On a regular day as the sky awakens, my mind and body responds to the vibration of my phone’s alarm on the cupboard which I sleep beside. “Zzzz…” this sound that it creates has become the cue for me to turn over unto my belly, reach up and out for the phone above me and slide it off, keeping it quiet. Following which, it takes minutes for me to stay in limbo between waking up and going back to sleep before I’m finally up. My movement is slow, every turn is dreadful as I leave the comfortable embrace of my mattress. And when I’m up on my feet, the new challenge is to walk straight enough to not bump into anything. Turning off the airplane mode on my phone to allow messages to stream in while making my way to the toilet, I am guided by the silhouettes of our furniture in the darkness. Only when I’ve properly washed up am I awake for real and now I sit comfortably in my chair and it’s just me, my cup of coffee and my papers to begin the first moments in my morning.
It is only with all that done, that I now pick up my phone and log into Instagram.
This morning I’d like to be writing about an article that I read recently about females and Instagram and according to this article, apparently “Girls face increasing pressure not only to be smart and accomplished, but girly, sexy and social.” It was cited that in a 2011 survey, 74% of teen girls told the Girl Scout Research Institute that girls were living quasi-double lives online, where they intentionally downplayed their intelligence, kindness and good influence – and played up qualities like fun, funny and social. And this got me thinking about my purpose on Instagram and the effect it had on me.
I log onto Instagram a good 2-3 times everyday: each time, scrolling through my feed a couple of times to see what those I’m following are up to and each day, for one time I would choose a picture that best highlights what I feel or what I’m thankful for in that day. And so, I think in this act my purpose is to update. This updating goes two ways– I’d like to be updated about the things those I’m following (for lack of a better word let’s call them followees) are up to and I’d like to update my followers on what I’ve been up to.
A frequently asked question for me is always about my follower:following ratio– I understand that apparently some see this as a popularity count and attempt to keep the ratio as disproportionate or strategically maintained as possible. And while I keep track of my count frequently, I do think it’s for a reason very separate from the whole notion of perceived popularity. I keep my ‘following’ numbers low for the simple reason that unless I want to be spending hours in a day scrolling through my endless feed or feel urges to be on Instagram all the time in order to catch all the updates of my friends, I should just make sure I follow the people I actually want to see on my feed. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean I rank my friends and rate how important they are to me to decide if I follow them– but it’s a mix of factors, and I ask myself questions like: Is this someone I want to be updated on frequently? And if yes, will I get updates from elsewhere besides Instagram? How important is my following to my relationship with this person? These questions help me keep my ‘following’ numbers low and the time I spend scrolling through my feed small and productive. Conversely, the follower count don’t quite get to me because I believe that on the flipside, if people find it important and necessary to follow my updates, they will and shall. But it says little about our physical friendship because that’s the real thing in the end and this is just an aspect and not all of our lives. So while I appreciate the act of exchanging following statuses, I get particularly annoyed when people question or urge me to follow them.
The article made me think about the effect that Instagram has had on me– the way I perceive my identity, my relationships or the possible aspects of my life it brings in. I don’t have definite answers for it and I’m not sure if I truly play up elements of my personality that I wish to accentuate through social media in order to bring across a perception of myself, but if I subconsciously do, I hope to be constantly checking in that it’s the real, physical me controlling what makes up my identity at the end and not the Instagram world that runs on the likes of followers. Let’s not make this complicated.