Tuesday, October 6, 2015

HAPPY 5TH BIRTHDAY, INSTAGRAM! I'M CELEBRATING YOU BY UNFOLLOWING A TON OF ACCOUNTS.


As we young people are apt to do, I spend a fair amount of time with my friends talking about Instagram. We discuss who we follow, what celebrities post, the latest stollen joke from @thefatjewish, that kind of thing. 

We all follow a lot of the same accounts, from editors to photographers, foodies, dogs and actual friends. We also follow a lot of the same semi-famous social-medialites; those people who portray themselves to be some combination of DJ, model, blogger, entrepreneur, health guru, yogi, world traveler and spectacularly self-involved human being. You know the type. When photos from these types of accounts come up, my eyes roll so far back in my head I feel like I might be looking at my own brain.

For context, I'll give just one example: I've been following Hannah Bronfman on Instagram for a while. I won't harp on the content of her feed, because that's not really the point. The point is that I caught myself lingering over her photos—and those on similar accounts—not because they were inspiring or witty or beautiful—but because I found the storytelling as a whole to be ridiculous. My thoughts as I scrolled were mostly negative, kind of jealous and just plain unjoyful. Here I was talking sh*t with my friends about people I don't even know—as if they have an actual impact on my life. I call this phenomenon "the hate follow."

Let me be clear, though. Ms. Bronfman has every right to display her lifestyle any way she chooses on social media. She's created a personal brand around it—and she's super successful within her niche, and it's good business. What she and her peers are doing is not objectively annoying or harmful. It's subjectively annoying—to me. I decided to unfollow her and see how it felt.

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Soon enough I was unfollowing literally dozens of people, brands and celebrities as sort of a micro-experiment in FOMO vs. JOMO. (This would be "fear of missing out" and "joy of missing out" for those not up on their trendy acronyms.) I was curious to find out if I'd miss the voyeurism of peeking in on those lifestyles I'll never really live.

The results of my cleanse have been subtle—which makes them all the more valid, I think. The absence of these "hate follow" accounts was almost imperceptible, except that I noticed I was scrolling a little more slowly, and bestowing far more double taps than before.

I miss nothing.

The feeling was akin to a Marie Kondo closet purge, or taking the time to "unsubscribe" to a heap of spam emails in my Gmail promotions folder. With each purposeful tap of the "unfollow" button (as with the tossing of an unloved garment into the donations bag) I let out a gleeful, "BYE!" and kept right on scrolling. In the same way that I never end up longing for the old clothes or lamenting a missed sale alert, the unfollowed were unceremoniously forgotten.

The photos in my feed now are mostly people I like, admire or know personally. It's food and drinks I want to try and animals I want to be friends with. It's perspectives on the world that I find interesting or beautiful or funny. My follows reflect a better version of me—the version that likes skiing and being in nature, the version that is interested in the clothes on a runway rather than the models, the version that really likes dogs and outer space and pictures of attractive strangers riding the subway while reading books.

Again, much like the now-donated clothes and newsletters in my promotions folder, the "hate follows" happen pretty naturally. Something that once seemed to hold value no longer does—and that's okay.

Let me say, it feels absolutely silly to be talking about social media so seriously, and even more silly to realize how much effort I'm putting into an app on my phone. But I love Instagram, and I don't care who knows it. I like rolling over in the morning and browsing through last night's photos before I get out of bed. I like knowing what my friends far away are up to from day to day. I like trolling my own photos and being reminded of past adventures and good times. I don't think I'm alone in my appreciation for The 'Gram, which is why I thought it would be interesting to bring up this topic on the blog.

Anyway, I'm not advocating that everyone reading this go out and unfollow all the same types of accounts I unfollowed—we all get our fix in different ways, after all. However, I think we're all inundated with enough negative energy, self-doubt and insecurity in our real lives. Doubling down on those feelings via social media feels entirely unnecessary.

Let's pour one out for the unfollowed and move on. 

6 comments:

  1. I. Love. This. Over the weekend I did the same thing—including dumping Hannah Bronfman's account. I'm tired of feeling jealous of other people's lives and was so happy to get back to food shots and beautiful landscapes.

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  2. I have removed every celeb from my follow list a while ago and the same for twitter.
    I clear out stuff like that regularly.
    I want stuff from real people and stuff i am actually interested in.

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  3. This is SO good and SO true. Love the dogs myself....

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  4. Youre one of the only blogs that actually TALK about fashion and the things around it rather than just posting countless photos. And you do it in a funny nuanced way. Dont stop doing that.

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