Too late to join Instagam?

Sloka Suresh, Writer

I had always envisioned my debut on Instagram as this magical moment marking my first real introduction to all things mainstream. After all, Instagram did pave the way for popular trends like the mannequin challenge, bedazzled eyebrows and gummy hair vitamins. Yet after staring at my new account for a good 30 seconds, three things became glaringly apparent: I had zero followers, zero posts and zero clues regarding how to actually use the platform. 

I became aware of Instagram when I was a freshman at Lynbrook. My friends were the first to introduce me to the app and its huge network of users that enabled easy access to stalk celebrities, post photos and of course, watch IGTV.  At first, I brushed off the initial excitement surrounding the app, believing it to be a momentary fad like Silly Bandz or the “Charlie Bit my Finger” video. However, Instagram’s popularity didn’t fade as I expected — it soared. Everywhere I looked, people were on Instagram, liking photos, stalking accounts and posting the picture perfect “artsy” photo. 

At this point, I was quite tempted to join Instagram and actually see what the hype was all about. But I still had my reservations. From what I observed, it seemed like the primary concern for many Instagram users was dealing with things like getting the best angle for photos, finding ideal times to post or looking for new ways to increase one’s follower count. I, for one, didn’t understand the intricacies of the Instagram world and honestly felt like it was a bit distracting. For instance, having to wait before eating a slice of pizza so that people could take pictures for ‘gram quickly got very annoying, and I never felt comfortable posing for group photos in public. Finding out that there were unspoken rules about caption etiquette and the number of times you could post was the icing on the cake, and I started to wonder if being an Instagrammer was just too much of a hassle. 

What really dissuaded me, however, was the discomfort I felt at the prospect of putting myself out there. As a social media user, there is a level of maturity and confidence needed when deciding how to portray your social media presence to such a huge network. As a new freshman, I didn’t believe that I held any of those attributes; after all, I was still learning how to be confident in my own skin. At the same time, I couldn’t help but feel scared — scared that people would judge me as a person based on what I posted. Everyone around me was always so critical of users who didn’t abide by the unspoken rules of Instagram, and I didn’t want to give people the opportunity to do the same to me when I was already so critical of myself. Ultimately, I felt like I needed to grow more as a person before diving headfirst into the world that was Instagram.

Sticking to this decision, however, was not as easy as I thought. Living my life Instagram-free often made me feel isolated from my group of friends, who seemed to revel in this social media haven. There were many instances when I felt irrelevant and excluded because I couldn’t see the latest post or story on instagram that everyone was talking about. Additionally, I often felt out of the loop in discussions since a lot of communication happened through DM’s, leading to me feeling isolated from the group of friends I had known for so long. 

Yet, as I progressed through high school I came to realize that decisions come with sacrifice and you can’t always have the best of both worlds. By choosing not to have an Instagram, I also had to accept that I wouldn’t always be in the “loop,” but that didn’t mean that I had to compromise my relationship with my friends. I could still have and make strong connections  by simply being present with them in that moment. Not being an Instagram user didn’t prevent me from making memories, and when I came to this conclusion I was able to let go of the negative sentiments I had.  

Now as a senior, I feel like I made the right choice in delaying my Instagram debut. Although I am a late bloomer with regard to all things trendy, by waiting to join, I feel like I’ve reached a point when I have the confidence and maturity to create and maintain a social media presence without feeling scared of what others may think. I will admit that Instagram has its benefits, especially in connecting people with friends — something that I’ve found especially useful as I get ready to head off to college. But by waiting, I’ve been able to truly appreciate life not simply as pictures and posts, but as memories that I will always cherish. Though I still have yet to publish my first post, I feel like in a roundabout way, being a late social media bloomer has enabled me to grow in ways that wouldn’t have been possible if I had rushed into social media my freshman year.