Raise your hand if you love Instagram! Raise your hand if you also hate Instagram! I’m over here raising my hands mentally, because I’m typing right now, but seriously. I lovehate it so much. Hands up high.
This interview that Donald Miller did with Tim Arnold about embracing tension was one of the best conversations I have ever heard. He addresses “binary thinking” and a lot of the way we see things in the world are black or white. Good or bad. A problem or not. But really a lot of these things aren’t really bad or problems, they are just tensions that we must manage.
To me there is no example better of a tension we must manage than that of social media. It’s good! It’s so good. It connects people with similar interests and experiences. It allows us to see how people on the other side of the world live day to day and a glimpse into their human experience, and it also allows us to potentially connect with those in their loneliest season and to perhaps feel seen and not alone for the first time. It is so good.
But of course there’s a laundry list of bad that comes with it, right? Comparison, envy, bullying, inauthenticity, connectedness but not true community… barely scratching the surface. As an enneagram 4 my “deadly sin” is envy. Social media is HARD for me. I really have to limit and be conscious of how much time I spend looking at other people’s work and lives and comments… I emotionally connect too much with those little souls behind the squares. Again, this isn’t a BAD thing, but it’s just a tension I must manage.
I’m going to tell you a really embarrassing but important story about my journey in learning to manage this thing called Instagram. It’s funny in hindsight, but during it? I thought for sure I had completely lost touch with reality. As you continue, please read all of the following with a grain of salt, because it reveals WAY more about me and my heart than this internet place usually shows…
There is an Instagram celebrity (or is she a real life celebrity now?) by the name of Emily Ley. She makes beautiful planners, is a mom, and overall her message is a good one: simplicity. She shared her story of infertility and I think for a lot of women, her story was vulnerable and fresh and not like a lot of things that people had heard before. But me? I was skeptical and cynical because I am dark and twisty on the inside. It’s fine. I’m aware of it and try to keep it managed and balanced with my hopeless optimism, but yeah. I’m wary of people and their “stories”.
Having had friends that had also walked in the path of infertility and didn’t have the money to afford the IVF treatments that she did, I was so bothered by the flippant way she’d kind of complain on social media about being pregnant and then having #threeunderfive or whatever their ages would be. It just bugged me.
And that’s just the surface. Her message of “Grace Not Perfection” was so annoying to me. Her Instagram feed was so white/clean/polished/filtered and her yoga pants were like $100 yoga pants (swipe up). Then she went kinda paleo for a while and LORD that annoyed me even more. I can’t even explain it. Maybe it was the super expensive Whole 30 compliant coffee creamer (or you could just be a grown up and drink it black like the rest of us that did paleo ten years ago?) or the Shipt commercials because she was so stressed out with managing her full time nanny, in home office, successful business and book writing that she had to give herself grace and have those groceries delivered.
So pray tell, Emily Ley. I’m doing like a fraction of the things you’re doing and I’m pretty sure the leggings I’m wearing are see through because they were $7 at Target and I live in the middle of nowhere and I have to go get my own groceries*. I can’t afford a cleaning lady, and I work from my couch at 5am because that’s the only time my kids are quiet. My kids don’t have a “Nana” to help out and babysit because I have a very complicated relationship with both of my still-alive estranged parents. Every freaking day is Mama day. Every freaking day is also work day.
*not anymore though, because 2019 happened and now Instacart delivers from my Aldi so… I have my goods delivered
I got one of my other friends on board of my Emily Ley Annoyance wagon and literally every time she posted we’d like immediately text each other and be like DID YOU SEE WHAT SHE SAID ABOUT _______? SO OUT OF TOUCH!
And then one day I was enraged at my phone and I had this moment where I realized that if there was anyone out of touch, it was me. I was literally texting a REAL LIFE friend about a STRANGER on the internet. Like I was outraged at her blatant disregard for gratitude. How ridiculous was I? How grateful was I for my life if I was spending time judging someone else’s gratitude by their Instagram posts? WHAT IN THE ACTUAL WORLD WAS HAPPENING TO ME? WHO WAS THIS INSANE JUDGMENTAL PERSON THAT I HAD BECOME?!
So, I did the thing that any reasonable psychopath in this situation would do. Emily Ley had to disappear from my phone. I blocked her. I tried just unfollowing for a while, but curiosity would get the best of me so I’d check her out every once in a while (not hard, I am her target audience after all) and get enraged mad. Blocking had to happen.
It wasn’t a vengeful thing, it was literally out of desperation. I had to get my mind and my thoughts back. From there, I went on a good Instagram break for the month of February in 2018. That was good and healing and great. I became so aware of my thoughts and got back to my “why” of social media. When I returned in moderation after February, I unblocked Emily Ley but didn’t follow. Later that year I heard from a friend that she released a line for Target (WHAT YOU GO GIRL) and I was genuinely happy for her and I bought one of her magical discount Simplified Planners for Target and I love it. Still wish I got Happy Stripe but I’m loving the pineapples and might just buy the real thing from her in 2020. Maybe. Moral of the story, I’m less of a psychopath now. I think.
So, what the crap people? I know I can’t be the only one. I know I’m not the only one that finds social media to be REALLY HARD. There is one major thought that resonated with me through this whole (ridiculous, it’s just ridiculous) ordeal that I think is the key to my newfound successful tension management:
Instagram is not real life.
Seems so obvious, yet… it wasn’t for me for a long time. I used to make the joke when I became someone’s Facebook friend that “it’s official!” but actually it is the opposite. We’re friends in real life, and Instagram/FB/Twitter is a supplement to that. And I think we know that, but sometimes it’s worth saying. For me, anyway.
A few months into my Emily Ley Blockage the most interesting part of all happened. I got unfollowed. By a REAL LIFE FRIEND and she told me she was going to and why. My posts didn’t make her feel good.
My initial reaction was to make a judgement about her maturity–– COME ON! IT’S JUST SOCIAL MEDIA! And I’m not sure what reminded me, since Emily Ley was pretty much out of sight out of mind at this point, but then I realized. It wasn’t just social media. We are real people, with real feelings and even though we may not mean to, our posts can hurt people completely because of the way they take it. And it’s really IMPOSSIBLE to not offend someone, and we can’t write our posts on blogs, Facebook or Instagram or ANYWHERE else and control the response of every single person. And that’s okay. It’s up to the individual person to decide “I want to read this, it adds value!” or “I don’t like this, it makes me feel icky.” and not worry it will have long term effects on the friendship. I had done the exact same thing as this real life friend, but Emily Ley didn’t notice she was missing one out of however many thousand followers.
Does it mean we shouldn’t ever post? No. Should it mean we should post our thoughts and feelings about everything and every potential controversial issue? No.
See the tension? We should post but we should also not post. This is not easy, my friends. We are living like no generation has before. For better and for worse.
I have read some really incredible books, in the last few years that have helped me manage this social media tension, I’ll link them below. I’ve made some changes in my phone habits in general that have made a HUGE difference. There’s no actual standard of perfection here, it’s a tension that we’ll always have to manage. We’ll never arrive, we’ll always be pulling tighter or allowing some slack, but I’ve made some serious progress and can really “eat the fish and leave the bones” of some Instagram “celebs” out there without letting my cynicism eat me alive from the inside. Two years ago, Rachel Hollis would have annoyed the crap out of me and I’d never even watch an Instagram story of the Tone It Up girls, but if you ask me #last90days is a brilliant concept and KICKASS way to end a year, and Katrina’s take on self love and her honest and authentic posts about fourth trimester and loving her mom bod is inspiring. I don’t have to love and support everything they say and do, but I can decide for myself because I have a brain and a heart that is mine.
So I give you permission to UNFOLLOW, MUTE, and BLOCK to your heart’s content – ME included! And really, Emily Ley’s planner is truly fantastic. I get the hype.
The following are affiliate links.
Any purchase you make from my blog helps to keep it going!
- New Order: A Decluttering Handbook for Creative Folks (and Everyone Else)
- How to Break Up With Your Phone: The 30 Day Plan to Take Back Your Life
- The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps For Keeping Technology In It’s Proper Place