Why Force Feed? My love/hate relationship with Instagram

The other day I had an impulse not only to erase my Instagram account, but to terminate its entire existence from my life. The fantasy of cutting its virtual cord— All the years of content. All those yoga poses. Captions. Plates of food. Selfies. Landscapes — All gone in a few clicks. Poof! The stupendous relief of not having to keep up with it anymore.

This is the impulse I get, when say, I might be walking my dog and feel the pressure to grab my phone and shoot a video documenting our walk around the neighborhood. A behavior motivated only by my thought that I have not posted in a while. I have no new pictures. No whimsical caption ideas. No original inspirational quote. My story feed runs dark. And, there I am with my dog by my foot in the Chicago cold, pressing share to the group of however many followers who might be sitting on the train or at home mindlessly scrolling and will come across my story of me walking my dog. Never mind the traffic light that has changed three times as I stand on the corner until the task is done. The dog peed ages ago. The task is finishing the damn post. 

“I am thinking about erasing my Instagram account,” I say to my husband later on. I sound like I am confessing something. We were in the living room facing each other. My husband is a relatively new Instagrammer and as an ex-magazine owner he approaches this new role strategically, artfully. He has standards for the pictures he posts. The lighting. The lay out. He spends time curating. Not so much because he loves Instagram, but because he loves aesthetics. This approach might save him from the personal anguish that Instagram provokes in me. I can’t always will myself to see the art in everything. But I try. 

“Do you have to erase it?” Can’t you just set certain boundaries around your usage?”

The rational answer was of course. The annoyed, fed up me wanted to scream, Fuck no! It needs to go. All of it. (I imagine myself pointing my finger to face the front door.) I want to ban the Ap from my life. 

There are times I am ok with it. I tolerate it. Or I embrace it wholeheartedly and sign up for special courses by experts who tell me they can guarantee millions of followers and engagement! I marvel at their positivity. And I commit to challenges and set goals and track the metrics and it works for a few days like a cleanse might, but I observe myself losing interest and judging how I choose to spend my time. Unlike a cleanse. What would I be doing now if I wasn’t staring at my phone? 

I often feel “forced” to post on Instagram. And I am not sure why. The pressure to keep up? To stay in front of everything? To not lose traction? Would my brand fall to the back of the line if I suddenly disappeared from people’s feeds? Is that what I am doing when I decide to whip out my phone after my husband bakes a sour dough bread from scratch or I made a new kale salad or my kids and I play monopoly on a Friday night? Do these things fall under my brand or are they just the every day moments of my life that if not recorded by some device people may not remember how precious their life is? Is every second of what I do, say, practice or think about subject to share? 

Not to mention the insidious pressure of the stories. I mean is it cute or necessary to document every step of my day which feels downright awkward. I mean, I don’t yet know how to make peace with telling my students, “Excuse me! I just need to take this photo of you in warrior two?” Or worse, telling my close friend, “You don’t mind while I take my shot of us sitting here having a conversation?”  (Thus, why I think selfies, while when examined are super bizarre, but at least feel less intrusive.)

If I were to refer to a creative credo that has worked for me when I am I forcing something to happen be it a pose, a sentence, a friendship, a conversation, a post then as soon as I buttress up against that wall, that strain in my breath or my face, that exasperated sigh, or nausea — then I decidedly put it away, or course correct, or turn a different direction. I get up and do something else. I give myself some space. 

And while  I am at it, I remind myself that it’s ok. That in the main scheme of my day, this is all so new interacting and interfacing with people through devices. That it will go clunky. That it will go smooth. That at times I will be let myself feel validated by a kind emoji when I need to, and at times I will power the damn thing down, grab the monopoly board, or a gorgeous hunk of new parmesan out of the fridge or sit down and notice that it snowed this morning and my body does a splendid job of playing these moments back to me when I want them to. 

Tracy Bleier