Is Instagram Turning Me Into a Sociopath?
05.19.15
Original image shot by Phil Oh aka Mr. Street Peeper

And if you’re past the point of return, what time is the best time to post on Instagram? Also, use it to brag for your friends!

Imagine the scenario: I’m laying across my apartment floor using the cordless landline to my left to call my mother because it is more dramatic than a cellphone and connotes a fresh sense of urgency. I’m shrieking and frustrated, effectively forcing my body out of commission as if this is the only way to tell it to shut down.

I’m telling my mom I think I’m a failure, that I can’t handle what is expected of me, that I’ve been fooling everyone who knows me into believing I’m worth something when I veritably suck. Then, from the bedroom just ten feet away, an alarm goes off. I crawl toward it, the empty, unwarranted tears now pouring down my face.

The alarm says “Instagram.” So, I open the app and scroll through my photo library. I’m still moaning into the phone but not quite saying anything. My mom has threatened to hang up and — oh, there she goes, my mom has hung up. I put the landline down and take my left hand to my eyebrow. As I stroke the hairs forward then back, I perform a similar practice with my right hand, scrolling through an archive of photos to locate the one I’m to post. It’s a glorified selfie, only I didn’t take it. I’m smiling and my thumb is up and my left eye is winking. The caption will read something charmingly self-deprecating.

The post goes up.

I resume my anguish.

But here’s the thing: outside of the microcosm of my apartment floor and through the landline that called my mother, no one knows I’ve hit my social rock bottom. Instagram has just moments ago extolled the multifarious virtues of a smile-plus-thumb-up while reality tells a more dismal tale of my existence in real time. That I could have just been threatening to stab myself in the knee to the woman who first gave me life, followed by a whimsical caption, is alarming. A rather disturbing question presents itself in the wake of this conditioning of a social media vs. real life balance: do the circumstances of our living in 2015 — that is, does our being simultaneously real and virtual people in this day and age — perpetuate our respective tangos with sociopathy?

Is that even possible?

Though the above scenario has been dramatized for the production of this post, it is not unusual that I should feel like the worst version of myself IRL and yet emanate a sense of “it’s all right, it’s all great” for the social media conceptions of my reality that follow. Sure, there is the argument that one should fake it until they make it. This concept has been a proven success scientifically, but this notion of switching off reality to switch on virtuality and the blurred lines that convolute the two touch upon something a bit deeper.

How can it be that I could feel as though my world is in the process of shattering, like I will never be able to get out of bed, and yet still make time through that escalating grief to get chummy with social media? Does part of “making it” today mean learning to repress our emotions? Do our emotions in tangible real time mean less because of the amount of effort we put into crafting our virtual realities?

They say all is fair in love and war; is that true too for life and social media?

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  • Quinn Halman

    In my world, instagrams are timed to go up at a certain (calculated) time so the poster gets more likes. Not enough likes = delete. However, there are also people who are notorious for looking almost nothing like the girl who they’re posting pictures of. I do think that social media is just a direct extension of media in that when you’re engulfed in a really good book or tv show you shut the outside world out for those precious moments, much like the first few minutes a post goes live. Chances are, you don’t personally know everyone that follows you on every app so you become a different person on each platform.

    • Bella Charlwood

      8.30 pmmmm

    • iBall Announces

      Work with yahoo google Utube and manrepeller < I didn't believe …that…my brother woz like truly making money part time at their computer. . there aunt had bean doing this 4 only seventeen months and resantly paid the dept on there apartment and bourt themselves a Lotus Elise .

      see this her SEE MORE INFO

  • I am genuinely scared of what shape our mental states are going to be in in ten, in FIVE years’ time, given the rate at which all of this is exploding.

    I have personally (and very recently) learnt that patience after posting is a virtue for sanity: the likes will roll in when they’re ready to. That is is okay to take a break: no-one will break down because I haven’t posted on Instagram in two months. And that genuine wins every time, because even if it doesn’t win as much love as funny or pretty or whatever, it will be YOURS, which is what all these things are meant to be showcasing anyway.

    • Emma

      i have read yetserday that children are actually losing their ability to memorize with all the photos and apps to help ones memory. but mainly the photo thing, kids grow up surrounded by people ONLY looking into a device, ONLY using their device for EVERYTHING. no memory development needed. then it really is “photo or it didnt happen” because there will be no memory of it…

      • I have to constantly remind myself of Grace Coddington quoting Norman Parkinson (I think) in The September Issue: that one must never stop looking at the world. It’s our eyes that remember, not our computers.

  • It’s always about intent. When we put up that photo of ourselves that seems weirdly happy in present circumstances, are we trying to deceive other people and make them think we’re great? Or are we reminding ourselves who we are at our best and reaffirming who we want to be? “Faking it til you make it” is not fake, it’s still us, making an active choice to be positive. It might feel fake when your current feelings are telling you how much you suck, but in those moments that kind of makes it the most powerful thing we could do for ourselves.

    Also, there’s a shortage of perfect legs in this world and it would be a pity to damage yours, so put that knee-stabber down gurl.

    • Kelsey Moody

      “making an active choice to be positive”, what a good call. Making that choice even when you are feeling so low, definitely helps get out of a funk! Theres something comforting in knowing that even someone who has reached a high level of success doing something they love, like Leandra, can still have moments of insecurity and cry on the phone to their frustrated moms.

    • BethanyBeach

      Great point and fantastic Princess Bride reference

    • Lua Jane

      Exactly. It’s not necessarily for others. It can be a way to remind us of some great aspects of our lives. It’s not faking so much as shifting the perspective, like: Yeah, maybe I just had heated argument with my superior, but hell this lunch looks delicious, or my shoe/brows/outfit game is strong today. It’s focusing on what’s awesome about being us at some moment. Can and does it create certain amount of narcissism? Probably. But it’s also a great tool to overcome our self doubt and criticizm, most of our generation is prone to.

      • Word. Also I feel like those of thus who are even asking questions like “is Instagram making me a sociopath?” already have plenty of self-awareness that will serve us well. People who don’t even think about it, on the other hand, may or may not be the actual sociopaths 😛

  • I guess I see this mirroring acts we already do in the IRL. Think about the times we’ve felt sad or stressed or mad, but still managed to hide the tears on public transit, or crack a smile for a passerby. For me those acts are not so much fake as they are tertiary acts of kindness that acknowledge the man sitting next to me on the metro doesn’t deserve anything less than a cordial smile just because I, in my head, am telling myself everything is going to shit.

    I suppose posting things to Instagram acts in the same way in that we can acknowledge the veneer and write a witty caption, and be personable and not personal, just as we do everyday in our public interactions.

    • ^^^ Totes agree. ^^^ Same stuff, new tools.

    • oh yeah, yes, yup, yeeeaaahhhhh, right.

      • yip!

        (Where is this going)

      • Samantha

        Social media provides a vehicle to showcase what we would like others to see, but what I think we need to be clear on is that we are not obligated to share everything, even if we have the tools to do so.

        In fact, I think it would make you more of a sociopath to share absolutely all of your truths via a public platform. Concealing certain aspects of your life doesn’t make you secretive or misleading, it makes you a dimensional human with a life that exists outside of the internet.

  • lisbette

    Truly grooving on your sheer honesty here!

    From my perspective it all turns on awareness of my state of inner security — for that very instant!! It changes from day to day, sometimes throughout the day, & is affected by outer events. It’s pointedly affected by whether I’m tired, or lonely, or feeling rejected, etc.!

    When I feel like a fifth-grader, utterly gripped by whether my little airborne contributions meet with approval — ready to cry or smash something if they don’t — it’s time for me to turn off the phone.

    OTOH, when I’m feeling balanced, whole, the likes are not something I search for. Their inherent thrill becomes more about the other person I’ve connected with.

    • Kenns

      “The inherent thrill becomes more about the other person I’ve connected with” Perfectly said!! That is the best part of this blog-the personal connections, from Team Manrepeller to all the commenters. Honestly, I would rather have fewer, but actual connections over social media vs. a million anonymous:

  • I feel that our social media profiles (Instagram, etc.) are us projecting an image of ourselves that, in a perfect world, we would be. It is us tweaking our exterior to align with how we see ourselves on the inside. Do I value outdoor pursuits, adventure, and exploration? My Instagram probably reflects this.

    The hard part comes when something happens, or when we look at our “profiles” and don’t feel that we match the image that we have projected of ourselves both online, and in our heads. We aren’t able to reconcile that we aren’t what we envision, and it leads to a state of dissociation.

    We fix this in one of two ways: 1. We agree that the particular instance that upset us is a one off, and go back to our original state of self or 2. we mentally edit the image of ourselves to align with our new sense of self.

    The “liking” and social media aspects of Instagram, etc. are like a reward for the best version of ourselves. Someone “likes” and agrees with your vision of you.

    Long story short, I don’t think social media and emotions are mutually exclusive, but that they directly influence each other.

  • Leandra, isn’t social media your job? I think there is a difficulty with separating work from personal from personal work. When your job is you, does that mean you you? or just fashion you or witty, comedic you? I’ve thought of how crushed I would feel, as a reader, if any of the MR writers were in a bad relationship or were doubting themselves or any of the many problems we have as humans. Nobody wants to hear about someone they look up getting hurt. Readers and followers may feel like they know you all but we don’t. I assume that anyone who has a massive following isn’t really showing all of themselves because how can you?

    People do this in person where they show only what they want others to see and on social media that is taken a step, or more like gigantic leap, further. How much you share depends on what you “job” is on social media. Fashion bloggers and writers do not need to share a lot. Youtubers tend to share more depending on their content. but still, it’s all edited. We’re social creatures, chameleons who blend in with whatever background we want to fit. Life is not a movie, but with social media you can edit it however you see fit.

    • Anyways, people who get paid on social media, who’s job it is to be online or have an online presence.
      If you have an online presence job you can make yourself however you want to look, but idk. Who dictates the following? The poster or their need for revenue? I don’t mean this maliciously. It is interesting how much we as people share with others but it’s definitely different when your followers are people you know from highschool, college, and family, versus people all over the world.

  • I think it’s turning me in to a narcissist

    xx Daphne

    http://tostylewithlove.com

  • Elizabeth Tamkin

    Yeah! Birth control and Instagram alert! Both vital to your daily routine.

  • Hannah Cole

    You’ve definitely hit the nail on the head. People are all crazy, and I don’t think we can ever even fully understand ourselves

  • Schedugram, y’all.

  • jenn

    Leandra, as a long time reader, it made me sad to realize that even the always cheery MR goes through bouts of, shall we say, despair. Obviously you are human too, and a screen separates readers from reality. Hang in there!

  • Mia

    IRL vs Instagram = incongruity (sometimes)
    IRL vs Instagram = staged reality for likes/attention/money (often)
    IRL vs Instagram = poses many philosophical questions- Namely: Supposedly, the Internet has “democratized” fashion- and perhaps in some ways, it has- but what does that even mean? Do I have any more access to that Balmain (not the H & M version- but even that’s hard to come by) blazer than I had before? Perhaps before I would have seen one picture of said blazer in a magazine, seen the price underneath it ($8000) and just kept flipping because there was a barrier between me and the magazine. Now that barrier is gone, and the Internet, in particular, social-media, induce (fashion) FOMO. BUT WHY? I don’t just want to have access to insider fashion knowledge and style, I access to the parties- the clothes- I feel like I’m part of the inner circle, though, of course, I AM NOT. I benignly started to follow bloggers and fashion people thinking it would save a few trees (read dollars) instead of buying magazines. What I quickly realized was that these people are all in cahoots with major fashion labels too, only it’s often incognito. inauthenticity rears it’s ugly head yet again. I’m not suggesting bloggers don’t advertize or wear labels, that’s their job, their income depends on it- BUT isn’t there some way to blend IRL and Instagram on a more realistic level? Or maybe that’s the evolution of social media – the person who strikes that perfect balance between IRL and Instagram will be king- and for now, we will suffer the vulgarity of The Blonde Salad until someone masters the delicate balance.

    For now, MAN REPELLER team, your efforts to infuse reality and intellect into your blog are commendable – you can’t be perfectly real all the time, but at least you can lament on the fact that you’re not. It’s indicative of a conscious – thusly you’re not a sociopath 🙂 yay

    • Lua Jane

      “vulgarity of The Blonde Salad” – glad someone pointed it out.

  • Maggie Clancy

    I have recently gotten sucked into instagram for etsy reasons, and it’s EXHAUSTING. I’ve only posted 12 photos but have spent HOURS liking other people’s photos and commenting just *hoping* that it will lead to a sale.

    I think/hope everyone takes Instagram with a grain of salt, because in the end, even if you aren’t literally trying to sell something like I am, you are still selling this happy, ideal version of yourself. My roomie takes a million “happy” selfies and then I’ve heard her cry herself to sleep through our paper thin walls. Everyone’s said it in one way or another, but social media is our highlight reel, or, in some cases, the rope we are throwing out from a very deep hole, hoping someone on the other end will grab it.

    I now get to shamelessly plug because it does reference this whole instagram bit – I SELL CANDLES Y’ALL – http://www.shopean.etsy.com. ig @eancandles

    maggie

  • Whitney V

    It’s difficult. When it’s “part of your job” as it is for me you gotta be on it, posting, being available and it can be really exhausting and almost impossible to “disconnect”! It becomes not only physically but also mentally tiring, I’m looking for that balance I hope to achieve… But regarding our persona, I suppose many people post that popular selfie even if they’re down coz it brings them some kind of reassurance when they get lots of likes, and if that makes anyone feel less miserable, who can argue against it?!

    Whit
    http://www.whitneyswonderland.com

  • It’s definitely funny how the pictures we paint of ourselves on social media (especially as bloggers) are almost never what they actually appear to be. While we may posting photos of us out having a good time, while we’re actually out having a good time. It’s more often that we’re sitting at home on our couches eating Chinese takeout posting that perfectly timed Instagram post.

    I think it’s both good and bad. It’s all how much we let it go to our heads.

    Josh – The Kentucky Gent
    http://thekentuckygent.com

  • Caro

    Do you ever do that thing where you’re like, “Should I just post a picture of myself crying?” I always think that but I also feel nauseated at the idea of doing something that would garner pity.

    I don’t know, I like to live with the contrasting notion that is: My life is ALL about me, This life is not about me AT ALL. You know, it’s like your life, it’s very important, you have to do what your heart tells you, but you are also a tiny teeny little insignificant thing in the big ol grand scheme of things. So how should you live? What should your interaction with others, whether in social media or IRL be like?

    You know, it’s tricky, but I also feel as though we are at a point where we understand that we all have pains, aches, worries, etc. So…what can we do to make things easier for one another? What does that look like to you?

  • Ola

    It got me thinking that I got addicted to getting likes and appreciation. And even when I feel like shit I don’t show it to others as I don’t want them to lose interest and think the same about me as I feel. Experiencing one reality and showing other virtuality is the nightmare of the current times and I just hate it, but have no solution to that success -sucker trend.

    http://lifestylebyola.blogspot.com/

  • Sarah Cheema

    They say be the person your dog thinks you are, I say be the person your followers know you as : )

  • Ida Almasi

    Great writing. We are all turning into sociopaths, not by the quantity of pictures we post but the obsession with the likes and comments afterwards. This is what needs to change. The need for gold stars. But how Leadra!?! This is what I’m trying to figure out.

  • aubrey nell

    As a psychotherapist I would be suuuuper careful with words like “sociopath” which is actually a term for people with Antisocial Personality Disorder where yes, the individual does suppress their emotions, but this is due to past trauma and causes them to inflict pain onto others and have erratic behavior such as fugue states or violent outbursts. Really nice, honest article outlining the pitfalls of social media in our time, and usually your posts are so conscious of stuff like this, which is why I do love this blog and will read it until we’re old.

  • Instagram is lowering my IQ…
    Lots of love, xx

    http://www.marysreturn.com
    http://www.marysreturn.com

  • Lucky Stars

    Been reading your blog for years and although I am older, and don’t always understand the magnetism of social media, I have read enough to know that you should count your blessings. Not just because you are talented, beautiful, and great at what you do, but because you have a close knit family that appears happy and healthy. I find that worth a stab in the knee.

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  • ava

    It is my theory that social media will make us all lonelier and less connected. We have become impatient, needing constant significance. We get the instant gratification from a quick post with a lot of “likes” but it is no substitution for a real friendship or connection. Social media is our McDonald’s. Quick fix but it leaves us still hungry for something substantial.