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25 Years Online
••• The International Writers Magazine -
Abandoning META

The Secrets Behind Our Online Personas
• Madison Damore
Since deleting Instagram, I have felt a sense of relief ...

delete insta

For the past six months, a common question directed at me has been, "Did you see what I sent you on Instagram?" and consistently, my reply has been a resounding "No."
     Six months ago, impulsively, I decided to delete Instagram, one of the most popular social media apps. I’ve been using social media since the sixth grade, recalling the moment I pleaded with my parents to let me join as all my friends were creating accounts and sharing photos. After their approval, I enlisted the help of my older brother to set up my accounts.
     During that time, Snapchat was primarily utilized for its playful dog and flower crown filters. It offered a lighthearted means of communication through humorous snapshots exchanged between friends. Meanwhile, Instagram served as a platform for sharing goofy pictures documenting weekend escapades, often from outings to the movie theatre– a rare opportunity for us to venture out unaccompanied by adults. Little did I know these platforms would turn out to be so much more.
     Enter highschool.
     It was a time of trying out for varsity sports, striving to appear cool to fit in with the upperclassmen, balancing honors-level courses to impress future colleges, and seeking acceptance into the "popular" crowd. However, it wasn't until my junior year of high school that I began to notice a shift in the nature of Instagram.
     What started as lighthearted apps used for sharing fun moments with friends transformed into something more. It turned into a platform used for flaunting new high-end purchases from shopping sprees, showcasing party photos as evidence of belonging to the “popular” circle, and editing your body and appearance to conform to the unspoken beauty standards of high school.  
     So, I played by the rules, just like everyone else. These were the unwritten rules of social media: flaunt. Show off your luxuries, your exotic getaways, your social circle, your very self (except it’s all superficial). Rack up the highest number of likes, the most comments. Essentially, it came down to bragging about yourself for everyone to see.
     When I started college, my online persona remained a significant part of my life, and I didn’t see any issues with it. However, during spring break of my sophomore year, I realized the negative impact of Instagram. While on vacation in California, I grew frustrated with the photos I was taking on the trip. I either didn’t like the lighting casting a shadow on my face, how my body appeared unproportional, or the way my smile looked. I felt as if my pictures didn’t measure up to social media’s standards. I found myself caught in the trap of comparing myself to others.
     I deleted Instagram briefly during my sophomore year to take a break, but reinstalled it fairly quickly. However, this past December, I decided to delete Instagram for the long term and haven’t engaged with it since.
     I can’t provide one simple reason as to why I deleted it. Part of it was the superficial aspects of the app, the revolving circle of comparison, the anxiety it created, the distraction from the real world. The list could go on.
     Mental health is declining among young adults, in part due to social media. Even if you are happy, healthy, and confident, using platforms like Instagram can allow comparison to creep in. When did showcasing our lives in such a superficial manner become the norm? These extravagant Instagram posts often seem like attempts to impress the mindless scrollers that we call followers.
     Since deleting Instagram, I have felt a sense of relief. I’ve become happier and more confident, escaping from the constant cycle of comparison. My days and events are no longer centered around taking photos to post for others. Instead, I take pictures to relive the moment. Sometimes it can feel lonely to be in a room surrounded by people on their phones while I’m not, but I feel content. My journey away from Instagram has been filled with self-discovery and freedom. The decision to step away from the app has allowed me to reconnect with the world in a more authentic way and I have gained a new sense of self-worth. I find peace in the moments that are truly mine and do not measure my worth by the number of likes or comments anymore. Now, I live my life for myself rather than through an online persona.

© Madison Damore 5.1.24
Madison is studying Writing, Publication, and Rhetoric at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.

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