Instagone – By @poppy_scarlett
By Poppy Cumming-Spain
A week ago we had a thought-provoking talk from a guy called J-Mac on ‘purpose.’ In just over half an hour he took us from prehistoric to present day and from brand purpose to individual. I came away from this talk feeling a little confused (some very clever science-y stuff was mentioned, and I’m certainly no scientist) but content knowing that I’ve already spent a lot of time agonising over my life purpose (I’m pretty sure I know my life’s ‘North Star’). However, he briefly alluded to the impact of social media and dating apps on the way we communicate and lead our lives. J-Mac didn’t delve any further than a passing comment, nor did he say whether he thought these innovations ultimately add or take away from our lives, but he flicked a switch in my head anyway.
Just like any other millennial, social media takes up a lot of my time. I’m old enough to remember life before it existed (this might be the only thing I appreciate about my age), but it’s still a big part of my life. And I didn’t consider this a problem until around a year ago. Before then, I pitied the schoolgirls I heard nattering on a train about how they’d delete an Instagram picture if it didn’t get at least 20 likes in the first 30 minutes.
‘Seriously?!’ I’d scoff and settle into my seat feeling safe in the knowledge that I had a hold of my self-worth outside of the world of social media.
I’d roll my eyes at my then-boyfriend when he complained I was glued to my phone when I got home.
‘There’s no way you can watch TV, be on your laptop and your phone at the same time’, he’d moan.
To which I’d respond with, ‘I’m a woman!’, ‘I need to for work,’ or some other lame excuse as I sat adamant that I hadn’t been sucked in by social media while I switched between Facebook on my phone and laptop, expecting them to show me something different.
There’s no denying that social media hurt our relationship, zombie-scrollers are neither sexy nor dependable, although it certainly couldn’t take the blame for our break-up. However, our break-up did open my eyes to the scary side of social media. And that was through dating apps. Now, I’m not talking about inappropriate messages and fake profiles (although I’ve got a bunch of those stories). What I mean is the awful weight we allow apps to have on our self-worth.
I’m not afraid to admit that I found myself wasting most of my newly single spare time swiping for matches. I was swiping on the tube, walking to work, at my desk, in the loo, on my lunch, in the pub, during dinner, and in bed. Just like a Facebook notification or Instagram like, a match gives you that little hit of dopamine – that someone-likes-me-so-I-like-myself-feeling.
But it wasn’t long before I developed an extreme distaste for dating apps. Despite the fact that I know of some wonderful success stories (I’m talking marriages, babies, and perfect couples), I hate what these apps do to most people. They make us selfish, shallow time-wasters. It’s far too easy to pick people up and drop them when we’re done. After all, they don’t feel like real people. You naturally slip into a player’s persona. You talk to multiple people at one time, trying to remember who said what and who’s who, wasting valuable energy when you know most conversations won’t lead anywhere. And then you realise you can just swipe away to get matches and leave it at that. You’ll still get that someone-likes-me-so-I-like-myself-feeling (dopamine). But why do you need it?
I asked myself that twice last year. And the second time my answer stuck. I deleted the apps, and I deleted my desire for dating app-related dopamine. But somehow I didn’t make the same connection with my behaviour on other forms of social media; until last Tuesday.
I’m lying really. I knew that Insta-likes and Facebook pings produced the same result. But, I guess I chose not to care? Friends and colleagues have spent years bantering me about my behaviour on social media. I’ll post anything and everything. In all fairness, I can honestly say that when I told people that I was posting badly taken pictures of boring things for me, I was telling the truth. Instagram feels like a handy photo diary to log memories. And Insta-stories mean that you can post something shit and it’ll soon disappear, so it doesn’t tarnish your otherwise edited-to-fuck pictures on your profile. So there I was, posting meaningless shit on my Instagram like every other sod. Monitoring likes, views and follows like they meant something. And living life through my jelly-glitter-case-covered-iPhone-something-or-other-lense. Snore!
So, last Tuesday, as I walked out of SCA after J-Mac’s talk, I deleted Instagram. And I haven’t looked back. Instagram-free life is unexpectedly enjoyable. I thought I’d find it harder. I thought I’d pine after likes on pinky-purple sunsets that everyone else can see, blurry drunken videos than only mean something to me, and posts produced by procrastination which I’ve uploaded with glee (ah, rhyming). But I haven’t. I feel wildly free! I’ve enjoyed not knowing what everyone else did last night and finding out first from them in person the next day. I’ve relished every time my phone’s remained firmly in my bag when I’d usually whip it out to document a nothing-moment. Just, well, living is kinda cool!
Now, I’m not saying that I’ll never go back on Instagram. I can’t deny that as soon as I see an Insta-perfect moment on a gorgeous beach somewhere (fingers crossed for summer!), I know I’ll be dying to get it on the ‘gram. After hearing that perhaps my only social media fan (friend of a friend) was horrified to hear that I’d deleted the app, my thumb twitched towards the App Store. And I’ve still got Twitter. It’s a great tool for a creative trying to network and stay up to date with industry news. I pop on Facebook* occasionally. Although I deleted the app soon after starting SCA, I still use it to keep in touch with some people. Apart from anything else, I need to know about social media. It forms part, and sometimes the whole, of advertising campaigns. Particularly as a young creative, digital knowledge is a must. But, as a young person, knowing my self-worth outside of social media is of far greater importance. So, at least for now, I’m Instagone.
* I expect it will be largely redundant in a few years time if it continues to be pumped full of pointless content.