No one’s to blame for your Instagram habit but you
I WAS at home having dinner with a friend on the night Instagram decided to "relieve the pressure" on us by hiding the number of likes on its posts.
While hardly being a "where were you…?" event, it did distract us.
While the number of likes I get on a post may not affect me (depends on the day, if I'm completely truthful), it had the potential to ruin dessert for my guest, because she's got skin in the game - literally and symbolically.
My friend is Sina King, a famous performer within the burlesque scene, and with 43,100 followers, she's earned the title of 'influencer'.
Thankfully, Instagram's move didn't ruffle her feather boa at all.
In fact, it was me that had a far more visceral reaction to the change, and what surprised me was just how high my inner child jumped for joy upon digesting the news.
For a brief second, a glimpse of a time when social media didn't exist came back to me.
Nostalgia aside, I am an Instagram user. I enjoy it, and certainly, in the first handful of years I followed all sorts of people.
My level of discernment on who these people were and what they were saying wasn't super high. I was still curious and it was fun.
After a few years however, I decided I needed to stop following people that weren't offering me anything I deemed interesting.
Not that I was getting all highbrow, but now that Instagram was part of my day - checking my feed in the morning, using it as a break throughout the day, doing one final scroll at night - I could see that many of the accounts I was following were self-obsessed and a little bit basic.
At the risk of sounding a tad melodramatic, I realised at the core of my being, I am deeply sad about being in a world where so many people calculate a person's relevance by the engagement they get on a social media post.
So I went on a culling spree, hitting 'unfollow' on the celebrities I might like watching on a reality show, but that have since moved into pouting and promoting teeth whitening creams on my feed.
I then turned my eye (and index finger) to the fashion influencers I'd been coerced into following by younger colleagues.
Initially, I got a kick out of these people for the fact they'd disrupted the modelling industry in the way they had. But after a while, I got uncomfortable at how seriously they seemed to be taking themselves.
I needed them to lighten up and reassure me that they knew high-waisted jeans were not bringing peace to the Middle East.
It's easy to point blame squarely at Instagram for having turned our world into a narcissist's playground, but I'm getting tired of that argument and I think it's time we users take a long hard look at ourselves.
Because the way I see it, if you use social media, then it's up to you to build the kind of digital world you'd like to see - or not see.
If you don't like what's appearing in your feed, then stop feeding the beasts.
While I can't cure the planet of the narcissism, I can choose not to be an enabler.
I've made a pact with myself this year to review all my Instagram relationships. If I'm following someone - which means I'm showing support and celebrating what they do and say - and they show signs of being on the narcissism spectrum, then I'm enabling them. I'm saying "this addiction you have for yourself is cool. It's OK."
It's the lies that get to me.
The fitness girl sharing a "hangover" picture who asks me to believe that her post is about alcohol excess and nothing to do with the private movie theatre she's currently sitting in. Where's the hungover pain in her face? Where's the half-eaten hamburger?
It's the filtered, expressionless selfies wishing me a "Happy Christmas" or telling me how to "live my best life" that clearly have two hours of posing behind them to get the perfect #candid shot.
I get it, you're happy with the outcome, good on you, but don't drag Christmas or my wellbeing into this.
Earlier this year, I noticed a post by a woman I've known for several years.
The photo was from a professional shoot where she was perched on a stool wearing a black sequined top, knee-length skirt, silver shoes and had a groovy satchel hanging from one wrist. She looked gorgeous, but as I read the copy I wanted to scream.
Her post was in reaction to the brutal murder of a young woman that week in a Melbourne park. The story was heartbreaking, and her thoughts were shared well, but her photo, well, it was time to unfollow.
People often think narcissists are horrible people, but that isn't always true.
Often they have good hearts, but what they all share is a deep-seated insecurity that needs serious attention. And that attention won't be coming from me and my enabling likes any more.