I ASK MYSELF

I left Twitter and Facebook right after the last presidential election, at the beginning of the pandemic. Constant scrolling for “news,” all of which was bad, and reading what everyone else in the world was thinking, all of it disheartening, got me down. So all of a sudden one day I just deleted my accounts. I have not regretted this.

I held on to my Instagram account, however. I visit Instagram multiple times a day.

For those of you who don’t know, Instagram started out as a way for people to share photos, videos, and other images. These can be accompanied by text, not limited to a certain number of characters, the way Twitter limits user posts. That’s it in a nutshell. Sounds sort of lame, right? Either that or one of the most genius social media platforms ever. I am torn as to what the reality is. But Instagram is certainly not good for you.

Here is why I am still on Instagram: for the photos of the inside of people’s houses, as an outlet for my voyeuristic side. I also follow all sorts of cute dogs and cats. Then there are the jewelry accounts, because my love for diamonds never wanes. Throw in the New York Times food page, other food sites, and I could spend hours just scrolling through Instagram. Oh, yes, and I follow a bunch of other writers and lots of artists.

What I didn’t know until I watched a documentary about it, is that Instagram is the sole income source for lots of people. These “influencers,” many of them under the age of 25, make millions of dollars. How do they do it?

These people make videos on Instagram that go “viral.” This means that unlike my Instagram posts of my cat, these influencers’ posts amass thousands upon thousands of followers–some of them making it into the millions. Their followers hit the “like” button on their posts, and so all of this attention attracts advertisers, who pay the influencers to tout stuff like soft drinks, clothing, shoes, makeup, and the like. Apparently, being an influencer is an actual career.

I am not in the cohort of people who are influenced by the influencers. I have no idea who any of them are, other than the kids I saw on the documentary. And they could care less about me and my cat photos.

So as I scrolled through my Instagram feed this afternoon, I wondered why the hell I even go on Instagram in the first place. It is a huge time waster. I asked myself why I feel obligated to post at least every other day: either an adorable photo of my cat, one of my many drawings, a pitch for someone to buy one of my books, or an artful shot of something in the apartment.

Am I striving to influence somebody? Who might that be? Influence them to do what? Do I have aspirations to become somehow popular on Instagram as a representative of the Baby Boomer generation, few of whom probably even know what Instagram is? Is there a corporation on the planet who would want to pay me to post something on Instagram about one of their products? Of course not.

Do I want my cat to become famous? Do I hope that somehow a celebrity will notice my Instagram feed and start following me? Do I want to become known for the chair in my living room that is in so many of my cat postings? What is it that drives me to maintain a presence on Instagram?

I am not sure. Here is the answer I give people who ask me about it, though:

One has to keep abreast of social media or become a dinosaur.

Until I figure out the real answer, this one will have to do.

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