Embroidered in the Social Fabric

For the past few weeks, I have been considering deleting my Instagram account and last night, with a wave of decisiveness brought on by two glasses of smooth red wine and a discussion about the social media presence of embroidery, I achieved the gumption to clip the threads connecting me to the photo & video social media platform. The decision was easy to put into action after weeks of reflection and consideration, and logging on to Instagram in my web browser and going through the steps of a permanent account delete was pleasantly freeing. While Instagram allows me approximately one month to change my mind before my account is permanently deleted, this is a decision that I do not envision reversing.

For the sake of context, I should tell you that I have only been using Instagram for nine months, so I do not have a strong attachment to the platform and deleting it is not going to bring about monumental change to my daily routine. I created an account in May of 2020 after seeing a friend post on Facebook about an event for a Disney World fireworks show that was going to be aired live on Instagram. Stuck inside for a couple of months at that point due to the pandemic, and remembering how magical I found the Disney fireworks show at Magic Kingdom when I was 16, I thought it would be fun to watch the fireworks again, so I created an account.

After creating my account, I followed a few family members, friends, and topics I found interesting and occasionally posted photos, aiming to be mindful in my content. I mostly posted pictures of views from our home, scenes of local parks, and wildlife sightings- subjects that were pleasing to me, without much regard for what other people might enjoy while scrolling their Instagram feeds. While my Instagram was primarily for my own entertainment, I still could not resist the frequent urge to open the app after posting to check if anyone had liked or commented on a post. This desire for acknowledgement and hunger for attention are the primary reasons that prompted my decision to detach.

Social media can be an outlet for vanity and sometimes influences us to view our own world through the filter of what other people will “like”. I found this to be blatantly evident on Instagram where filters sugarcoat experiences and selfies rule the day. Looking at my feed on Instagram, it was clear how much the available outlets for constant self-publicity have influenced the way people portray themselves to their social circles. They plan trips and activities and pack outfits based on what will look impressive in photos. They show only their best angles, presenting staged snapshots into how they style themselves, their pets, their homes, their experiences, and ever their food- living their best life for the gram.

I am not opposed to social media and I know many people who get enjoyment out of Instagram. I hope they will continue using it as long as it continues to bring them joy. Social media has a lot of positives that I embrace. It can foster community, put you in touch with old friends, serve as an outlet for catharsis and a hub for events and gatherings. It is a great tool for keeping in touch, promoting business ventures, and sharing important news. There are truly great aspects of social media that I find valuable and enjoyable, however, Instagram was a platform that I found added little joy to my life and was more of a crutch for me to fill in moments of boredom more so than anything else. I found it fulfilled the same need for connection to the outside world that Facebook already offers me, and felt I gravitated toward Facebook more so than Instagram. While I am not going to delete Facebook, I did delete the app from my phone to discourage mindless scrolling.

It is so easy to open social media apps and just scroll and scroll and scroll (our thumbs never got so much “exercise”). Minimalism has taught me how to put intention and mindfulness into practice. Mindlessly scrolling through Instagram offered distraction from those principals while also playing to another weakness of mine – the urge to shop. This was my next driving reason for deleting my account.

After a few months on Instagram, the ads tailored to my feed became smarter and seemingly more frequent and I’d often find myself going to the online stores for some of my favorite retailers to go “window shopping”. While I do not buy on impulse anymore, I do shop on impulse – if that makes any sense. I rarely buy clothing now and when I do, it is after deliberating on whether I want to add a particular piece or to replace something I own that is too worn to wear but that I get joy or necessity out of. That being said, I’ll still “hunt” for perfect outfits for hypothetical experiences and add to cart, spending valuable time on the activity rather than spending money. Purchase-free shopping is not always guilt-free in my book and I wonder why I chose to spend so much time looking for items that I wouldn’t otherwise have known existed if I hadn’t seen an ad for the store in the first place rather than doing something more nourishing like reading a book, going for a walk, playing a game or doing a puzzle with Mike, or planning a blog post. I do enjoy the act of shopping, but find it is more fulfilling when I am looking for something specific rather than being prompted by a bot on social media that eerily knows my favorite stores.

Ads and recommendations for pages that Instagram thought I would like started to ignore my feedback. When I requested to hide ads from particular stores or identified certain topics as irrelevant, nothing changed. I began to notice the ads and odd topic recommendations more than I noticed the posts from family and friends and found scrolling through the content of my feed to be distracting. When Instagram decided I would be interested in embroidery (thank you Bridgerton? I guess?), and I fervently assured it that I had no interest, my clicks to diminish the topic in my feed were not reflected. The constant bombardment of advertising and Instagram’s projecting were enough to say enough.

I am looking forward to being more intentional with social media and to revisiting digital clutter that can use some intentional care. I am happy to minimize my exposure to constant advertising and my next project will be to tackle my email inbox – pray for me. Until my next post, I challenge you to reflect on your own relationship with social media. Does it bring you joy? Are there platforms you have accounts for that you never use? Maybe consider decluttering apps that you find excessive or that you use mostly when you are bored. Distance yourself from unnecessary platforms that bring you stress and frustration. You don’t have to permanently delete your account, but removing an app from your phone will help you to be more aware of how many times you go in search of that mindless distraction each day.

“Today is Pizza Day…”

Our power came back early yesterday morning and our lives have been returned to a state of illuminated, plugged-in normalcy. Over the past couple of days, I had a chance to thoroughly go through the things that I brought home from my room at my parents’ house on Wednesday.

It was very helpful to refresh those items by bringing them to a different location so I could shed some clarity on my level of attachment to each of them with a logical, focused approach. While I did not grow up in the house that my parents currently live in, it is still a place of sacred sentimentality and therefore, provides added difficulty in approaching the minimizing process with a critical eye.

I have sentimental memories of packing my things up from the apartment that I did grow up in prior to the move, and of staying at the house during holiday breaks from college in my senior year and spending many a pleasant weekend and holiday there ever since I moved in with Mike. It is a cozy place, abundant with conversation, music, movies, laughter, haunted only by the savory ghost of holiday meals past, the scent of pine needles, pot roast, and pie easy to recall with a quick thought and a smile. It is a place where you notice happy memories in the making and drink in the sentimentality like sips of hot coffee and spiced, pumpkin beer on a crisp, fall day.

Prior to this round of minimizing, the items that I stored in my room at my parents’ house were kept out of sight and very out of mind. While it was pleasantly surprising to come across some of the items again during this recent clean-out, I knew that if I were to leave them in that room, I’d forget about them once again… and again and again and again, over and over.

As I got reacquainted with my old belongings, I reunited with memories from my elementary, middle, and high school days as well as those from college. For a few hours across two days, I sifted through old photo books, stuffed animals, costume jewelry, writing, and every old school assignment including each written page of all of the composition notebooks I’d brought home with me. Some people might view that as a bit excessive, but being a self-identified “writer” since childhood, these notebooks were very sentimental items and the girl who wrote the content really deserved my time and attention, above all people.

The seven and eight year old girl who I once was would have been furious if the older version of herself did not read the entirety of her 3rd grade class journal which, among other topics, noted every single “pizza day” that occurred in the 1999/2000 school year lunch schedule. The thirteen year old girl who wrote the poetry in the maroon composition notebook probably would have rather shoved the entire book through a shredder before the older version of herself read it, but the versions of me in between kept it for some reason and so I read her writing with a wary eye, some of the words or rhymes playing like an audio book track in my head from memory as I read along.

Some assignments really held no attachment for me at all and were easy to part with, but I did end up keeping a full, multi-compartment, accordion folder of old schoolwork , birthday cards and letters, and writing as well as composition notebooks from my 11th grade Creative Writing class, my 3rd Grade school year, and my personal poetry journal from ages 12-13 each of which sparked either happy or important memories.

After sorting through all of the other items, we brought three bags full of old clothes, costume jewelry, stuffed animals, art supplies, and miscellaneous items to our local Goodwill donation drop off and shed the excess, feeling lighter as we got in the car and drove home.

While the process of letting go is difficult in the beginning of the minimizing process, it becomes a regular, familiar part of a Minimalist’s routine. The letting go allows you to really cherish the items that you choose to keep and makes those items more accessible and easy to find and look through when you need to revisit those memories. With the time that you do not have to spend searching for those memories, you gain so many more opportunities to enjoy them without the burden of feeling like you’d be able to do so more easily if only you cleared out the clutter.