5 reasons why I still use social media

Certain things catch your eye but pursue only those that capture the heart.
— Ancient Indian Proverb

These days the words social media comes loaded with many negative connotations Ask any handful of people you know, and they will tell you it’s toxic, dishonest, unsafe and so on. That was me in the winter of 2015. And for the most part, I still agree with most of these descriptions. However, on reflection, we can all agree that there is a certain allure to social media for some different reasons. I have thought about my case and the magnetism of social media and have come to a few realizations about my use.

I am an introvert, who has been forced to exhibit more extrovert skills for many years. The idea of social exposure borders on traumatic — perhaps also a function of my generations sensitivities as a younger Generation X’er. While GenX’ers, are the natural cohorts to Millennial and share many overlapping traits and sensibilities, one of the areas where we have less of a footprint is on social media. Up to 2015, I had been a mild social media user, posting in the confines of private groups and sharing family pictures on Facebook. Over time, something changed that made me rethink my social media engagement — the US Election of 2016.

I said goodbye to Facebook in 2016, during the US election. Even though I am Canadian, there was just something toxic and unpleasant brewing on the Facebook platform. So reluctantly, to protect my mental space, I said goodbye to my 400 plus friends and family. The process took over the course of a weekend as I posted that I would only be using email and would remain for two more days to exchange other contact information with those I needed to keep in touch. Up to this point, Facebook had become like email. Everything happened on Facebook — from posting garden pics to food and having my distant relatives watch the kids grow up. That bittersweet breakup was hard but necessary. I needed a Facebook detox. So, I took one.

For the record, I have no Instagram affiliations — I am only a user posting everyday pictures like the rest of you, and as you may know Facebook owns Instagram, via acquisition.

In the Fall of 2016, after nearly a year Facebook-free and perfectly detoxed, I decided to re-open an Instagram account. Years earlier, I had opened an account out of curiosity but never posted pictures. This time I decided to hide out, like many, shielded by the Privacy setting. However, four months later, I decided to go Public, because I was enjoying the experience of being inspired by how people were using the platform.

A retired English couple I followed posted the most delectable foods that inspired me to take more care in my food preparations; another personal trainer, showing his journey and troubles with his weight was yet another inspiration to another posting pictures of paper flowers and a Fairy-like woman from California posted about her Gucci love. All superfluous to life basics, I know — but I am honest. Seemed a good scroll through as I sat on the bus to work, was like an injection of positivity, infused into my day.

To give some more “me context” — I went 12 years without a television, until my eight years ago, pressure from my kids. Today I have also narrowed my use of the internet,tailored to watching somethings online and a few tech and news sites. External influences coming through technology has a hard time against my deep suspicion of “things on the internet and TV.”

Yep — I am an oddball, who firmly believes garbage in — garbage out. Further, I can count the number of websites I find consistently stimulating and spend a lot of my free time reading and listening to e-books. Social Media takes up a very tiny portion of my life, and if I will use it, it had better made me feeling good. And at a societal level, as humans already implicated in the world of social media, I have also accepted it will always be a part of my life. LinkedIn has been my primary social tool, but today, it is at par with Instagram, so much so I decided to open a business account and was redirected to Facebook, who incidentally and ironic owns Instagram.

Up to this point, I had attempted the process ten times before and could not do it, remembering my last experience. The eleventh time, I created a new Facebook account and held my breath. Like a germaphobe with gloves on, I enter the space on full mental guard, making sure not to share much, touch much or click much. In fact, I created a new email with no contacts associated. After all, what can I tell Facebook that it doesn’t already know?

And as I connected my Instagram to a new Facebook Page, I knew I would not be here very much. I felt a slight sense of sadness being there again — uninspired!

Sites like Pinterest and Instagram hold a unique appeal — in a world of negativity around social media; they offer users visual inspiration without the noise. And so, while I am by no means a social media junkie, I can appreciate the “wow” effect that overcomes me when I look at Instagram visuals.

At this point, I know someone may start thinking about algorithms. Let’s momentarily set aside how the Instagram algorithms work or its dominant reputation as a space of “Instagram models” showcasing boobs, butts and “boujified” contoured faces. Yes, it seems to be a platform for the self — absorbed masses. However, based on the growing usage, the platform has doubled its user base, to 700 million monthly actives in two years. Instagram’s growth rate also shows no sign of slowing down. It took the company four months to add the last 100 million users since hitting 600 million in December 2016 (TechCrunch). Let’s face it — Instagram has become the hot girl in class and I for one like her.

Here are my five reasons why I have decided to give social media (LinkedIn aside) a second look and Instagram has everything to do with it and this is why:

1. Its now part of our ecosystem

Let’s face it — social media is here to stay. In fact, you can be the recipient of the side eye if you tell people you have no social media presence. While laughable, it’s the case for many in my generation and younger. So, if I am going to take part in the Parade, I might as well enjoy the ride.

2. Its Not Facebook

I am clearly aware of the irony as I write this; Facebook owns Instagram. The only caution is that Facebook does not repeat the same errors with Instagram as well. Keeping it a positive place should be the first overarching Product Experience value. Instagram is not Facebook; don’t try to make it so. For many years, Facebook has grown to be a place filled with negativity and perhaps the lessons learnt from this experience can help course correct potential for the same pattern repeating itself. I ask in jest: Can Facebook build an algorithm to detect when negativity brews on the platform?

3. No one knew my name

So as I mentioned I had left Facebook — a place where everyone knew me personally. Instagram provided a do-over. There was something about being in a place where no one (ok, the friends you didn’t block) knew my name. I was careful NOT to recreate the same environment and take some measures to ensure that adverse conversation threads did not follow me to Instagram. Facebook had been the site that hosted family and friends, alike, and I needed to meet new people, however real they were.

4. Insta Inspiration

One of the most evident things about Instagram is the care that many users take to ensure their pictures are worth posting. There is an unspoken value in quality, save for the users who have not figured out a camera lens can be wiped from time to time. The posting of uplifting images and stories vs. the rants that Facebook had come to be know for was worth the stay on Instagram. More and more people are looking to be uplifted not depressed and Instagram delivers. I see my following as my own curation of inspiration — you can say, I collect people, which brings me to my last point.

5. Insta Pals

I for one have extolled the caution of meeting people online — no one is who they are, and Instagram is no different. We all naturally present the best side of our lives, deflecting the unpleasant. Perhaps in keeping with this unspoken Instagram value of “instagood,” there is a kinder spirit on Instagram, making me more open to the strangers I installment. I have met other gardening enthusiasts, foodies, sharing tips and other moms of boys, sharing musings of being the only female in the home. Over time, while I am aware of virtual quality of these engagements they add more positivity than anything else.

I have cultivated some instapals, with whom I can share ideas and/ or discuss a common interest, with no strings — whether it is about a workout technique, a garden plant as their lives invites a certain vicarious engagement. My favorite people to follow on Instagram have a few things in common — an outpouring of positivism, realism, and humility. They are ordinary people like Astrid Ambroziak and her Gucci love; and the Australian couple, whose enviable life makes me want to join every canoe ride; Ryan Pacquette, who makes my muscles twitch from guilt when I have not worked out; Romek Samolet, whom I followed to enjoy his home cook adventures, and cool album, with his French bulldog, Theo. They have, in a strange way, become part of my instalife, adding moments of wonder, amusement and inspiration from afar.