Instagram, great expectations and a lesson in frugality

So here are some terrible truths I hate to admit. Every morning, I open Instagram and spend a few minutes perusing my feed before starting my day. And when I’m bored, Instagram and Facebook are almost instinctive.

I could not tell you why.

The most disturbing part is not only don’t I have a good reason, I’m also aware that it doesn’t make sense. I mean, I know I’d only be confronted by other lives which look far more fulfilling than mine actually feels.

On social media, we’re caught in a race against each other to eat more, travel more, see more, and love more. We’ve become exhibitionists with a compulsive need to showcase anything fun, exciting or glamorous that we do, see or taste. The reward? The better the life, the higher the follower count, the greater the validation.

Is this truly why do we do it? (Don’t tell me an “archive of memories” or “keep friends updated” because you can just as easily do that offline, without having to show the world.) And if not, why then?

Does this need for validation — at any level or intensity — stem from a lack of self-worth? Every post that shows us to be cultured, well-travelled, well-liked, well-loved, well-fed, is one more notch on the bedpost that proves we’re so much more than what we really feel about ourselves — dissatisfied and discontent.

It’s really a vicious cycle. If it’s dissatisfaction and discontentment that leads us to exhibitionism, looking at others’ social media lives continues to feed it. In the long run, we forget that we’re only seeing with outsider eyes, without insight into the less positive occurrences. So we make one more post, one more entry, one more upload — because we’re just as fulfilled as them.

Brands, of course, know this, and take advantage of it. This is consumerism at its best — subtly hidden in the everyday lives of our Instagram gods and goddesses, so we have to have that latest bag, or buy that outfit.

Some Instagram celebrities who are more aware of this vicious cycle make it a point to also post on their bad days. I find that these are more the yogi, earth-loving types.

Of course, for some, social media has its plus points.

Watching others can be motivation — to get fit or take up new hobbies — which is great, as long as we don’t forget that struggles are real for everyone, when we hit the roadblocks. More importantly, if we’re doing it right, I feel that external motivation will gradually shift internally over time. Sometimes, all we need is a little nudge in the beginning.

And of course, I still think it’s amazing that I am able to behold breathtaking sites halfway around the world from under my sheets. That’s good enough motivation to head to work everyday, if you ask me.

But these reasons neither discount nor excuse my personal bad habits when it comes to social media.

So, I shall do a tiny experiment and see how that translates to one of the things I set out to do this year: adopt frugality. I shall delete Instagram for two weeks. We’ll see if anything has changed at the end of it. Who knows? The outcome may yet surprise me.

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