If you look at my Instagram life, you’d think that my days are filled with sun, adventures and good times. And a lot of the time they are. What you don’t see is the normal, and often darker side, of my and pretty much everyone else on Instagram’s lives. So why do so many of us portray these ‘perfect’ Instagram lives, and not show the hot messes many of us truly are?
For me, it started when I accidentally became an ‘Instagram influencer’. That phrase in and of itself makes me uncomfortable. An influencer? How on earth am I qualified to influence people’s lives and decisions? It’s a marketing trend that still leaves me feeling supremely unsettled. The way that it affects people, especially the malleable and easily swayed youth of today, terrifies me.
Initially, I was rapt. Brands and companies were contacting me to test and review products and services, and I was getting inspiration to write articles about topics I genuinely found intriguing. And I was always true to myself, never once promoting a product or company I didn’t believe in or enjoy using. I frequently turned down offers and often wrote scathing reviews for truly terrible businesses. So initially, my involvement in this trend didn’t seem to go against my morals.
But something occurred that I wasn’t expecting. Because of what I was posting, from an outsider’s point of view my life looked perfect. Although I wasn’t curating my Instagram life to the extent that many other influencers were, I was just posting the happy, fun and amusing parts of my days.
Yes, some of these moments were embarrassing or unflattering, but they were funny and made people laugh. Yet what I was posting wasn’t showing my entire reality.
Why would anyone give a shit that I felt sad when I woke up?
That I hadn’t stopped farting for 24 hours after eating refried beans?
That my little toenail fell off for no apparent reason?
Or that we drove for 8 hours in silence yesterday?
Me not posting these ‘normal’ moments as a part of my Instagram life seemed innocent enough at the time. They were boring, so why share them?
And then something really shit happened. Someone special to me mentioned that it looked like I was happy from what they were seeing in my Instagram stories.
But I wasn’t. I was a mess and saw nothing good in life.
It was then I realised that my friends, family and followers saw my Instagram life, the posts and stories, and assumed that what they were seeing was the extent of my emotions and experiences. That my life was all sunshine and daisies and unicorn farts.
What you don’t see is so much of what makes up my days.
That we slept in the van in a car park last night.
That I’m dealing with anxiety that is sometimes so crippling that I mentally shut down for hours.
That I have treated important friendships with contempt because I’m ‘too busy’.
That I feel I’ve abandoned my family in a time of crisis.
That I partially blame myself for a suicide.
That my heart was so completely broken recently that I can barely function.
That my motivation is dippier than a roller-coaster.
Is that the message you get from the photos and stories I post?
No. Of course it isn’t.
When I realised this, I stopped all involvement with companies and products and tried to just show my life and travel for the enjoyment of friends and family. I explained the stories, both positive and negative, in the captions of the photos, and kept my stories real and not staged. But I still found myself primarily posting happy, sunny moments. I couldn’t work out how to show the real me, without being a downer.
Surely the answer to my quandary is for me to start sharing these ‘real’ moments on my social media, or to delete my Instagram entirely?
No, it isn’t. See, an integral part of my personality is that I compartmentalise my issues so that I can help my friends and loved ones deal with their problems. I know that isn’t entirely healthy, and I’ll probably end up living alone with 90 cats by the time I’m 50. But for now, that’s my deal.
So no, I don’t want to drag people down for no particular reason by posting dull, depressing moments of my days. If I can make just one person smile with the photos and stories I post on Instagram, then I’m happier than I started that day as.
So what is the answer?
Truth be told – I don’t know.
All I can do is to make it clear that my, nor anyone’s Instagram life, is as perfect as the internet makes it out to be. You need to make your own decision, for the right reasons, for you. Research and discover and seek of your own accord. Talk to friends, take time to think, and come to conclusions away from the sway of the internet’s influence.
So please, take what you see with a grain of salt.
Laugh when something makes you laugh.
Think when something makes you think.
But don’t let these images and stories influence who you are, and what you hold dear.
And be true to what you believe.
Ultimately your life is yours and yours alone. You need to make it what is right for you, and not what Instagram tells you it should be.