependence on validation to prove our worth.
- An inability to be present: For myself personally, being active on social media trained me to view every moment as “gramable,” to be on the lookout for good photo ops, to be thinking of sharing the moment rather than being in the moment.
On the other hand, social media has some valuable uses, such as sharing information and impacting society’s belief systems. We’ve seen that through this past month of protests around George Floyd’s death. Social media has been a way to express and hear the voices of the people in a way that major media is not capable. Social platforms have been used to expose corruption, inform ignorance, and change the world. I have benefited from hearing the voices of people on social media that I would not have otherwise heard. I follow a wide variety of humanitarian and environmental organizations and activists who keep me informed about topics that matter to me.
So, maybe we can’t throw the whole thing out, but I think that I am ready to take another extended break. I’m not going to shut my account down, but I am going to limit my Instagram usage by:
- Hiding the app. I’ve found that I am less likely to open the app if it is hidden away in a folder so that I have to choose intentionally to find it, rather than using it as a means of killing time.
- Using Screentime limits. The iPhone [and probably other smart phones] have a feature in settings that allow me to limit my time on specific apps or apps of a certain type. I put a 15-minute limit for my collective social apps [which really includes Instagram, Pinterest, Marco Polo, Skype and FaceTime].
- Not posting about myself. I am going to start using my account for activism rather than sharing pieces of my personal life. I don’t need the validation and the people who I have real relationships with [along with my blog readers] will learn about my life and my kids. Some things that I will post about:
- photos of our CSA food hauls to encourage people to support local agriculture and healthy eating.
- zero waste products and zero waste shopping trips
- quotes and information about giving and supporting local NGOs working to end poverty locally and globally
- support for Black Lives Matter and racial justice
- other humanitarian and environmental issues as they arise
For me, these are the ways that Instagram [and social media in general] are useful to me – as a tool for education and activism and social change, RATHER than a tool for personal sharing and seeking approval.
As for my personal life, I would like to keep it personal. I would rather live in the moment and not care about what anyone else thinks.