Kendall Jenner and I certainly don’t have much in common, but one thing we do share is a mutual skepticism of social media. Inspired by the ubiquitous supermodel, who just returned to Instagram after famously taking a week-long “detox” from the app (she went the whole nine yards and completely deleted her account and all its pics), I too recently embarked upon a self-imposed Insta-ban. And I’ve been feeling great about it. Of course, unlike Jenner, when I pulled back from Instagram, it didn’t result in outrage and thousands of news articles (even from reputable sources like CNN).
This is far from the first time I’ve removed the app from my phone (ditto Facebook) as a result of feeling a bit too dependent on it—or just plain fed up. “I’m always on it,” Jenner told Ellen last week of her decision to quit Instagram. “I would wake up in the morning and look at it first thing; I would go to bed and it was the last thing I would look at.” In the weeks leading up to my own Insta embargo, I became increasingly aware of everyone looking down at their phones constantly, like a pack of zombies. They’re often mindlessly scrolling through their social media feeds, tapping away at the same hackneyed memes. Some recent high- and lowlights I’d imbibed one too many times: The #UNameItChallenge (“beans, greens, potatoes, tomatoes”), Evil Kermit, and anything involving the Biden-Obama bromance.
My discontent with Instagram was also fueled by the election, and the echo chamber of one-sided opinions created on social media. During the months leading up to November 8th, I did not see a single pro-Trump post on either my Instagram or Facebook feeds, which were so teeming with anti-right, pro-Hillary posts (#nastywoman #nevertrump #imwithher), I was falsely led to believe the Democrats had no chance of losing. That’s because social media feeds are engineered to show us what we want to see, rather than reality. Imagine how many “coastal elites” were lulled into not voting because they maintained this false certainty that Hillary would win based on her social popularity. “We live in such a bubble on social media, and I think it’s time to put down social media a little bit and start coming together in real life,” Adam Selman recently told Fashion Unfiltered. “Sometimes, social media can cloud your judgment…look at what just happened.”
Viral memes and politicking aside, I was also tired of staring at the more typical Insta-junk I’ve been seeing for years: Carefully composed snaps of peoples’ (my real friends and strangers I follow) fabulous vacations, fabulous brunches, fabulous fashion freebies, parties, #OOTDs, and front row views. Not long ago, I worked for a boss I deeply disrespected, who prided herself on her Instagram feed and following—and judged everyone else based on theirs. She’d stage a seemingly off-the-cuff Insta shoot and have me take dozens of shots of her until she approved of one, which she’d carefully filter to look not filtered. Or she’d bum rush celebs and It girls at fashion events to jump in for a quick selfie, then later refer to these people conversationally as her “friends.” I knew the truth about her, but her thousands of followers didn’t. And many girls suffer from self esteem issues because of comparing their true, messy lives to the glossy, carefully curated ones they’re bombarded with on Instagram.
Kendall Jenner isn’t the only celeb to take a break from Instagram. After taking a hiatus for several months, Justin Bieber also rejoined Instagram this week. Kim Kardashian notoriously hasn’t posted anything to Instagram since she was robbed during Paris Fashion Week (the result, many think, of too much lifestyle flaunting on social media). And there are many other household names who abstain from social media altogether because it’s such an invasion of privacy.
Call me a hater, but Instagram isn’t all bad. After all, social media did get citizens involved in the election who might not have cared otherwise, for example. And for many people, all the noise and buzz on Instagram isn’t disruptive—it’s exciting, and even productive. There are countless “influencers” (Jenner included) who have built viable careers for themselves on the platform. But I think we’re seeing an increasing push towards taking back our privacy, and placing more of a premium on the time we waste glued to our phones. Back in 2013, Céline’s Phoebe Philo prophesied, “The chicest thing is when you don’t exist on Google. God, I would love to be that person!”