As someone who has been perpetually single her whole life, I have come to realize during this pandemic that I am, in fact, involved in a very important, extremely complicated long-term relationship, one that has highlighted for me some extreme productivity pressure during coronavirus. Let me explain why.
This relationship, it keeps me grounded—both in reality and in terms of the things I’m dreaming about. It encourages me to stay connected and close to people I love, especially during this extremely uncertain time. It has this unique ability to empower me and has introduced me to an audience of other people who “get” me and what I want to say.
Yes, if you haven’t figured it out already, I am indeed talking about my relationship with Instagram. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a total IG fanatic. I post regularly, leave long, boisterous comments on my friends’ posts and scroll through my seemingly-endless feed daily for unlimited inspiration. And recently, during this time of self-isolation, Instagram has become a portal back into the lives of the people that I miss the most while stuck at home.
In this aspect of our union, Instagram has been my ultimate support system. But like any relationship, with the good comes the bad. During this time of sheltering in place, the darker, more negative side of social media has certainly reared its ugly head a time or two.
As we all know, especially on social media apps like Instagram, everything is not what it seems. But over the last few months, it sure has seemed like everyone and their mother has gained some magical motivation to get up and do the most. People are learning new skills and baking banana bread like it’s nobody’s damn business, and and what used to be a scrolling session filled with double-taps birthed by unadulterated joy has quickly become a stressful skimming of my feed with a new jab at my self esteem delivered by every post.
I felt constant pressure from social media to make the most of my time sheltering in place, and for a while, I really beat myself up about the lack of new skills and accolades I obtained during quarantine. I allowed this disappointment in myself to affect my day-to-day life, both mentally and physically. While so many of my friends had the discipline to do so, I didn’t finish one book, didn’t learn to play the guitar staring at me from the corner of my bedroom and didn’t bake a single loaf of bread. Sorry, not one.
At this point, scrolling through my feed felt like being trapped in a repetitive vortex. I would see someone post an accomplishment on social media and immediately feel self-conscious and insecure about myself. I would think up 10 ideas of what I could be doing instead of scrolling and feel bad about being unproductive. Then I would get overwhelmed, remind myself that we are in the middle of an unprecedented global pandemic and come to an immediate halt. Oh, and then repeat the whole cycle over and over again.
This went on until I finally had an “accomplishment” of my own to post about to post about. I launched a pop culture podcast with one of my best friends and as soon as I hit Share and announced the news, the comments started pouring in. “Wow I wish I had the motivation to do something like this during quarantine,” wrote one friend. “Okay, we see what you’ve been spending your time on,” praised another.
That was when it hit me. Life (and Instagram) is all about perception.
On social media, it appeared that I had whipped up a podcast out of thin air during just a few months at home, but in reality, that was far from the truth. It was something that I had been working on since January and just happened to launch right now. Within the blink of an eye, the roles had been reversed. I was now the Instagram over-achiever. The fog that clouded my brain had cleared, and I felt that I finally had the clarity I had been searching for. It took flipping the switch to show me that I shouldn’t take others’ posts and humble-brags so seriously.
Social media can be deceiving. You never know what’s going on behind the scenes, and comparison to other people can be a major detriment to not only you, but also your relationship with apps that are meant to inspire you, like Instagram. While our relationship was rocky for a while, entering June I’ve come to the realization that it’s OK that I didn’t have a new skill or accomplishment to post every single day. My growth can only be measured by one person; myself.
Oh, and one last thing—I’d say just living, working and surviving a global pandemic is a pretty incredible accomplishment in its own right. Wouldn’t you?