I’d spent two weeks on my beach vacation in the throes of a silent battle with an inanimate object. Not with sand, though it did keep wedging itself into unwanted territories, nor with a beach chair that required you to be in Mensa to fold up. My battle was with my iPhone, specifically: with Instagram. Running a business for whom I am the product, or at least my personal consumption of, consistency with and creativity around healthy food is the product, makes me feel that every moment I’m not sharing some wellness inspo is a moment wasted. I’ve heard the saying: “if you’re not growing you’re dying,” and I’ve internalized that to mean: “if I’m not growing my Instagram, my biz might as well be dead” which makes my relationship to social media a little tumultuous…
But I hadn’t been vibing with the ‘gram on vacay — I’d been vibing with my husband and our dog and our quality time in nature. I’d been vibing with our new Jeep Wrangler and driving it with the roof off with that magical summer breeze washing over our salty skin. I’d been vibing with the nine books I’d brought with me, since I never get the time or space to curl up with one IRL. But every few minutes, even deep into these very vibe-filled moments, I’d get an anxious pang of “post on Instagram or you’re gonna fall behind” that I’d have to try to shove away. Or I’d pull out my phone, pull up Instagram to play around with some shareable photo options and immediately get sucked into a self-worth-lessening-scroll…
This seesaw of social media shame haunted me my entire trip. I always felt like I should be posting something pretty, but I slightly more felt like I’d rather leave my phone at home so that’s what I did the most.
On our last night, Jesse and I packed a picnic to eat on the beach — a beach famous for its sunsets that look like they came out of a screensaver. As we were cuddling by the waves and munching on our salads, reflecting on our two blissful weeks, recapping the highlights, plotting how to bottle up this feeling right now and bring it into “real life,” a group of five girls rolled up behind us. We were a little annoyed that these college-aged chicas got within three feet of our romantic date, but after taking some deep breaths, we became even more annoyed when they started a very vocal photo shoot.
For the next 15 minutes as the sun set, we listened to the girls reposition themselves in different friend formations, fight over who got the good side this time because she got the good side last time, and keep trying different lighting angles. Completely distracted, I kept looking back, seeing these girls completely oblivious to the beauty around them but fully focused on how they looked on a screen in front of them.
And there were only five girls, so to spend 15 minutes taking pics was pretty impressive. Impressive enough that it made me think that I could certainly spend 1 minute posting something to Instagram, dammit. So as I reached for my phone out of guilt, I found I’d again left it at home. I’d left it at home because I wanted to be present in this moment soaking up the golden beauty with my love, not trying to make you wish you were me.
I’d left it at home because mental pictures are the new picture-pictures. Presence takes precedence over promotion.
Then just like that, when the sunset reached the peak sunset moment that sparked everyone else on the beach to legitimately applaud (seriously — people clapped), I turned around and the girls had vanished. Probably to edit their photos and then post them to social media with a comment that exuded effortlessness.
Please, friend, don’t waste your life curating your life. I’m begging you; I’m warning you – studies are showing that users who heavily use social media have between a 13% and 66% higher chance of being depressed.
In the phone-glued-to-our-hand times that we’re living in, it takes willpower, consciousness, even courage to put it down. It takes a bold desire to actually live life through your eye’s lens more than your iPhone’s. But consider this yourself care. Bypassing your cell is the new bubble bath?
Because the truth is, at the end of your life your obituary will not read “They had 100,000 Instagram followers.” At the end of your life your iCloud will probably fail and you’ll have to rely on the mental pictures you have stored up. So, put down the device and start creating mental pictures over Instagram filtered ones.