In the Blog
Help! I can’t stop oversharing on Instagram
Illustration: Marlee Jennings
The first time I deactivated my Instagram was in December of 2020. It was the week after my 19th birthday. Ontario as a province was at the peak of COVID-19, we were in yet another lockdown/stay-at-home order, my dab pen was my bestie. I was just finishing off a horrendous first semester of my second year of university and I was very, very depressed.
I thought deleting my Instagram was going to provide me with some type of clarity. I thought that it would fix me, that it would ease my depression and anxiety. And as the days turned to weeks, I felt really good about my decision. Then a month passed, and I was feeling an increasing loneliness. I kept waiting for something to hold my interest: I read books, I worked out, I Netflix partied with my friends and yet I still felt sad and lonely come night time. I was convinced Instagram was the root of all my problems and that getting off it would fix everything—but it didn’t.
Being a member of Gen Z means that I was raised on the Internet. It was less of something you joined by choice, and more something you were expected, even required to do. I was on Instagram when all pictures were square-cropped, I was on Tumblr when Taylor Swift did Swiftmas and I was on Twitter for Amanda Bynes’ breakdown. When I first joined Instagram in 2013, I created a fanpage for the popular reality TV series Dance Moms. Over the years, the page grew, eventually getting up to a couple thousand followers of fellow Dance Moms obsessed tweens. It was my personal world and I shared it with thousands of people.
And that’s where it began: the feeling I get when I scroll through my Instagram feed. It happens whenever I am looking through someone’s account—it doesn’t have to be anyone specific. It’s this weird and probably innate desire to compare myself to everyone else; to seem (and be) as pretty as them, as effortless, as exciting. And smart, of course, and don’t forget interesting! The potential for comparison is neverending. While in some spaces, I’ve abandoned posting any images of myself that aren’t completely authentic, I have yet to get to that place on Instagram. I’ve deactivated and reactivated my account more times than I’d care to admit, I’ve deleted followers who made me nervous or anxious or uncomfortable, I’ve set my account to private and public and private again, but none of it worked.
That said, being heard on the internet is very different from being heard in real life. I’ll admit that being heard and validated by the faceless audience of the internet has a way of making you feel so warm inside. It’s like, yay! They heard me, I’m right, and I’m pretty, and I’m smart…What else am I? Tell me more! But it’s cyclical, and you know that their attention is fleeting; it won’t and can’t last forever. People will find their next thing, and then you’re hit with the reality that your “moment” was only a “moment” because of an algorithm, or whatever.
The reality is that I am a very sad and sensitive person. I know this now. For me, participating in social media is overwhelming at best. It’s hard for me to do anything without giving it my all and social media is no exception. However, there are ways to get through this, to feel better: therapy, breaks from social media, hobbies outside of media consumption, creating and maintaining a strong and stable support system.
Often, I find myself torn between wanting to spill everything about myself, yet not wanting to be performative or project an image that my life is all bad just for likes or “relatability” points. Which makes engaging with social media so much more complicated. But I’ve learned that it’s okay to let myself be complicated. It takes time, but it is possible to be both happy and sad and angry and also live a life that looks good in pictures. I promise.
About the Author: Tina Makuto (she/her) is a young writer living in Toronto. She is currently studying journalism and loves to observe and comment on the culture, in addition to hanging out with her cat and being around friends and family. Tina aims to shine a light on the value and necessity of taking care of yourself, for yourself.