Liberation in the 21st Century
Heart racing, palms are sweating and I find myself slowly becoming less aware of what I’m doing. It is evident my conscious side has withdrawn from my body completely, while my subconscious decides to naturally take over my body. It feels almost normal for my hands to make certain movements- for my fingers to start tapping away, but I am not here.
My brain is moving as fast as it can, processing and digesting thoughts, trying to catch up with my quick fingers. Almost like a game of cat and mouse, where my fingers are the mouse- constantly teasing my brain and thoughts for not catching up fast enough.
My heart stops, because there it is. The almost too familiar logo that I seem to have such a complicated relationship with. Do I hate it? Do I love it? I am not sure at this point.
The little camera with its rainbow stripes sits right in front of me- hello Instagram, my old friend.
Instagram’s iconic and well recognized logo resembles an instant, minimalistic camera from the 70’s/ 80’s-connotating a definition of memories, photographs, snaps and joy. The logo’s colors are a wide range of orange, yellow and purple- which portray the broader functionality the app provides, in order to bring itself into our lives. Connecting with family and friends through shared photos.
But this logo, this app has me sweating and shaking. It almost seems as it is looking down on me, almost in a mocking way as I continue to make myself a part of this online dimension, which makes me sick to my stomach. I often disappear from this app, then something has me coming back again. A sick back and forth. It is almost ironic when I think about it really, that an app like this emerged to connect humans across the world, but it actually has done the opposite. It has managed to make people connected yet many are disconnected at the same time.
My heart racing- filled with mixed emotions. Was I upset? Or happy? Could I be feeling nostalgic of something that brought so much to me over the years?
As these thoughts go through my mind, I realize what a paradox this really was. Instagram, an application that was made to foster ‘online connections’ was truly fostering disconnection of the self, of myself.
I must admit, the thought process behind quitting this app could take days, weeks and even months! For me, it took years of courage building up- of myself feeling like a constant phony to myself and others. Here I was posting my perfect life, free of human flaws, imperfections or mistakes while deep down I knew this ‘self’ I was portraying online was not nearly a proper ratio of who I truly was- a messy, imperfect being finding my way into the world. Mistakes and all.
One thing I know is- I made the right choice. I quit this platform and suddenly a heavy weight on my shoulders was lifted. It began with less of a burden waking up in the morning- having no expectation of checking my phone as soon as I wake up. I no longer had the expectation of being up to date with the latest trends or gossip. I now, felt like I could truly be in the moment- wherever I was, there was no reason for me to be available to anyone within an instant- I could finally wake up, stretch with a good cup of tea and look at the birds outside my window. Seriously! Stop and smell the roses! Quite cliché I know, but no expectations needed.
Although, to be completely transparent the shift of being a user of Instagram for years to completely quitting is rather weird- you are left in this in between dimension of having pure peace of mind to completely missing out on “important” information ( I use parenthesis because some things online should not be as important as they become). People in my life were reaching out, most of them thinking I was having some sort of crisis or breakdown, when in reality it was simply me going against our constructed ways of living. I chose to opt out of this online dimension and instead was choosing the physical.
The strange part of all of this process was that the people that were reaching out often questioned my reasoning behind me quitting this platform- almost everyone waiting for a valid explanation behind my irrational thinking! I laughed in my head, thinking “am I starting a revolution? Am I liberating myself but also showing others they can do the same?”.
The reason I say this is because as time went on, people were more and more keen to know how I’d done it. They truly wondered how I was capable of escaping Zuckerberg in the 21st century. Many began to congratulate me, while others slowly faded away from my life. The only way I could make sense of this was- I was allowing this platform to foster online relationships for me, many which could only stay within that dimension, but would have never been able to effectively grow in the physical world.
I am aware of how many people have attempted to quit and me being one of many successors I can say one thing: it is not an easy task! And I’m sure it never will be. Now that I’ve been off this app for quite a while , I can say how complex it is to: belong to a community physically meanwhile choosing to opt out online. At the end of the day, communities online and offline are connected and may rely on one another.
Up to date I feel powerful. I realize how as a communication student myself has led to this very moment. For years, I’ve studied media, online platforms and growing technologies critically and today I am choosing to fight back against the very system I am a part of. I am taking myself and my power back: by choosing privacy, by releasing myself from expectations and control, by choosing freedom and autonomy on how I live my life and finally, I’ve liberated myself from Instagram and I really hope one day, you will too.
It’s worth it.