Life on Instagram is not real.
Now, read that again.
These are the words I repeated as I forced myself to put my phone in my backpack and take a moment to pay attention to the nature around me. Why did I go on this hike in the first place? So I could let everyone that follows me know that I have a life where I go out to swim under waterfalls with all of my friends?
It was a hard pill to swallow when I realized that a large portion of my motive behind going out and having fun was actually only to get pictures of me doing it. Yes, some real fun would seep through regardless of my motive. I could even go as far as to say that my desire to have a new Instagram post motivated me to be more adventurous in the first place. But how much more of a genuine connection and new experience could I have had if I wasn’t so obsessed with getting that perfect photo that makes me seem “aesthetic” and “spontaneous?”
I get it. As human beings, we are naturally inclined to desire the acceptance and respect of others. With social media, we have full control over how people perceive us. We see other people showing off their perfect lives, and we wonder why our lives don’t look exactly like theirs. Those Instagram accounts that you follow and compare your life to? The people behind those accounts feel the same stress, insecurities and troubles that we do.
This isn’t to say that posting on Instagram is all bad. In fact, Instagram has proven to be an incredible tool to share art, curate a creative feed and connect with others that you wouldn’t stay in contact with (or meet!) otherwise. When used intentionally and carefully, Instagram can be a positive outlet for creative inspiration and honest connection.
Learning to appreciate each moment takes a complete rewiring of our minds. Next time you go out, don’t stop to take posed pictures. Let yourself enjoy what you actually set out to do in the first place. Take advantage of this time to get to know your friends better rather than using them as props for your weekend’s Instagram story. The people that you run into, the conversations that you have and the fulfillment that you receive as a result will be so much greater than just having something to post.
Living for the experience of life provides new, broader perspectives that open us up to knowledge that allows us to better connect with others. By intentionally putting away the technological obstacle that blocks us from that initial eye contact, that first impression and that first opportunity to connect with a new human being, we open ourselves up to a much broader and colorful world.