I unfollowed you on Instagram because we haven’t talked in years, are unlikely to talk again, and the pressure of remembering your spouse’s name and where you went on vacation last summer or what you had for dinner last Thursday is more than I can fold into the creases of my pink, pulpous mind.
I unfollowed you because we see each other all the time and I’d rather see the sparkle in your eyes and hear you hold back laughter as you mimic the expressions your daughter made as she tasted a lemon for the first time while I press the thin, plastic rim of a cup of house Pinot Grigio to my smirking bottom lip.
You see, I unfollowed you because I love the way you use your hand to cover your mouth when you laugh and the self-conscious way you run your fingers through your hair when you’re telling a story…but I don’t love the content you create for mass appeal enough to ingest it daily alongside my probiotic-rich, locally-sourced sauerkraut.
The unfollow isn’t personal, it’s just that I’ve never actually met you and I don’t know anything about the way you look or how you express yourself when you don’t think literally everyone is watching. And though I love your art, design skills and quippy writing, I don’t need it force-fed to me daily. Your creations are thoughtful and important, but that doesn’t merit me, a complete stranger, to pace you on the same cracked sidewalk, watching intently for each breadcrumb you drop along your way.
I don’t follow you on Instagram because though we’ve met a hundred times over, I’ve never really known you outside of your face, your maiden name, and several of the fashion choices you made in fifth period English IV. Our lives took similar directions as we changed from “girls” to “women,” and you’ve shared memes that made me chuckle, but I don’t feel like that calls for the commitment of keeping tabs on each other for the rest of our internet-loving days.
I don’t follow you because I know you so well that my infant son rested in his car seat in your living room so I could have an evening where I felt in my heart that I was just as twenty years old as my body. You babysat asking nothing in return other than our valuable friendship, and in turn I could again feel alive, not like a fox trapped for my fur, slowly skinned by the sins of a man. I don’t follow you because I knew you and you knew me, with my ripe flesh bared, and I love you and you do me but that doesn’t mean either of us have space for the other in our lives after all that’s happened, and that hurts. To see all of your son’s baby teeth as he tilts his head back in laughter, his dark curls grazing his chubby cheeks—all that joy—still makes my breath slow, my heart sink over what we’ve lost.
I don’t follow you because if I ever see you again I would love to hear the inflection in your voice when you tell me about how you married a dentist from Ohio and he eats mushroom and meatball pizza the same peculiar way that you always have, and that you spent your honeymoon in Italy and ate all the pasta and tomatoes and red wine you could get your hands on-yet you managed to not gain a single pound.
I hit that unfollow button because if I never ever see you again, it’s mentally exhausting to remember that your daughter’s name starts with a V—is it Violet? Vivienne? Valentina?—when you’ve never told me firsthand.
I had to unfollow you because you now sell weight loss teas or skincare secrets or organic cotton t shirts and I can’t sign myself up to look at anyone’s advertisements. You want me to support your small business that’s supporting another woman’s small business who’s supporting a girl boss’s business who’s supporting a hustler’s business of standing atop a pyramid of cash, that was built, brick by brick, by people manipulating their social circles—their friends.
I don’t follow you because you’re not trying to sell me an actual product—yet—but you’re trying to sell me the idea that you’re confident in your parenting and your kids are the only thing that matters while you sit on your warm toilet seat, a red oval impression on your glutes, scrolling through Instagram while little fingers wiggle beneath the bathroom door. You’re distracted by the wiggling but tired from carrying the burden of not knowing which seemingly minor misstep you take that will make them need therapy or if you should try therapy for yourself. (you should, we all should.)
I unfollowed you because the only reason you aren’t selling me a product or service or an ideology or a view of how you want to be perceived is because you’ve never posted a single picture on the platform and though I know your vibrant laugh, the flecks of amber in your almond eyes, and your inherent value in my treasure chest of friends I’ve once loved amidst the twists and turns of this pirate map of a life I’ve lived doesn’t mean I should help quantify your value to others by being an additional follower of yours.
I unfollowed you because after that minor misunderstanding we had that you refused to address head on, you posted something unlike anything you had previously shared and I didn’t want to ever think you were showing me something instead of talking to me head on or to think that you were being performative–but it was then that I realized that the whole point of Instagram is to be preformative.
I unfollowed you because culture is important and everywhere. It’s in the places we work and work out and the websites we frequent. And if the culture is false, performative, built on greed, vanity, quantity of people vs quality of persons, I’d like to unsubscribe.
I won’t be following you on Instagram because I searched for years for new plug-ins and apps to squash my social media addiction, but it wasn’t until I saw the scope outside my addiction: the violent crises perpetuated, the underlying evil of the founder, and the ways in which these products have negatively affected people on a global scale that I had fewer urges to be another active daily user.
I unfollowed you because I’m not a jealous person, but anything worth sharing is more pleasurable than the act of scrolling through a social media feed, so if I have the time to look, I forget you were having fun in a moment during which I was probably having fun, too–not when I had the time to check my feed. And that I’d much rather look at the paint chipping on the hinges of a bathroom stall than see how others, cities away, are spending the same Saturday night.
I unfollowed you because the pandemic gave me a pause prior to posting that I hadn’t experienced before. Would my pleasant post be tone-deaf and privileged? What even was appropriate to share during day-drinking turmoil? Could I share a snippet representing a bright moment amongst a series of dark days while others’ were yet to come? Or others who had, like me, succumbed to a depression so deep that a beacon of light would not reach them? Just as I don’t want to tinker on the edge of jealousy of another person, I don’t want to be on the other end of that, either. Jealousy creates walls where there is common ground that could use a bridge: the same hopes and dreams, one who has and the other who has not but could use a guide.
I unfollowed you because when I followed you, I did so seeking the most basic of human needs–connection. Following signaled: “I see you.” and I presented to you what facets of myself I’ve willingly shared with the internet. Yet, we aren’t more connected at all. In person, our conversations would remain naturally within a realm of our commonalities, and opposing views would be presented in a polite and considerate manner. The corners of your mouth would curve downward, your head tilting slightly to the right as you gently nod in agreeance with the perspective not previously presented to you. Or, you’d lift your shoulders to your earlobes, disagree and carry on. But online, with all on display, our negativity bias immediately takes us to our differences: the children I seemingly had with ease while you struggle with infertility, the career you grew during a time when my low self worth led me to believe that my debilitating ADHD rendered me unemployable.
I unfollowed you on Instagram because when I am a follower, I’m only seeing your tail end, and I want to look you right in the eyes and see your humanity, not a performance by you, starring you, about how you want me to see you.