Social networks can be harmful, tiresome, exhausting. This is confirmed by innumerable studies and relaxed conversations between friends. constant exposure, censorship of certain bodies and the infinite universe of publications can be overwhelming, in a way, unmanageable. Faced with this scenario, at the beginning of June I decided that I would deactivate my Instagram – only social network, apart from whatsapp, that I keep active – for three months.
The last photo I saw before I left was my sister’s reflection in a street mirror. She made me happy to say goodbye like that; I always enjoy her stories, full of mountains, moons and flowers. What I wanted with the experiment was to stir consciousness, exercise memory and question my place in a highly digitized world, since I had the feeling that everything was moving too fast and my organs couldn’t keep up with my mind in the lightning. At times I did not understand my belonging to the digital world, so I decided to get away from it to reconnect with something throbbing inside me, in search, as María Zambrano said, of the truth of the entrails.
I deleted the app standing in the kitchen, drinking my second morning coffee. A week later, I felt abstractly lonelier. After all, there were plenty of totally real and honest social interactions going on within Instagram. All of that was over. And consequently, I felt a noisy loneliness around me, as if a mosquito had been bothering me and, already dead, its ghostly sound continued to fill the room.
I suspected that this solitude would help me clarify some scenes in my mind. I had the feeling that many of these virtual interactions did not leave much behind and, although the first days I noticed their absence, the void they left would be filled with other sensations that I had forgotten. The first few days, despite my lofty goals, I found myself looking for sensations similar to those generated by Instagram in other applications.
In Wallapop I got curious about what users put up for sale on their profiles, as if information about their lives could be extracted from the objects they offered. One sold old books, and I assumed that his grandmother, a great reader, had passed away, and he dedicated himself to selling his books, which he was never interested in reading. Another sold baby clothes, and I assumed that she was not considering having more children and, instead of saving those clothes for family or friends, she preferred to make a profit by selling them to strangers online.
He checked the weather app often, as if the temperature were a state that could be updated from heaven, where a bored man was turning a thermostat up and down. I read his ravings in the form of degrees Celsius on the screen of my mobile, fascinated by the number of times he exceeded 40. I also surprised myself reviewing my own photos. I left them small, forming a panel similar to that of Instagram profiles.
The last substitute I tried was the Whatsapp statuses. They were similar to stories from Instagram, since they are deleted after a day and your contacts can react to what you post. I uploaded the cover of the book I had just finished reading. A friend reacted with three heart-eyed faces and my grandmother asked me how she was doing and what she was about. She overwhelmed me that the high looked so much like getting attention on Instagram, so I drowned out my cry for help.
After Wallapop, time and Whatsapp, I closed the chapter on substitutes to go on to try to savor the pleasure of looking at the open window of my house without thinking about almost anything while the fan spat out puffs of stirred and sultry air at me.
Already tired of the absurd gesture of looking for substitutes, convinced that there must be other ways to fill the empty spaces of my time, one day, while I was waiting for the pasta to cook, I grabbed diary of a beatnik by Diane de Prima and read about languid kisses on a New York autumn afternoon as the house filled with the smell of ricotta.
I am a boomer
On Friday, July 1, at four weeks, I realized experientially that nothing changed in my life by missing out on what others were posting. Neither friends nor acquaintances nor admired people. More than missing the updates in real time, I was missing certain photos, reflections or proposals that had nothing to do with the rush and novelty.
A friend asked me to take care of her cat during her vacation, so I spent a few days in a tiny village located in a hidden oasis in the heart of the desert. When I told people about my escape, I added almost unconsciously that it was a very instagrammable and not to tell anyone where he was. If suddenly a couple of photos hit him, hordes of influencers and travelers would probably begin to arrive to frame, filter and regurgitate their particular visions of such a peculiar place. I was lazy and scared to think about it. Some places are having to be cordoned off to protect them from the unstoppable influx of people with the futile desire to immortalize themselves there. The photo that one day was spectacular and ethereal, almost unreal, becomes a chewed-up image, lacking in surprise and passable.
Back in the city, she would take long, aimless walks in the late afternoon, armed with a bottle of ice-cold water, headphones, and a notebook. The miracle: by dint of observing, stopping and resuming the march, I felt inspired and resumed writing. She had already been possessed by a flâneuse before, but I had never done it without feeling at any time that no matter how beautiful the sunset, the silhouette of the mountain or the ice cream that I was licking with joy, I had to photograph them, comment on them and publish them. Not being a person who publishes daily, I realized that some of my gestures were mediated by that possibility: that of sharing them.
In the sixth week, driven by a deadly and dangerous boredom, I sneaked into my secondary account, where I upload photos of books and follow writers and publishers.
After a stalking tasteless to some profiles, I got tired: there was nothing there to will need see, nor anything to alleviate my boredom. fill in time scrolling Between photos of known and unknown people, he denies laziness by covering it with a very thick blanket of complacency and neglect. I know it sounds radical, but that’s how I felt at the time – and that doesn’t mean that enjoy, in a way that is difficult to explain, observing what others were doing on their vacations.
After 20 minutes I realized that it was useless. I was skipping my Instagram zero regimen and starting to feel in the Body the negative consequences generated in me by exposure to the captivating social network for no known purpose: I was a bit anxious, I felt small for not writing anymore and I hooked one photo to another without even knowing why.
In the second week, I went to see the cinema The event, Andrea Diwan’s film based on the book by Annie Ernaux. When I got back home I wanted to share a story with the poster and a short, direct phrase to invite people to see it. Not having that tool, I dedicated myself to talking directly to the people I wanted to see it. This is how I began to filter my messages – first for followers in general, then for certain friends in particular – and that made me feel more human.
It calmed me not having to tell anyone that I went to the mountains or to the beach or that I did that route along the river that everyone talks about. I was glad I wasn’t having to face the people and their dreamy summers, or the complaints of those who wouldn’t leave their city, turned in July into a toxic jellyfish that kept in its poisonous meat the lives of all those who couldn’t escape to the countryside or the sea to quench your thirst for a diverse and less stale air.
After three months I am aware that my thoughts about social networks do not want to be immovable slabs. I am clear that there is no reliable truth about the use we make of networks. I feel less and less desire to continue there, at the same time that I am aware that it is already the only virtual meeting place in which I remain.
There are many profiles that open a window to new realities, sowing seeds of doubt and questioning in those who observe them. I inexpressibly enjoy when dear friends give me pieces of their days through their publications. I embrace the undeniable: I like that photo gallery and its diversity and I can’t, nor do I want, to leave it entirely. Instagram is also life, so I choose to stay.
Everything is fictional. Even what we touch and smell is sensitive to being told in another way. You should never believe a photograph, like any other story, because the chances of it being one hundred percent real are the same as those of it being completely false. In that impossibility of capturing a certainty, however, there is also a place for beauty.
I use my main account again. I have imposed a usage limit of half an hour on the application on my mobile. I have no solutions. The tension of my relationship with this social network is a reflection of the complexity of human life in general. Some things within our reach generate indefinite discomfort in the hands of manifest joys, they allow us to discover new realities without failing to remind us that the way in which we arrive at them is criticizable, debatable.
Like taking a plane – highly polluting, but capable of transporting us quickly to dream places – the use we make of Instagram is something that we should reflect on. Not to whip us, but to realize the powers that control it and choose to use it for what it gives us, being aware that, in the virtual, everything escapes us and things are both real and tremendously filtered, fictitious, inns. Dissidence has a place in the networks –in fact, in some cases, it manages to bypass censorship– but it is worth considering that, as Audre Lorde would say, the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. Instagram is one more window from which to observe the world; let us be careful not to fall off the cliff when we look out and not to confuse what we see with real life, the one that throbs and bustles around us.