“I lead a charmed life on Instagram”
But the reality behind my social media feed isn’t as pretty as it looks because, let’s be frank, who loves airing their dirty laundry in public?
Every day at 6 p.m. without fail, I open my Instagram app and post one of my drafts on my feed. It doesn’t matter if I’m stuck in the office rushing to meet a deadline, on vacation with my friends, or in the middle of watching a movie on the couch with my boyfriend – in a nutshell, that is how I’d summarise my relationship with Instagram.
Since updating my iPhone’s iOS recently, I also found out that about half of my screen time is used on social networking, and specifically, on Instagram. I wasn’t surprised by this — it is, to be honest, the first app I look at the minute I wake up, and it’s also the app I have to pry myself away from before bed time. Looking back to when I first started using Instagram, it didn’t have a hold over me like this.
Six years ago, it was purely a tool I used to keep myself updated with what was going on with the lives of my friends and family, especially those who were living overseas. But somewhere along the way, it gradually became more about garnering “likes” and gaining followers. And you know what? I’m not even what you’d consider an influencer.
Sure, if anyone were to scroll through my Instagram feed, they would be impressed with my “charmed life”. Not heiress-charmed, but charmed enough to travel often, stay at glamorous hotels, and dine at fancy restaurants. Most people don’t know about the credit card debt that I continue to rack up in an attempt to keep up with appearances. And amidst the multiple pictures taken while on family vacations, no one would guess that I actually have toxic relationships with some of my “pals”… and with my mother as well.
I don’t even like some of these so-called “friends” I hang out with, but the picture perfect shots of my friends and I having a good time give away nothing.
Likewise, my family portraits, accompanied with the hashtag #blessed, provide a rosy front for the countless passive-aggressive spats that my mother and I have shot at each other. But of course, none of that gets posted. The only photos that make the cut are those where our impeccably groomed faces are pressed against each other in mid-laughter, looking as though we’re having the time of our lives.
Spinning down a rabbit hole of self-doubt
Despite knowing that Instagram feeds don’t necessarily reflect real life 100 percent of the time, I can’t help but be obsessed. I feel a twitch of envy each time I double-tap on a post while scrolling through my Instagram newsfeed, and I’d think to myself, “What a beautiful hotel suite she’s staying at”, “Her outfit is so beautiful”, or the inevitable “Her life is perfect”. The discontent sets in, even as I’m scrolling through my Instagram news feed, looking for ideas so I can post something that will incite the same response from my followers. This has inevitably led to a downward spiral of negative emotions, and an endless fixation over the content I post and the social media persona I’ve created.
I mean let’s be be honest, how many of us have looked at someone’s Instagram post and wished we had his/her life (even though we are fully aware that everyone will only post the picture of the beautiful bouquet of flowers their boyfriend sent them, but no one is going to post a picture of them crying while getting over a break up)?
How many of us have sat at a meal with a group of friends in silence, because everyone was preoccupied with selecting the best photo to post on Instagram? Which brings me to the question: why are we, as a generation, so discontent with what we have, and so caught up with humble-bragging?
The turning point
It finally happened one morning, while I was having brunch with my closest girlfriends . We’d known one another way since we were teens, but now that our crazy work schedules had taken over, frequent meet-ups were all but impossible. And yet, there I was, obsessing over the arrangement of my plates and cutlery and trying to get the perfect shot as usual – when instead, I should have been using the rare occasion to catch up with the people I loved. After all, it had been more than six months since the entire group of us got together in full force. A few of them had even flown all the way back to Singapore for this reunion.
It suddenly hit me that I’d been so preoccupied with maintaining my social media persona and documenting my “perfect life”, that I’d forgotten how to be in the moment and actually live life.
At that moment, something clicked in my mind. I put down my phone and the five of us chatted away like we were teenagers again. That day, I made a promise to myself: I would put my phone down the next time I was having a meal with my mother, so that I could have an actual conversation with her. Of course, it’d take much more to bridge the gap with my mum, but surely, this was a step in the right direction, and it couldn’t hurt to try now could it?
And as my girlfriends and I exited the bistro, our friendships reaffirmed, I suggested we take a selfie — because, if you don’t post it on Instagram, did it really happen?