LONG READS: Why I Deactivated Instagram

It was an impulse click, but a decision that I had been mulling over for some time.

Instagram had started out as just another social media application. It had something that Facebook or Twitter didn’t, with its pretty photo filters that could make an otherwise lousy shot appear somewhat professional. I loved it. Back then, Instagram was just another form of self-expression and nothing more.

But as more people started to join the community, although it became a lot more vibrant, it was also less personal, especially if your profile wasn’t private. And this new openness felt as though a hidden rat race with the rest of my followers had begun. There was no longer room for ugly pictures or unglamorous shots; Instagram had become the platform to showcase to the world the best of my life. Food, experiences, friends, family; nothing was spared from the need to Instagram it. Each time I tried something new; maybe a new hipster cafe in the neighbourhood, or the first legal drink at a bar, there would be this impulsive need to snap a good picture under good lighting to make the photo a hundred times better than reality.

But, does your life really need to be edited? Must we really present the best sides of our lives at all times? It was as though the Instagram culture was telling me that it was only interested in the happy things, and not the upsetting ones, even though the latter was as much a part of my life as the former. The original intent of Instagram, to me at least, was that I could share my life with people whom I truly cared about and actually knew in person. Granted, I didn’t post my lousy shots at the very beginning, but at that time, at least it was a decision that I made on my own accord. Right now, the decision no longer seems to be mine, but of a definitive status quo that I have to abide by.

I also felt a pressure building up. Everyone was posting the best portion of their lives, and I felt the need to experience life to that same level of enjoyment. I had a school mate posting about his successful admission to read medicine at Oxford, a female cousin posting cheesy couple shots with her better half, and acquaintances going on holidays with their own friends. And I was left there to wonder: If he could be admitted to Oxford, should I be satisfied with my own placing at King’s College London? If a relative could smile so charmingly for the camera, should I then endeavour to rid myself of my trademark crooked grin that had a knack of appearing ten times as worse on camera and replace it with a pasted, camera-friendly smile? If acquaintances I followed on Instagram went to Bangkok for a holiday, should I then rally my own friends (or whatever left of us) to go to a more exotic country like the Maldives?

Maybe you laugh at my folly; that I think too much into things; and that Instagram hasn’t changed one bit because I was the one who had changed my expectations towards life. And you may be right. But the fact is, Instagram is a potent platform for mutual comparisons and of trying to keep up with the Joneses. I think we can all admit to feeling that familiar twinge of jealousy when someone we don’t particularly like has life better than we do.

And that’s probably why I deactivated Instagram. I don’t like hating on someone who I think doesn’t deserve whatever he or she is getting now. I don’t like feeling lousy about my life and thinking that I deserve more, when having minimal waiting time for my bus to work is already a little blessing in itself.

I see the numbers of people on the train with heads bent over their phones and missing chances to observe what goes on around them. Without Instagram, I see life for what it is, and not what it appears to be. I see life a little clearer, and less blurred by photo filters and editing applications. In a nutshell, I see life better.

Of course, I miss the brilliant photographers and the motivational quotes. However, I don’t miss the culture, whether self-imposed or not, of chasing after things.

Right now, I’m sitting down and letting the chase go on around me. But I’m contented.

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