When I got my first phone, I was 15, straight out of school, preparing to be cool for college, and trying not to seem boring. It was not easy. I had to start wearing shoes and accessories that went well with my outfit. I had to stop calling clothes ‘clothes’ and start calling them ‘outfits’. My nails needed to be grown tall and neatly polished. I had to stop relying on mother to apply my eyeliner. I also had to learn to reply to texts within 2 minutes (something I don’t do anymore) and I had to learn to type my messages very quickly like a pro. And, did I also mention that I had to be on Instagram?

Unspoken Instagram rules

My ‘friends’ told me (unspoken rules, of course) that I was supposed to do one-line captions with emoji like the unicorn or the sparkle, keep it pretty basic, post the perfect-face-perfect-legs-perfect-dress pictures only. Oh, and of course- dog filter selfies were a must. They also told me that stupid videos of friends, random partying, footage, anytime you ate pizza, and selfies that were good, but not GOOD ENOUGH TO POST made their way to Instagram stories.

I did what they said. What they didn’t say, technically. It turned out I was killing it pretty cool. I’d follow all the rules and tbh (that’s the acronym for ‘to be honest’ if you’re not on Instagram), it felt nice having other people think I was beautiful. There was a lot of fun at the time, so I always had a lot of stuff to pin on to my Instagram.

girl holding a phone to check instagram

I tried to fit in

After about a month or so, learnt the Boomerang feature from a friend (You know who you are and I love you!) My first ever boomerang was some dancing with a balloon against a white wall. My first ever Instagram post was me sitting in a grassy bush and smiling creepily. The photo was so oversaturated and contrasty, I’d almost puke to have myself on the Internet in that condition. I’d have boys asking to be friends in the request section, and I remember having a hearty laugh at their attempt of flattery, poetry and compliments. I never accepted those requests and they eventually gave up. Because that was not the point. All I wanted to do was look cool and besides, I was too childish for a crush (an online crush).

That was how it was until I found myself in a 12th grade class. Everyone I knew, knew that I was not settling for average grades. I knew I needed to put Instagram away. I knew it in my heart.

Because, what about the times when you have something more than Instagram to work upon? What about the time when there is nothing exciting and fancy going on in your life anymore? What do you do about the times when you’re not going to expensive pizza places anymore? In that case, what do you post then?

I could only choose one thing

Studying was important to me and Instagram was a meaningless rat race I needed to bail out on. So, one not-so-fine evening, I took the app off my phone and suddenly, life felt grey. I was a melodramatic poet. I had nothing to do when I was not eating, sleeping or studying. The thought of missing DMs and not getting updated on what people were doing felt terrible.

But I had a different peace. I felt like I was undercover and no one needed to get updated about my life every 2 hours anymore. My focus was on studying, nailing the exam and eventually after that, I couldn’t wait to be back on the gram.

phone screen showing the picture of a girl on Instagram

And then I started my BS all over again. And I decided to quit! AGAIN! I’d keep going to it, then overdoing it and regretting it. It went on and on.

The change came slowly

But it was during these times that I questioned these rules. Why do you have to have one-line captions? What if I wanted to write an entire story up there? What if I don’t post anything for months? Who cares anyway? What if I don’t use the right hashtags? What if my photos aren’t cute enough? Then, why does Instagram exist anyway? – I asked myself.

And I came up with this not-so-philosophical answer:

If it is raining, people know it’s raining. You don’t have to shoot that! Everyone’s equally stressed out about their semesters. You don’t need to have a photo of your textbooks with the stress level sticker! Like, that is so 2015! Grow up!

You post to Instagram when you have something to say which you think is necessary for everyone to listen. You post to Instagram when you create something which you think is worth the time of your viewer.

So, I started doing what I liked the most on Instagram. I got creative. The urge to learn from following the lives of incredible people slowly changed my mindset about social media . I found the courage to put my work out there and talked to people who were passionate about what they liked in life.

My take on Instagram now

Now, I know WHY I use my Instagram. I know that I don’t need to feel stressed about having to post something all the time. I know that it is okay to miss out on stuff. Because if you don’t post anything for months, which online friend asks you if you’re okay? Not unless there is a genuine relationship.

Now, I try to make sure that if anyone visits my Instagram, they will see who I am and what I’m most passionate about, than just the perfect, unnatural and filtered side of things.

Of course, I stalk cute guys. Gross. I know. But moreover, I allow Instagram to help me grow, not stunt my growth. Instead of allowing it to be the source of junk and negativity and sin in my life, I choose to let it teach me good, creative and artistic stuff. I can use Instagram to be friends and not count and compare followers. It is up to us to make the choice to upload nourishing and entertaining stuff more than shaming and disgracing and hurting people. I will not let Instagram take up all the time I should be spending in real conversations with real people.

Why do you use Instagram?

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters”