By: Anne T. Donahue
We’re living in an age of doing everything all the time, and then posting our adventures for everybody (but especially our crushes and enemies) to see. Which is one of my favorite past times. I like to ensure that anyone who’s not in my direct social circle can see just how interesting I am via photos and brief video clips, and when my target audience doesn’t immediately like, react to, or watch the unfolding of my life, I wonder what it’s all for anyway and curse them and their families.
Which is maybe an exaggeration. But to be fair and completely honest, I like Instagram. I like watching the greatest hits of my friends’ lives, and I love public displays of “look at my cool outfit.” I treat my stories like a glorified Tumblr, peppered with snippets form real life and screencaps from Heathers. Scrolling through the feed is a welcome break from working alone, at home, with only plastic flamingos on my balcony to entertain me, and while I will always skip over somebody’s workout content (I’m sorry, I can’t, don’t hate me), I will find time for cat content and accounts dedicated solely to the 1998 zeitgeist.
But this strange, obsessive-albeit-not-toxic relationship only rose out of hitting a point where I got too tired to care. I got too tired to ensure my feed looked a particular way. I got too tired to post the idea of my life instead of the actual thing. (I mean, I’m not going to post myself having a power-cry in my car because I’m tired and took on too much work, but I will post the abundance of Cheetos I purchased for me, a hero and beacon of clean eating.) Ultimately, I got too tired to do anything outside of what I wanted to do. Because it’s exhausting to think about curating anything to appease a bunch of people you might never even meet. Or, who literally do not care.
One of the most dangerous social media (particularly Instagram) myths is that it in any way depicts the reality faced by any person. We know that people are messy and falling apart and flawed and weird (bless them). We know that nobody looks perfect, ever, and that exciting adventures are often fraught with “Shit, but can I afford the gas for that spur-of-the-moment road trip?” The year is 2019, and we know that nobody’s life is perfect. And that’s why I’ve stuck around Instagram: it’s finally starting to reflect that.
Not everywhere, obviously. But amongst actual people who don’t have 13 million followers, it’s the high school locker equivalent of adult life. It’s the amalgamation of things that matter to somebody, or make them laugh, or make them happy. It’s the evolution from “come see my room!” in middle school to surpassing the art of perfectly outfitting one’s office desk and/or shared workspace. And honestly, considering I’ll probably never quit Twitter and am becoming increasingly aware of how dire and scary our day-to-day living is, I need a place where I can hang out and get to know my friends and people I admire in the same way I’d hang out in the school hallway marveling over their Tiger Beatcollage. So I bask in their DIY spaces, and I create mine in the same way. Some of it will look cool and nice and put-together, and other times I will share astrology memes to access. Some days are for scenery, others are for photos of horrifying vanity license plates. No days are for posting for any reason other than “I LIKE THIS AND NOW YOU BETTER, TOO.” (Preferably screamed in an Anjelica-from-Rugrats-voice.)
Which is what I think authenticity on the internet is. Posting your damn shit in your own way and saying, “And if you’ve got a problem with that, you can go to the devil!” to anybody and everybody, should you feel particularly combative. Social media is an extension of ourselves, and to adopt a persona on top of having to actually function as a person is a task that requires too much bandwidth with too little payoff. I will accept your likes and comments always, but should a photo not do particularly “well”? No. I won’t. I can’t do it. I’m so tired I’ve started drinking Instant Breakfasts because deciding on actual food before lunch is too much work.
I just want to see the cool things you love (or the stuff that makes you mad) and observe accordingly. I just want to like the shit out of your shit. And if that’s a photoshopped selfie, bless you. (Lord knows I will reduce my under-eye bags via app until I am long dead.) Or if it’s a picture of your infant son holding up a sign that says, “Instagram is the devil,” I’m here for it, too. Give me the joy of knowing we’re all just putting our posters up in our teen rooms or decorating our lockers in a way that screams, “YEAH I LIKE LFO, SO WHAT?” Give me the feelings that come with seeing a great Mad Menquote.
Dazzle me with your true selves. Or at least your capacity to find terrific memes.