Why I can’t seem to get myself back on Instagram

I was off Instagram for almost a month and I don’t feel really interested in going back to it. I did log back on this week and as usual my visual brain was completely overloaded and I started stressing over politics (because while people used to just post photos, now they think they have to be social justice warriors at all times), stressing over the sad stories of people dying, and feeling completely inadequate as a mother because I don’t take my children on fancy European vacations. I did contemplate faking a European vacation and posting about that but since I’m pretty sick and tired of the “fakeness” of social media, I decided against that.

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To me, Instagram has become a place for voyeurism and a chance to brag about trips or wealth in an attempt to be validated by a bunch of strangers.

I used it to share my photography simply because I enjoyed connecting with other photographers but there was a time I got caught up in the validation cycle too. I would look at the numbers of likes and comment on posts, hoping others would comment or follow back. This was very short-lived, however, because the idea of networking with a bunch of strangers for attention made me sick to my stomach. And the idea that having a bunch of likes and followers would translate to paying photography customers was looking more and more ridiculous, probably because the photography business was an obvious failure for me.

Now that I could care less about being validated by a bunch of strangers, I hesitate every time I start to post a photo. I mean – who cares if my kid jumped off a ladder at the pool or played with the dog in the yard? Then again, I guess photos like that can be a distraction from the more self-serving ones and from all the political ridiculousness we see on social media anymore. Posting artistic photos over bragging ones is more my goal since I don’t have fancy trips to photograph or a fancy yacht to relax on.

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I think those of us who don’t get the chance to go on all those fancy trips should remember that the people behind the photos may not have the perfect, awe-inspiring lives we think they do. Their feed may look pristine and exotic but behind the scenes they may be dealing with trials we can’t see. The photos from Honolulu might be beautiful but they may be hiding a broken marriage, abuse or addiction.

And the woman who is on her tenth trip in the year to somewhere exotic may post all those photos because every day she’s pushing down the gnawing fear that she’s going to end up alone. Those trips may be a way to cover up a fracture in her family. Perhaps the woman laying on the beach in a bikini on her social media faced a situation in her life that turned her world upside down so now she’s decided life’s too short not to experience everything she can in her remaining years. Maybe she’s just spent her entire savings on that trip simply to forget about the sadness at home.

In other words, while we (I) shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, we (I) also shouldn’t judge the person behind the Instagram feed by the photos they share.

But back to my Instagram (Me! Me! Me! . . . Just kidding.) I’m not sure what I want to do with it anymore. Like I said, I like posting fun photos of the kids or artistic images I take, but really, I could care less if strangers online know about my personal life so I don’t know if I will be posting much more on Instagram. If I do, I don’t think I’ll be using hashtags to draw more attention to them. I’ll share them for any friends or family who follow me or for any online friends I’ve made.

How about you? Are you an Instagram user or follower? What’s your motivation for using it? For fun? Business? Simple connection? Or validation? None of those reasons are actually bad – they’re just real. Let me know in the comments.

(And yes, I’m sharing photos in this post. For validation? Actually, no. I added photos to this post because my posts have been really bland lately and need some sprucing up.)

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Written by Lisa R. Howeler

As a writer, photographer and former journalist, Lisa R. Howeler writes a little bit about everything on her blog Boondock Ramblings. She's a wife and a mother and enjoys a good John Wayne movie and a cozy Jan Karon book. She's also a freelance writer and photographer who is a contributor to various stock agencies, including Lightstock and Alamy. Her photography work focuses on documentary and photojournalism. She recently released her first novel 'A Story to Tell' on Amazon.

15 comments

  1. I actually love Instagram for just the reasons you hate (except for the politics – I could do without a lot of that). I do, however, love looking at the beauty that people create. I like seeing the photo ideas that people come up with and I LOVE looking at photographer pages in awe at the stories they can create and the moments they can capture. I think your photos are spectacular and Instagram would be a much better place with them. I understand though how you feel. It can be overwhelming and make me feel less than at times. I just have to remember that the beautiful moments of others do not take away from my personal beautiful moments. You, however, have to do what resonates best with you, and if that means no IG, I totally get it.

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    1. For now I am sticking with it but just limiting my time. I’ll decide In the future if I totally want to ax it but for now I think I’ll just post here and there and scroll less than I used to. I’m in a Bible verse loop that I really enjoy (every Wednesday) and there are several photographers and bloggers I follow who I enjoy keeping up with. I think that I’ll just take breaks from it and see how it goes. I should look you up on Instagram for the times I do visit it. 😉

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  2. I loved this! Last year I took a one month break from instagram and experienced the same thing. When I got back it was overwhelming. I enjoyed posting because it was just a way to share about health and motivation. But after taking time off I just wanted to work on myself rather than look for encouragement and validation from the internet. I haven’t gone back as there’s other things I was to focus on but having that break gave me a lot to consider when it comes to my reasons for using social media.

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    1. It’s weird how that break changes our perspective on it all and how we can realize it wasn’t as important as we thought. I still have people I enjoy catching up with on there, but for the most part I can now take it or leave it.

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  3. So true! We can never really know the story behind the picture. I love looking at pretty pictures, but I always take everything with a grain of salt. Personally, I hate Instagram, but mostly because I hate taking pictures.

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  4. I love your photos that you share. I enjoy seeing your kids having fun and the different angles you take pictures from 🙂 It inspires me to think differently behind the camera. I never got on Instagram. I used to do Facebook a long time ago now, but now it’s just my husband. We have a “joint” account, but he is the one who uses it 🙂 I never started on Twitter either and honestly I’m glad I don’t know how to use them! The reason is I fall into that trap all too easily. Judging others based on what they post. Seeking validation from likes and views (something I occasionally struggle with here, but am working on not caring about 🙂 ). Wishing for what I don’t have. I have intentionally not put myself through that because I know how I react. Others can do it without falling into that trap and I applaud them. We all have different lives, different reasons, and different motivations. We all struggle with something. Keep sharing your photos here please! I really, really enjoy seeing them and enjoying your talent 🙂 God Bless!

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    1. It’s so weird how I used to be so sad if people didn’t like my photos on Instagram or Facebook and now I really don’t care. I guess priorities just change, especially when you realize how fickle people are and how vapid social media can be too.

      I remember you saying before you don’t have social media accounts. I think that’s the smartest decision ever. I defintely fell into the trap of needing validation from likes, etc. Once I broke out of it, (with help from God) I felt so much better. Even before that I backed off caring I had recognized how it was like a sickness and it was making me sick.

      And thank you for the compliment on the photos. I enjoy taking them – even more so now that I’ve given up on the idea of photography as a business.

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  5. Just popped on for a bit to show my son my site and get some input about the direction I want to go with starting an online business of sorts, just something small and stress free. As stress free as possible. Anyway, we were just talking about starting up my Instagram account again but trying to do it for business reasons as well as just trying to connect to other like minded people.

    I love the honesty and openness of your posts, so glad I popped on. You are right about how we don’t really know what is actually going on behind all these beautiful lifestyles and images we see constantly.

    I have a cousin that would rather go in dept struggling like crazy trying to keep up with it all by posting magazine like photos of her pretend lifestyle, but she is actually trying to keep up with the Kardashians.

    In the real world though she is not very happy trying to hold that image together. Oh, and she gets mean when anyone around her does not fit the image she believes she should be living. Like she is royalty and she is too good for what she believes to be old ugly people.

    So sad to see the entitlement social media has created in some people. I do love your artsy photos, they portray a lifestyle we all should be living. Okay…off now, gotta find a post and link to get back to Instagram and see about getting that going again.

    So funny, I only have about 30 followers there. I am estranged from half of my family because of the way they were treating me and my children…everyone who follows me already knows that old and boring story. Hope you all are having a fun summer, it looks like it from your photos, take care.

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    1. I like instagram when all the stress of it is removed and a casual business wouldn’t be as stressful as trying to build up a huge photography business following like I tried at one point. I think I’ve succeeded in removing most of the stress of it – no hashtags, just sharing and connecting similar to how I enjoy connecting with fellow bloggers, commenting where I want to and not feeling any pressure if they never comment back.

      And it is sad when I see these young people craving for validation and attention – sharing their entire lives on social media, begging for people to follow and like them, when someday it will become more of a curse than a blessing. People will turn on you in a flash – they’ll love you one moment and slip up and they’ll shred you. It can be an awful thing but at the same time social media can be a good thing to help reach out, grow a business, things like that. See why I’m so torn between wanting to drop it and wanting to keep it? Hahaha!

      Anyhow, enjoy figuring out the business!

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  6. I hear that Lisa, amen! I’ve never used Instagram and I don’t plan on using it. I did Facebook for a bit, but I left that madness back in 2012. I just have my blog and Twitter and sometimes I just want to get off Twitter and I might still do that. By the way, I think having a family vacation at home is great! Love the photo of your son jumping into the pool, looks like fun! You are right, we don’t need to go on fancy trips to have a good time. God bless you and your fam!

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    1. I’m on Facebook on a very limited basis. Very. I only have 21 friends on there now after starting a new account. I couldn’t stomach Twitter. Yuck! I don’t scroll on Facebook now. I prefer my fairly tame and quiet blogging buddies. 😉

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