Instagram: presentation or performance?

Lifestyle Editor Holly Margerrison celebrates her 30 day Instagram detox

Holly Margerrison
22nd November 2019
From popping your leg into a power stance, to ensuring your ‘phone eats first’, to brainstorming your wittiest caption with friends… We’ve become a society that places pressure on presenting our perfect paradise on social media. But when does this presentation slip into performance?

Whether you’re a bottomless brunch enthusiast or an admirer of the simpler scenic routes, we’re all guilty of ensuring we capture every picture-perfect moment for ‘the gram’. I personally spend countless hours editing photos, playing with word order for puns and even stalking other’s feeds out of jealousy, curiosity or boredom. 

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get anxious about the presentation of my feed. Will this photo look good against my others? Is it prime time to post? How much of a filter do I need? Asking around only confirmed the inevitable – we’re all craving other people’s validation for our own happiness. 

What’s more worrying is I know I have a young following from my job at a children’s summer camp. Whilst it’s great they don’t have access to their phones for a couple of months, it scares me how quickly they can go from interacting with one another in a tech-free zone to barely acknowledging lifelong friends once their phones are returned. 

For them, social media dictates their lives. They’ve been brought up in a culture that endorses it. I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly with this. It’s heart-warming to see captured footage of them flying across states and surprising their friends. It’s a little more chilling to see bitchy messages flying about in group chats – a prime example of them mirroring behaviour they’ve seen elsewhere online.

I feel I have a responsibility to be a positive influence online for them. Whilst I can spend my summer preaching about how refreshing it feels to be make-up free in a liberating environment, there’s an element of hypocrisy when I leave camp and begin posting posy picture after posy picture.

In one of the most contradictory (and perhaps even ironic) realities, I actually have Apple to thank for my wake-up call.

At the start of September, up flashes my screen-time report onto my iPhone lock screen. God, no. That’s hours of my day gone – evaporated, vanished – to what? An alternative reality that’s undeniably worse than the real one I’m actually present in. 

I decided enough was enough and made the abrupt decision to delete Instagram. 

My results were not an overnight miracle. I’d perhaps had a naïve perception that I would feel relief, a resurgence of energy, instantaneously. Instead, I found myself reaching for my phone to do ‘the scroll’ (yeah, I’m talking about the one you do when you’re on the toilet). 

At first, I substituted my time on Instagram for Twitter. Although it proved useful as a news platform, I forced myself not to waste time watching pointless (albeit funny) videos. 

After a couple of weeks, I was adapting. I made a rule for myself; whenever I defaulted to scrolling, I’d get my book and start reading. I powered through books like I haven’t in a while – a book a week became the norm. 

But I did struggle when friends were talking about someone’s ‘recent post’. I’d never realised how much conversations were dominated by social media too. Whether it was celebrities, or someone who had just got a cool job – everyone was talking about it.

I did feel refreshed after a month of no Instagram. I felt like I was appreciating smaller details more and using my time more productively. It even felt good to boast about the fact I’d accomplished it to perplexed faces.

But then I was returning to Newcastle. Life was picking up again and new, international course mates were asking for my account details to get in touch. Perhaps this is okay, perhaps this is how social media can be sociable once more. Instagram’s pink and yellow icon reappeared on my home screen.

I guess I owe a thank you to Apple for luring me in before hitting me with the hard truth: I’m a social media addict. But I went cold turkey, I’ve been through rehab and I’m determined to make changes to the way I spend my day. Try to contend with that.

Featured Image: Pixabay @ijmaki

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