For some time now, since I was in college, I noticed people going back and deleting older pictures. Per my observant self, I had some things to say.
“Why go through the trouble?”
“Some of those pictures were dope!”
“These people are doing a lot.”
Then, I noticed that some people were doing this post breakup for a fresh start. Ok, I kind of get it, no one wants to block their blessings by having their ex plastered all over their page like some inconvenient scar on your cheek like an anime protagonist. People check your insta and see this person prompting them to dip from your page quick. But even then, is all that still necessary. Are we putting too much emphasis on our past by getting rid of it?
Eventually I came around, but with a whopping 820 posts I frequently told myself, “Yeah, I need more time for this.” Not but four days ago, I finally went ahead and went back through my four years worth of posts. Nostalgia came and two pieced me in the face with both tears and shrieking laughter. I wasn’t purging over a breakup or some other petty reason. I was purging because Instagram is an art gallery of one’s self, and I’m not the same person I was four, three, two, or even a year ago. I want people to see the me they would meet in person. So I started my purge. Before deleting anything I went back and screen grabbed all the embarrassing over filtered group pics, accomplishments, discoveries, and precious moments. It is safe to say I now have RARE #TBT material for days! After the roller coaster of a ride through memory lane, I started deleting.
NO ONE TOLD ME HOW TEDIOUS THIS WOULD BE.
After about 20 pics of hitting edit then delete. I took to Google to find more efficient methods, and of course Instagram didn’t have mass delete. (THEY SHOULD REALLY LOOK INTO THAT) So I outsourced to a clever little app called Cleaner. So I started rapidly selecting pictures, and selected over 780 pictures to be deleted. Cleaner instructed me two things; one, that I had to fork over 2 bucks for this to get done, and two, that they would have to schedule these deletions due to how many there were. Basically, if too much activity goes on on your Instagram within a certain amount of time, the app stops you, kind of like Twitter Jail. Remember that? Sheesh. It was about 1 am at this point. I woke up at 7:30 am the next day and Cleaner STILL WAS NOT DONE. At about 9:30 am, Cleaner finally finished. Relief. I looked at my page and it stopped where I wanted it to, but left one picture without me even knowing. A hilarious picture of me wearing a George Lopez gag tee that said:
MY CHEST HURTS
AND I CAN BARELY
Remnants of a younger me without a doubt, so I decided hey I’ll keep this one. So on my page there’s a jump from 119 weeks ago to 67. I kept everything from when I graduated from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and onward. GO HEELS!
While strolling down memory lane I noticed some interesting things, so naturally I wrote them down. These may apply to some people, they may not. So here we go,
UNO – GROWTH.
God’s greatest blessing to us is probably our ability to grow. I saw myself jumping into Bill and Ted’s time machine from the 80’s and saw myself getting younger and younger. Is this the beauty and power of Instagram? Being able to track the lives of avid users and beautifully display them? Probably so. I went back and noticed the tremendous changes I underwent. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, and even professionally. Physically I would focus more on my different ranges of styles from long to short hair and back. I even noticed when I cut my hair short for the first time since I got Instagram, and old friends commented “New cut?” “Where’s your hair?” Anyone who knows me know I hate short cuts, they make me look bigger, and of course highlight how big my head really is! I noticed little accolades like internship offers, job offers, awards, etc. Anyways, I also noticed how deeper each of my posts got. From posting random pics with no captions, to carefully plotted pictures with fine editing and precise captions, to the emoji age, onto simpler to-the-point captions. Now this focuses a little more on trends, which I’ll cover a little later. I also noticed the content I was posting. With passing time my focus changed, from selfish posts amplifying a “look at meee” vibe to a more so “I’m thankful for this moment let me share this with you all.” So yeah, I’ve changed a lot (No DJ Khaled) and Instagram showed me exactly how.
DOS – TRENDS.
Just how Instagram captured the evolution of my adulthood, it captured certain trends that our younger generation would have no idea about today. First, I remember when Instagram was only an iPhone thing. In a galaxy far, far, away I was once an Android user. I’m an avid and loyal Apple user now. Before that, however, I had my trusty little HTC, the first of its kind. So per my gift (read: curse) to stay up on trends, my 19 year old self noticed this new thing, Instagram. I was so confused as to how people were posting these dramatic, vibrant images, and I couldn’t. After doing research I saw that it was an iPhone only app, and upset wouldn’t even be the word. My FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) was through the roofs. Thankfully, not too long after discovering the app, I saw an announcement that it would be arriving to the Android Store soon. Ecstatic when getting the app, I was finding real minuscule, I mean REAL minuscule, opportunities to post things. Eventually, one of my friends tweeted me and said “When Android users get Instagram.” Chuckling and continuing what I was doing, I soon got hip to Instagram etiquette. Some of these unspoken rules came to me via my even more hip friends. Thank you to DJ and Kimmy!
- Don’t post frequently, post every so often, so no flooding the TL.
- Pic subtle filters, don’t make your picture seem unreal.
- Make sure you have a bomb caption. It’s half the battle.
- If 10% of your followers don’t like your picture, it didn’t happen. It was a dud. It’s the 10% rule.
- Only post during peak times. Including, class changes, pre-game hours, or overnight for the wake up likes.
I was fed up with all these “rules,” but you know damn well I followed them. For the most part, my friends were right. For the longest time, these cardinal rules were the formula for “ a good post.” Now I can’t say some of these rules still don’t apply, for example the peak time rule. There have been STUDIES done on this phenomena. Literally reports have been made charting peak usage and probability of optimal likes. Don’t believe me, here. Thanks Huffington Post.
Some other trends I noticed was the content that was posted. Mine followed this trend: meaningless waste of space, necessary
bae pics, promo, promo, promo, dope kicks, promo, dope kicks and fits, celebrating my friends, obligatory family pics, pics of me doing things like partying and community service, music I was into, promo, to strictly special moments in my life, back to promo, special moments, and finally a mix of both promo and special moments.
Mouthful right? I also noticed the quality of the pictures. At first, I stuck with the given filters, moved on to the whole #nofilter movement, to eventually running a picture through three different outsource apps before finally posting. There was a hard filter age with all the heavy HD and contrast,and then a soft filter age. A soft filter was something like a small tweak to brightness or sharpness. Nowadays, you either have SLR/Nikon captured images, or subtlety beautiful images that work just as fine from the lens of your phone’s camera. Oh and let’s not forget when Instagram allowed you to post videos. Some people had a FIELD DAY with this. I stumbled upon mine, which was the day after Jay-Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail graced my ears. It was me in a black and white filter just bobbing my head to Tom Ford. Beautiful right?
TRES – STYLE.
Alright, we all know that style is unique to everyone. Everybody has a specific trademark to their name, whether it be their hair styles, shoes, hats, or maybe even a certain brand. Mine encompasses all of that. I had certain go to outfits sure, but never a fluid constant style. I went from a period of student org shirts and cargos, to flashy button downs and colored pants, to tanks and khakis, to cut off jeans. These days I just effortlessly throw on clothes that look at least half decent together. I went from “hip” teenager who feeds off fashion trends, to focusing a little more on being comfortably stylish. That’s just me though. There was a point during my Insta feed that it was only sneakers, and hashtags of the brands I was wearing.
While I do stick loyal to certain name brands, if I find a fire fit from the thrift store, so be it! I also went through this 90’s resurgence thing too, wearing different types of plaids, flannels, and materials, just trying out normally tacky fits, with no care of bystander opinion. All in all my Instagram highlighted my style and how it’s changed, and it can only change again for all I know.
CUATRO – THE “LIKES” CONUNDRUM
These days, we translate a like to affirmation. It’s no one’s fault, that’s just today’s paradigm. Being a long time Instagram user I saw this paradigm develop within myself and others. We carefully followed these formulas and rules in order to craft well received posts. As a new Instagram user I posted whatever came to mind, no care in the world. (Which is what I think Instagram was intended for. IMO.) Eventually as I scrolled I could tell when I became more and more crafty. Angled pictures, different lighting, “top tier” editing, and carefully placed power faces showered my feed. For those of you who don’t know what a power face is, my friend described it this way:
“It’s sort of a face you make that’s gritty yet funny. Encompassing that you know you’re cool, effortlessly. But yet it’s so intentional.”
Everyone’s was different. My friend Vic had this weird tongue out smile thing. My friend DJ had this smolder that sometimes evolved to a full fledged laugh. Others had these strange yet oddly fulfilling faces they made. Me? I had three go to’s, straight Gene Simmons tongue out, and “off guard” face, and the classic: a combination of a smile and a grunt like so (scroll over pics to see what I mean):
It got to the point where myself and those around me were planning for the likes, more so than the beauty of the post. We started doing our own research testing out what got us more likes and what didn’t. This applied more for guys too, sorry but I knew females who could post a picture of their toe and get 100 likes in like 15 minutes. It was sort of scary of how much I schemed for likes, and eventually the coveted 100 like mark.
Oh me and my girl? That’s mad likes, no problem.
Bro pic? It’s the weekend too. Likes will be easy.
Oh, I’m dressed up looking important? 100 likes here I come.
I’m doing something for the community, they’ll love this.
Let me set an alarm for 9pm, that’s peak time.
I look back and diagnose myself as insane. Easily, without a doubt, Instagram ruled my social life. It also didn’t help when I was actively achieving tons of likes. It made me want more, like a mad scientist or something. If I didn’t get a whole bunch of likes, there was a little “Aw shucks,” that would play in my head. Eventually, my Instagram obsession died away, kind of in unison with my social life dying down as well. This was right around when I was about to graduate from college. No complaints here though, I still peruse Instagram from time to time, but I’m glad this little obsession of mine was done and over with. I still get a little excited when I reach a little number higher than usual, but if I don’t, I honestly don’t give a damn, and remember there are more important things in life.
CINCO – NOSTALGIA A LA INSTA.
When I told you all earlier that my travels back through my Instagram page were full of tears and laughter, I wasn’t kidding. I remember the trials and tribulations I went through. Instagram was basically an autobiography made of pictures. I remembered heart breaks, flings, success, failure, friendships, and most importantly vivid imagery of the times these pictures were taken and why. Was this the reason Instagram was made? To remind us of what we’ve done? Maybe so. Even as I type this, I get a tad emotional when I remember;
Wanting to drop out of school so bad because I felt so stupid for not keep up with my classmates.
Being so broke and hungry a majority of the four and a half years I was in school.
The days without sleep.
Losing opportunities because of the multitude of stupid decisions I made.
The breakdowns that only my closest of friends have seen or will ever see.
The loss of friends over
My inner demons being fed by external catalysts.
The swallowing of my pride to finally ask help, whether it be from my friends, my mentors, or a complete stranger at Campus Wellness.
Meeting new friends after I had no one.
The random trips to grab late night food with those I care about the most.
The embarrassing/ hilarious/ scandalous/ and thrilling temporary flings.
The nights me and my boys would just bond until the morning.
The transition to adulthood.
The family turmoil.
My relationship with God.
The fake smiles covering the internal screams.
And of course, the happiness I felt to know I had people in my corner.
All of it came back to me like I was sitting in a dimly lit room watching an old school projector flipping through film reels of my life. To be completely honest, it was beautiful. Even so, it was time to get rid of it all and start a new film reel. I like the new feel of my Instagram feed, but I will NEVER forget the parts that made up my old one.
So was the purging of my profile really necessary? Maybe not. Did my soul need it? Yes. Don’t ever forget what made you who you are today. The mistakes, the people, the experiences, they all happened for a reason whether you knew back then, figured it out now, or still haven’t quite figured it out yet.
Thanks for listening.
Under-promising and Over-delivering,