“Hey, I follow you on Instagram! But I don’t like you…”
Social media is definitely a tricky world to navigate; especially when stepping into the complicated world of Instagram. It’s basically broken down into: strangers, looking at photos of strangers, wishing for likes and comments from strangers. And inevitably, most of those strangers end up wishing they were living the lives they frequently double tap. One troublesome thing I have experienced using the app, is the problematic relationship some users seem to have with the accounts they follow.
I have a relatively large Instagram account 20k+ and I often run into people whom have followed my account for years. Most people are great and excited to chat – others seem to hold some sort of invisible grudge. They don’t follow because they genuinely like my lifestyle/photos – they follow because they dislike it. There’s that heinous saying that goes something like “keep your friends close and your enemies closer…”. Sadly, this seems to be evident within the Instagram world. I often see people whom I know follow, like, watch my story and engage with my posts. But they won’t talk to me, look at me or even acknowledge that I am in the room. We’ll maybe have some minor small talk before they resort back to only sending awkward direct messages online. I often wonder if it’s because people have preconceived notions about my life. About who I am as a person and how big my ego must be?
For me, Instagram has always been a portfolio, somewhere to share images that I’m proud of and get other’s stoked on being outside. I didn’t join the app to get a boyfriend, make a BFF or sell any particular idea of what life should be like. Since uploading my first image, I’ve watched the perspective on image sharing change into something much deeper. Something that can hit you pretty hard in the mental health department. Instagram can be a pretty dark place for some people. It can hit those who are injured and constantly watching endless ski videos or someone financially struggling seeing flashy “influencers” get free stuff. It can bring you down on a deep emotional level if you let it. Studies have shown that the apps prolonged usage is associated with high levels of anxiety, depression, bullying and FOMO: fear of missing out.
The line between truth and fiction has become very blurry on the popular app. It’s easy to mislead people with a quick image crop or edit. People have even started trip planning based on conditions they’ve seen in a recent photo. The problem is often times the images aren’t recent or don’t show the full picture. In my experience, users aren’t alway honest and can glorify a situation to seem better than it actually was. I recently had a conversation with a guy who posted an image of a “perfect powder day”. I skied the same slope, at the exact same time of day. It was heavy, wet and unforgivable snow. It was far from a perfect powder day. Take each post with a grain of salt. Your own salt.
I’ve always tried to separate myself from the brain-numbing impacts. I’ve tried to look at it as a tool instead of a way of life. I’ve had my fair share of cyberbullying and uncomfortable interactions with people online. But nothing has baffled me more than the “I follow you but don’t like you” mindset. I find myself feeling responsible for my followers well beings from time to time. Trying to find ways to share more personal parts of myself to help them understand I’m human too. I have bad days, I break bones, I live paycheck to paycheck and my life is far from perfect.
As much as I’ve tried to separate myself from the negative effects, they have still found their way into my head. I’m constantly thinking of creative ways remove those dark connotations. I’d love to see social media become a place for folks to just get stoked, motivated or encouraged. A platform where people follow you because they appreciate your photography, cause or style. Our world has enough chilling issues as it stands. We need spaces like Instagram to share passion and excitement in a positive way. If we can influence each other on a deep mental health level, why not use it for good instead of evil? Be honest with your post. Everyone has issues and circumstances to overcome. The photos you scroll past, should just be there to remind you of the good days and that you’ll see another powder day, cool sunset or go on a trip again soon.