Many baby boomers who retire have to navigate waters they’ve never seen before. So it is with Montreal’s Wendy Reichental, who has found both ups and downs on the journey, especially when she decided to dive into social media.
My nieces have been singing the praise of Instagram for a while now. They both have children of their own and use Instagram to post their beautiful growing families.
I have always had a love-hate relationship with sharing any photos of myself, and have always been skeptical of social media. But these are unusual and strange days, so with extra time on my hands, I decided that since I was already acquiring other new skills, like learning to love the four walls of my house with greater passion, why not jump in and add the visual platform of Instagram.
I watched endless YouTube videos for Instagram beginners and, with my iPhone within reach, followed the instructions for setting up my account. I knew going in that this would be a challenge, not because it’s difficult to learn or apply, but because I was not sure that an app emphasizing photo and video sharing would convert someone like me, someone who loathes selfies and is rather private and still does not have a Facebook account.
Instagram boasts a billion users and claims it’s a great way to keep up with what your college friends are up to. That’s great if you could still remember your college friends.
But have no worries, Instagram further assures you that it’s a wonderful medium for following your favorite celebrities or political figures and seeing their candid photos of their own everyday lives. I mean really, why read a great book when you can be spending time stalking other people’s photos and videos?
But still, I had to know what the Instagram fuss was all about. I had no brand or business, no noble cause I was trying to peddle (unless you count spreading kindness). So I decided to just use whatever I could find in my library of limited photos. I was grateful that I had taken a few nature and city landscape shots from past vacations and would have something to work with.
The thing with Instagram is that it thrives on constant content posting, and video stories, and most importantly, garnering those critical likes! Before I knew it, I was checking my phone: Did anyone see my post? Would I get a comment, or the coveted heart emoji, or a thumbs up?
I had to check it, but wait! Did I not just check it five minutes ago?
What was happening to me? I began thinking of my next photo and obediently made sure to add new ones daily. I became increasingly mesmerized by all the different glossy content and short cutesy dog videos that popped up regularly. I spent unknown amounts of time viewing the suggested “people” I could follow, and with glazed eyes started following everyone from those recommended celebs to pseudo-reality stars to whoever I could follow in the hopes they would follow me back.
And then I checked my phone for any new activity. Did someone new want to follow me? I would watch the small number of my followers (honestly just my nieces and a few friends) and feel an unsubstantiated sense of discouragement and disappointment over my inability to attract a greater audience. But most disturbing was that I was becoming more and more obsessive about checking my phone.
I questioned my true intentions for joining Instagram in the first place. Was I truly in it to merely enjoy the process of placing a photo and attaching a borrowed quote, or was I secretly hoping that my foray into Instagram would catapult me into a maelstrom of social media notoriety?
My need to have someone “like” me was turning self-destructive. After all, my husband adores me, isn’t that enough? Apparently, not! I needed some form of instant validation. I was spending an inordinate amount of time exploring tips for better faking my “Instagram-worthy” persona, all in the hopes that by posting attention-grabbing snippets of my so-called fake life, I would feel more engaged in real life. It wasn’t working for me, I was feeling more and more like an imposter, and worst still, I still felt so empty afterward.
Do I think this Instagram craze merits any value? Of course, I sincerely do. It serves a worthy purpose for those who enjoy having something to share, sell, or promote. It’s wonderful for brands to notify their fan base and get their word out and use the “Instagram Stories” feature to promote inspiring stories you won’t find anywhere else.
It’s just not the right fit for me. In the meantime, I made my account private, and am learning to wean myself off the pressure of feeling the need to post anything except a smile on my actual weathered face. My next endeavor will be to see how I can better volunteer my services, learn a new language, invest in genuine experiences, make authentic connections. or simply take my time nurturing existing friendships by following up with them via an actual phone.
So here’s my newest hashtag: #HowIScrammedfromInstagram!