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Looking Back on Logging Off

Saying Goodbye to Instagram

Taylor Rohleen

Taylor Rohleen

A student logging off from Instagram. Graphic by Taylor Rohleen.

Taylor Rohleen, Satellite High School

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Five years.

Since originally creating my Instagram account, it has been five years consisting of 301 posts (not including archived and deleted posts), countless filters, comments, captions… and I am over it.

Can you imagine the last time you spent five years of your life consistently delegating your time to something? I understand sports, school, hobbies, fruitful endeavors… but Instagram? How did we allow something so unproductive to become such a substantial part in our lives? We have scrolled through feeds for hours upon hours, consuming menial media as our way of spending precious time.

But, Taylor, Instagram is productive.

By all means, the power of social media is profound. It has transformed our society into a fast-paced Mecca of information. News arrives instantaneously, and content is at the touch of our fingertips. However, social media has also turned society into this antisocial, bombastic hell.

It is because we are so bombarded with content that there is no headspace left. This information should fuel us to better society and our own lives. Instead, it generates this insatiable hunger within us to consume. It is alarming, how utterly obsessed we are with viewing and creating disingenuous representations of our lives, in the form of the Instagram profile. In the words of sophomore Max Schieman, “There’s no other reason [to own an account], except it makes you look good and creates a false perception of who you are.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love media. I will happily spend hours fine-tuning images and editing videos, but this is for personal satisfaction, my own form of art, and my way of appreciating the moments in life.

So, what’s wrong with sharing that with others?

The moment we release media for the satisfaction of others and to prove to society how wonderful our lives are, is the very moment we lost touch of the unique purpose of media. Media is to recall the moments. Social media, on the other hand, is an entirely different monster: Social media is to brag about the moments.

For our generation and future generations, we will have grown up in two universes: Our real lives and our digital lives.

From a young age, we will leave footprints of ourselves in the digital realm, and by the time we are adults, we will have online baggage. Due to this, our mistakes lay not in our mind, but in our profiles. This then affects our futures: Colleges, careers, and children will all be able to see our past selves, for better or for worse.

Since they can see our past, that also means that we can see others’ pasts, as well. By following different accounts, we possess an “inside” view into their presumed lives. Every time they post, we are notified on our feeds.

How absurd is it that we are so invested in these people’s lives that we have to follow them this closely? We are in tune to every digital mark they leave—social media annihilates any suggestions of privacy. Even if the account is on “private” mode, once following it, you have unlimited access to their posts.

After a certain point, it feels uncomfortable for others to have that much access to one’s personal life. I feel that loved ones should have access and involvement in our lives, not the general public.

What about finstas? Aren’t those more private?

Succinctly put, “If you need two Instagram accounts to portray yourself, it just highlights how egotistical you truly are,” opines Schieman. “It’s ridiculous to have two accounts to show [both] your negative and positive sides.”

The entire nature of finstas and spam accounts is that of a cult. It’s a not-so-secret society, in that only select confidants follow these accounts; yet, it is social media, regardless: People can still search for your profile, and as more people follow the account, there becomes more sources of access to it.

These accounts depict an alter ego, with the most repugnant part being that finstas are supposed to reveal one’s “true self.” This ties back to the fallacy of needing two profiles to depict oneself. At this rate, why would we need an account in the first place if it fails to represent us?

It is because we are so enslaved to this app that we continue to create accounts and crave its pseudo-connection. As we further entangle ourselves within its captivity, it becomes exceedingly difficult to recognize its malevolence and remove ourselves from it.

Schieman is one of the few who recognized this and deleted his account. Thus far, he has spent six months free from Instagram. In this time, he noticed that teens “repeatedly turn to social media instead of people, amalgamating an entirely new issue. This loss of emotional connection with people results in teens who are inept in developing deep, meaningful relationships, which is a very important tool in both the workplace and the social environment.”

“Adolescence is a very high stress and high anxiety point in a person’s life, but now kids are using [social media]  to cope with this stress,” Schieman reveals. Due to its addictive nature, we crave everything about social media: the likes, the comments, the validation—it is all a drug. “We have age restrictions on all these dopamine-producing items (drugs, alcohol, etc.), but not social media,” states Schieman.

The majority of alcoholics discovered alcohol when they were young, mostly to deal with the high stress of adolescence. At first this may not seem like a bad thing; but now, whenever the alcoholic deals with anything high stress, they will not turn to a person, but rather the bottle. So now, replace the alcohol with social media, and you have this generation of kids utilizing social media as a coping method.

It is toxic and addictive, this very app. This, in part, is why it is so difficult for many to delete Instagram. Schieman frequently asks others a simple question: “Why do you have it?” Oftentimes they become defensive, due to how imbued they have become. “99% of the time,” they remark that “it’s ‘to have fun’. ‘There’s no harm!’ But, in truth, there is.” The facade that is an Instagram profile presents a juxtaposition between who you are and the persona you create. In a profile, your “life [appears to be] amazing, when in reality you are depressed.”

The events that take place in these posts appear to be incredible, when it is nothing but a veneer which conceals the lack of authenticity. Some plan outings for the purpose of taking pictures. These activities—parties, museums, murals, beach trips, unique shops—provide beautiful backdrops, but their true beauty lies in each experience itself.

What happened to doing things for sheer enjoyment? It is far more difficult to appreciate the essence of life, when all you are focused on is the correct lighting and angle. Once your mindset shifts from getting the ‘gram to enjoying the moment, each encounter enriches your life more than it would have previously. We reap more benefits from an individual connection than any connection achieved through social media.

From social media, it is now even more difficult to connect. Users fear face-to-face connection, even though “it’s [only] more of a skill that they [just] haven’t developed,” expresses Schieman. The underlying issue is rejection: Since it’s more painless to react through texting, we can avoid confronting conflict by the use of our screens. Texting people instead of conversing in person, posting rants on finstas, and leaving people on read are all examples of how we have become numb to dealing with our issues.

Moreover, our friends should not have to check our multiple status updates, from both finsta and rinsta, to know how we feel. Our friends should act as our support system, not as an audience to our lives. Creating cryptic captions only further embroils us in our issues, inhibiting us from actually dealing with them. Often, the words get lost in translation, complicating the matters more so. We should be asking people how they feel, in person, not viewing their ruminations through a screen.

But, Instagram is my only way of keeping in touch with long distance friends.

Whether separated by distance or not, if your friendship is solely limited to viewing their posts, how well are you actually “keeping in touch” with them? Get their number and give them a call. Schedule a FaceTime date, perhaps. Keep the conversation flowing; Instagram will stagnate it, as the moon’s absence ceases the tides. And if you get a chance to visit them in person, imagine how much more fulfilling it’ll be to genuinely spend time with them after communicating prior.

Well, okay. What about the other apps? (i.e. Snapchat, Twitter, etc.)

In truth, they are all addictive. You can pick your poison—select the lesser of the many evils, if you will—or delete them all. They all present some form of instant gratification. Personally, I believe that Snapchat is the most intimate of the apps, as I use it as means for media communication. Plus, I love to capture moments and share them individually with friends.

I—along with many others— show no penchant for Snapchat stories at all. If my friends wish to share a moment with me, they would simply send it to me. Schieman feels likewise: “I don’t disagree with the communication; I disagree with the [Snap] stories.” Viewing their story to understand how their day went is counterintuitive—and especially redundant if they’re sent to me and placed on their story—as I will only be able to observe upon the filtered version of what this person wants everybody to see; I cannot fully grasp their emotions through snippets of Snapchats. These stories are just another way to brag about our day-to-day experiences. And, yes, call me a hypocrite: I still post to my Snap story. While I deploy it mainly to spread school news, I’ll sometimes upload a snippet from my day.

Fair point. Anything else?

The main takeaway of this article is that we ought not consume social media. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “I do not wish to expiate, but to live. My life is not an apology, but a life. It is for itself and not for a spectacle.” Our lives should not end up as an apology for all of the time wasted on the sin of social media. Our lives should be an authentic adventure in our eyes—but not a spectacle in the eyes of others.

And in the modern, digital lives which we live, it’s all wholesome fun and games, until you come to realize that it isn’t. Previously, my friends and I would share dozens of images with one another before each post, selecting which filter, caption, and emojis would work best. The time I allocated to curating my feed is valuable time which could have been spent being productive. Now, I have that time. My departure from the confides of Instagram has enriched my life in ways this app could never attain.

There’s always something better to do than social media. Be the change, and log off, for good.

Read the original column here

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