Love it or loathe it, you probably have the Instagram app on your phone that you check intermittently throughout the day. You probably like a few aesthetically-pleasing ‘insta-pics’ as you scroll through the updates and you might occasionally comment on one or two images that your close friends upload, regularly using the following emojis in lieu of actual words:
Although perhaps you’re more of a regular user; you might check Instagram every few hours, watch a few insta-stories and keep up to date with some of your favourite hashtags.
Or perhaps you’re like me. Perhaps you click on the app every free second you have to see what new stories and posts have been uploaded, or what new ‘insta-beefs’ might be bubbling up. Perhaps you frantically scroll through your feed and like close to a million pictures of things like toddlers in cool monochrome outfits, stylish women posing in front of walls, flatlays of a collection of hipster things you never knew existed and now you can’t imagine living without . Perhaps you get into deep philosophical debates with a total strangers on topics like ‘free the nipple‘ and the unfair cruelty of insta-algorithms. Perhaps you obsess over new followers and comments and likes on your pictures, and are filled with self-loathing and a million unanswered questions about your self-worth when you click on the affiliated app to see how many, and more importantly – who – has unfollowed you. This is my world of Instagram, and as much as it has brought me hours of entertainment, inspiration and joy, I fear it’s eroding my sense of reality, not to mention my mental well-being.
To weigh-up the pros and cons of this gloriously self-indulgent, voyeuristic app, here are the three things I fucking hate about Instagram, and three things I fucking love about it.
Instagram is the fucking worst:
- It can feel like one big popularity contest
The format of Instagram makes us obsess over numbers. In the past I have found myself thinking, ‘I can’t possibly follow more people than the number that follows me, that would make me a total fucking loser’. I know that this is absurd and I’d never choose not follow someone I was genuinely interested in following for fear of an imbalance in my followers to follows ratio , but a part of me can’t help but feel wanted and loved and respected and adored when my followers numbers creep up. I am ashamed of this fact. But I know I can’t be the only person on Instragram who obsesses over this. The majority of users I follow appear to work tirelessly to maintain a chasm-sized difference between their followers / follows numbers and it’s worn like a status symbol, a badge of honour.
This is why so many users adopt the infuriating ‘follow-for-follow-to-unfollow’ technique. It’s the social media equivalent of being asked out on a date, getting to the restaurant and then being stood up. Actually no, it’s worse than that. It’s like turning up at the restaurant and having all the cool kids from your school dump a load of pig’s blood over your head like you’re fucking Carrie. That’s how devastating it can feel. It’s a nasty and vain thing to do, and I make a habit of unfollowing anyone who thinks they can simply ‘collect’ me as a follower.
I’m sure even the most successful instagrammers feel pangs of guilt and self-doubt when they find themselves obsessing over their followers numbers too. I don’t think anyone is above feeling this way, no matter how successful they are. But it’s the game we play and it’s Instagram that makes us play it.
2. Everyone’s house / wardrobe / life looks nicer than yours
Fundamentally, instagram does not depict real life. It’s a perfect snapshot in time that may never be replicated, but we’re led to believe it’s their normal way of life. These people must at least have a ‘messy drawer’ in their sparkling chrome, minimalist kitchen. I would kill to have just one of the people I follow post a picture of the inside of their messy draw, an unmade bed, an overflowing linen basket. I think Instagram would explode with the lack of aesthetics.
3. It brings out the worst in me
Instagram makes me think things and stuff are important, rather than people and actions. It makes me jealous. Jealous of nice, well-meaning people that have lovely, perfect-looking lives. When an insta-love-in feels more like one big circle-jerk to me, I can’t help but feel guilty for thinking ill of people who are just supporting each other on social media. It creates a vicious cycle in me of jealousy, hatred, guilt and self-loathing, which is repeated roughly every hour that I check the app for updates.
On the other-hand, Instagram is the fucking best:
- There are some genuinely awesome people out there
I have had the honour and privilege of connecting with some of the most lovely, supportive, generous and empowering people to walk this planet. I would have never even known about them were it not for Instagram and now some of them are even proper, in-the-flesh, real-life friends. Some of these people that I know I’ll never meet have even gone out of their way to compliment me, message me if I’ve had a bad day and offer heart-felt advice and guidance. I’ve shared some of my most personal, treasured and sometimes darkest secrets with these people, and they have with me, because we’ve forged a strong trust in one another. These people have helped pull me through a dark day, they have broadened my world-view, and quite frequently they have made me laugh until I wee myself.
2. Instagram grassroots campaigns can change the world
There are so many incredible people on Instagram who are using their platform to make the world a better place. Style Me Sunday‘s Warrior Woman Initiative, Mother Pukka‘s #FlexAppeal campaign, and Candice Braithwaite‘s #MakeMotherhoodDiverse are just a few of the fantastic causes championed by busy, passionate mums.
It genuinely fills me with so much inspiration to see these hard-working people fight to change social wrongs and make it easier for women to be strong, confident, independent mums.
3. It brings out the best in me
Through the support and example set by many incredible women on Instagram, I have started to feel better about my ‘mum bod’, laid bare my struggles with anxiety and even posted pictures of me with my norks out breastfeeding my daughter. These are things I would never have made public in a million years were it not for the inspiration and fearlessness of the women before me who dared to be the first ones to share images like this. Instagram also gave me the platform to set up my own campaign, #DressDownFriday, to tackle the huge issue of gender stereotyping in kids’ fashion. Through this campaign, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and collaborating with some incredible, like-minded parents who have supported me and the campaign from the get-go.
Instagram, and the incredible people who populate it, have inspired me to want to work hard in my own small way to make the world a better place.
Yes, it isn’t perfect, but Instagram is what you make of it. I could choose to roll my eyes at the over-filtered, perfect pictures, but what’s the point in that? Instead, I choose to embrace the earnest positivity that’s generously shared by so many Instagrammers. I’ll do my best to be supportive in return, and I promise to never post a pointless, wanky, hipster flatlay ever again.