Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The Illusion of Instagram

Like nearly everyone in my generation, I love Instagram. It's like having a beautiful little photo library in your pocket with available editing tools to make you feel like a Photoshop pro without shelling out the big bucks to become one. It allows me to post about my life and show my friends and family what I'm up to... at least, some of the time.

According to Instagram, my typical day involves hanging out in trendy, hipster-esque coffee shops around Atlanta by day and finding hideaway places or activities by night (anyone up for water ballet in the highlands?). It doesn't show what my real day is like: hipster coffee shop for about 2-3 hours in the morning or afternoon, with the rest of the day spent in my apartment either working on some small project (*cough* laundry or dishes) or scrolling through my Netflix queue.

According to Instagram, I take exciting, adventurous vacations; jet-setting on my own around the country and finding the coolest locals-only places to hang out and eat. In some ways, that's actually extremely true, like when I traveled cross-country by train last year and did some things I never expected, like sailing a catamaran on the San Francisco Bay or befriending a train conductor. But Instagram doesn't show that nearly all of those vacations are taken alone, that I struggle to go out and do those fun things because I have no one to enjoy them with, and that almost every picture of me taken during those adventures is a selfie because I don't have a partner to take photos of or with me.

According to Instagram, I eat a lot of cute and/or interesting food in local hotspots in various cities. It doesn't show the empty place across the table from me or the waitress' slightly raised eyebrow when I ask for a table for one.

According to Instagram, I take vacations whenever I like and run off on a fabulous adventure just for the hell of it. It doesn't show the weeks or months I plan out these trips and countless nights spent worrying about what I'll do, how I'll do it alone, and keeping myself safe; all while staying within my budget.

According to Instagram, my friends and I go out to cool events in the city whenever we get together. It doesn't show that my friends and I are all busy with our own lives and schedules and have to plan those events fairly far in advance to make sure they actually happen and that we never do anything spontaneous because our schedules can't accommodate that.

According to Instagram, my life is like a filter. Beautiful, ephemeral, fulfilling, and full of adrenaline.

It doesn't show that I currently have a sink full of dishes that trigger my anxiety or that I stress whenever I invite people over because I never think my apartment is clean enough.

It doesn't show that while I've been unemployed for the past few months that I've spent most of my time waking up at the crack of dawn, spending hours in front of a computer and on the phone trying to find any opportunities, obsessively checking my inbox, and never sleeping from worrying that what I was doing wasn't enough.

It doesn't show that when I go to comedy clubs, it's to not only indulge in one of my favorite hobbies but also to relieve an intense amount of stress for just a couple of hours. If I can go to a show and laugh a lot, maybe I'll be relaxed enough afterwards to actually get quality sleep.

But Instagram also doesn't show....

The fact that I've found a new church and love it. I feel accepted, I feel cared for, and I finally feel fulfilled in a way that's been missing for a long time.

It doesn't show the fact that I try to see at least one parent once a week and spend time with our dogs, even if all I'm doing is lying on a couch with a dog in my lap.

It doesn't show that even when my friends and I can't physically see each other, we still text encouragement, new information, and funny stories to each other all the time.

It doesn't show that I actually don't look half bad without makeup and usually go without any on a regular, uneventful day. But the bed head is a true disaster and always needs a filter.

It doesn't show that even though I'm alone, I actually like it at times. It's really nice not to worry about someone else's schedule, food preferences, or dislikes. If I want to do something on a whim (usually comedy), I just buy a ticket and go do it. It's also a lot cheaper to be alone than always buying things in twos.

In a slightly over-exposed, over-contrasted, somewhat saturated nutshell: my Instagram life is only a half-hearted representation of what my life is really like. It doesn't show my struggles but it doesn't show the little moments that mean the most either; it only shows the "pretty" things I do, see and eat. Life isn't filtered or perfectly captioned, and I'm really glad it's not that way, because I can value my undocumented moments in peace without worrying how "likable" my real life is.

Although if I had to put one filter on my actual life, it would be either Juno or Ludwig at 50%. Because why not? 😄