A couple days ago, I found myself on an icy sidewalk in the East Village, agonizing for almost 10 minutes over whether I should use the Amaro or Rise filter for a blurry picture of a candle next to a glass of water. A mighty, unnaturally cold polar vortex wind blew, I lost my balance, and suddenly I was lying on my back with half my body fully submerged in a slushy, no-doubt disease-ridden puddle of snow, ice, and dirt. Before even attempting to get up, I chose Rise and hit submit (the picture got eight likes). This was the moment when I figured I should probably take a break from Instagram.
It’s no real revelation to anyone at this point that ours is a generation inextricably tied to social media. From Facebook to Tumblr to Twitter, we upload our lives in quick digestible bursts. We live-tweet everything from award shows to plane rides, we announce budding relationships and messy breakups via status updates, and we do it all in a bid to feel more connected. The debate continues about how isolating social media addiction can be, and there’s the argument that the human connections made via the Internet aren’t really connections at all, and that FOMO syndrome is producing socially challenged, miserable adults.
I’m not convinced that social media is the societal evil that some make it out to be. It’s become a part of our lives, and it's in many ways a positive force. But I will say this: this whole Instagram thing? Yeah, we need to pace ourselves. Last year, it was reported that half of the over 150 million monthly active users on Instagram use it daily. That’s 75 million people uploading pictures of lattes and cats. And while I love Instagram and will continue to use it, I think periodic breaks from it (and the Internet in general) might be necessary. If any of the following five points apply to you, an Instagram Vacation might be in order. Take it from me.
1. Everything is a photo op. Everything.
The great thing about Instagram is that you get to document those special moments in your life like weddings or graduation days or even girls nights with your friends. But if you find yourself consistently commemorating standing in line at the grocery store or the weird rash on your arm, it’s time to stop. Not to say you shouldn’t ever post anything mundane. It’s just that social media is constantly moving, leaving most users feeling like they, too, have to constantly be contributing something, anything, to the feed. You don’t. Relieve yourself of that pressure.
2. You won't eat your food until you've taken a picture of it.
Have you heard of @cookingforbae? It’s sort of a heightened example of everything wrong with all the amateur food photographers (myself included) on Instagram. Foodstagramming has become it’s own thing, spawning millions of pictures of sushi plates or bowls of pasta at fancy restaurants. There’s also the homemade cooking, with plates of unrecognizable foods with hashtags falsely advertising #gourmet, #instaamazing and #numberonechef. Not everyone has to see our meals in order for us to enjoy them. Unless it’s something really epic (like, say, a birthday cake with Beyonce’s face on it), ask yourself if anyone really wants to see that umpteenth picture of a cupcake.
3. Your daily selfie count is getting ridiculous.
While the significance of the selfie has been hotly debated as narcissistic and unnecessary product of Internet culture, there’s something also very empowering about them. The selfie need not always be about validation. It can rather be about celebration — a fabulous new haircut or a really cool outfit or just the fact that you look and feel great. Here I am, the selfie says. Of course, if you’re posting like six selfies of yourself back to back, all of them relatively similar, it might be time to put the phone down, and contemplate why exactly you’re posting so much.
4. You obsess over likes.
Perhaps going hand in hand with the selfie obsession is the “like” obsession. We’re only human. We share something online and hope, really really hope, that our friends and acquaintances will click on that heart, or even post a comment. Periodically checking your phone or tablet every five minutes to see if that little orange box will pop up isn’t good for your psyche. As hard as it is to believe, the number of likes (or followers, for that matter) that you have on Instagram isn’t actually an indicator of the value of the things you post. Not to be all Oprah about it, but you ultimately determine that.
5. You obsess over other people’s Instagrams.
Instagram is like the Wikipedia of social media platforms. One moment, you’re scrolling innocently through your refreshed feed, and an hour later you’re 35 weeks back on the Instagram of your best friend’s boss’s daughter’s page. To quote Portlandia, a lot of Instagram is about “cropping out the sadness.” There’s the mundane stuff, of course, like dogs and babies, but people often post the most exciting moments of their lives. We get sucked into the projection of one person’s carefree weekend in Mexico, or another person’s awesome party that we weren’t cool enough to be invited to. It’s easy to get caught up in it all, but obsessively refreshing, checking, scrolling, and comparing your life to other’s isn’t conducive to actually living.