Quitting Instagram

Living, well, Dying to Tell About It


Last week I took an almost pathetically short two day Instagram hiatus. The telltale signs of addiction had manifested into full blown codependency on the app. In the minutes and hours post-upload I found myself maniacally checking comments and likes as if my life depended on it, much to the dismay of those around me.

This made me think about what would happen if I were to cut it out of my life, just for the sake of proving something. The idea of stripping myself the validation of thousands of likes was worth it in the name of an innocent case study – which garnered results that surprised me. I removed the photo-sharing app from my phone–I had grown so accustomed to checking it that I worried if I hadn’t removed it, I probably would have, by habit, checked it unconsciously.

In the initial hours, I felt no change at all. I knew I could do this, I thought. But in the first moments of downtime, I found myself moseying around my iPhone home screen, looking for an app that no longer existed, diverting the situation the only way I knew how: by checking twitter. I was pleased to find myself being redirected from tweets to interesting links rather than from obscure photo page of pretentious beauty shot to even more obscure photo page of blatantly obnoxious beauty shot.

Tapping into the psyches of people I barely knew, if at all, through intimate photo representation was making me feel dirty. Once I resolved this, the end 36 hours of the challenge were essentially a piece of brick and mortar cake.

I read Hunter S. Thompson, enjoyed a view for the sake of looking at it, not filtering it, took note of my walk home from the nearest subway–a walk I take almost every single day–recognizing three buildings I never had before–one, a flamboyantly amazing, superbly gay gym, and I think most importantly, I felt myself sincerely vindicated while sitting in a room, listening to people talk about X doing Y on Instagram and having no fucking idea what they meant. If this is what being on the outside is like, I thought, I never want back in.

The minute the novelty of my experiment wore off though and the full 48 hours were over, I went back in. I didn’t look back, I didn’t even look forward. I just checked my page and signed out. Curious to see if my absence had effected my presence on Man Repeller the site, I looked into the back-end and noticed that my page-views were 16% higher than they had been in the previous two days. The wavering is typical but this felt particularly unusual considering the time of week I chose for this experiment: Saturday-Sunday. These are days notoriously recognized by the internet as the hollow black hole for page views. (Unless, you know, you have exclusive access to a video of Tom Cruise buying Suri a real life unicorn or something.)

Did this mean that my Instagram absence reflected positively on page-views? And if that was the case, was my mobile presence detracting from that of my web presence? I got to thinking about a conversation that I’d had just a few weeks earlier in which I almost referred to a blog as an elongated Pinterest board. I stopped myself, afraid of where the conversation might go. How could a stream of short character photos replace lengthy, thoughtful stories about real things (like crowns and Balenciaga shoes, for example.)

And then I realized, why wouldn’t they? If the blogger mission statement is to induce inspiration and that inspiration is now capable of being consumed in a few quick scrolls, where do full sites continue to flourish?

You know, my Instagram to Twitter ratio had originally impressed me. I couldn’t believe that my following on the former platform could exceed my following on the latter in such a short span of time. But like Twitter exceeded Facebook even though Facebook had been around longer, Instagram was claiming its new-age throne.

Does an impressive following on an app cancel out the consideration and work that goes into scribing a blog though? If bookstores like Barnes and Noble can find themselves on the brink of irrelevancy (being bailed out because of books like Fifty Shades of Grey) due to the rise of kindles and iPads, will bloggers see a similar fate, finding themselves on the brink of change because of snappy, quick-and-easy-to-consume inspiration?

Recently, a reader commented on a post of mine noting independently that style has become so tormented by Pinterest, it’s hard to wear anything lace paired with denim anymore without feeling the self-consciousness of having to wonder: do I look like a human pin?

Maybe history is repeating itself. If video killed the radio star, will Pinstagram kill the personal style blog?

…I’m really asking you that, I don’t have an answer.

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