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Watch What You Watch

My relationship with Instagram is complicated.

I am in a constant battle of trying to use it in a healthy way. I want to know what my friends are up to and what new restaurants are opening. I want to hear from activists who don’t otherwise have a platform and I want to giggle at cats who are scared of cucumbers. But I don’t want to live on my god damn phone.

What have I tried? I’ve had someone change my password and only let me on twice a week. I’ve tried 5 minutes once an hour. I’ve tried full days off. I’ve tried one hour a day. I’ve tried just having self-control. The last one definitely didn’t work. The addiction is REAL.

Here’s the thing that I’ve realized, though: Instagram being bad for me is more than just the time I spend (read: waste) every day. I could be reading a book, or going for a walk, or learning to cook (hahahahaha just kidding), sure, but that’s not the worst part.

Scrolling reels or stories for three hours a night has taken away my agency. I am no longer in charge of what fuel I give my brain. The algorithm has usurped my free choice. Don’t get me wrong, I’m the asshole letting it happen. Nonetheless, it’s happening.

Example: I used to be married. It wasn’t great. Instagram has figured out some of my shit because all of a sudden, I’m being fed reel after reel on narcissism. But now, every night, I’m reminded of a difficult time in my life. Instead of focusing on how far I’ve come and what a beautiful life I’ve created for myself, I’m thinking about a time when everything was…worse.

I’m lucky to have amazing people in my life who are strong social justice advocates. I love their passion, their knowledge and their perspective. But some days, I only want videos of dogs who are friends with elephants, not another perspective on how shitty we are at reconciliation. And Instagram doesn’t let me choose. It’s dog friendship and horrific proof of racism ALL DAY LONG.

“You are what you eat” is dead to me (problematic food mantras can go suck a lemon), but I’ll tell you this much: I am what I watch. I am what and who I surround myself with.

I don’t have the magic solution. Instagram is how we connect now so logging off doesn’t feel feasible for me. But I’m down to 30 minutes a day and it didn’t take long to notice a stronger sense of control over my thoughts and feelings. Naturally, I had to write about it and POST IT ON SOCIAL MEDIA. Like I said: my relationship with Instagram…it’s complicated.

small//shift: Watch what you watch. Be sure you’re in control of your social media experience. Because garbage in, garbage out, my friends. Do whatever you’ve got to do, but give your brain (and your heart) all it needs to remember how great you and the world around us really are.

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