I just did a big purge—not of my closet but of the pool of people I follow on Instagram. The cleanout was necessary because I was turning into someone I didn’t like—someone who hate-follows other women. There are three of them, to be specific. These are moms I know and occasionally see in real life, but on social media—where captions can be as long as they are earnest—their presence is grating and sometimes infuriating. They are too eager and too passionate and have kids that are too precious and marriages that are too perfect. Look at my gorgeous daughter! I could die in her eyes. Look at my thoughtful husband! Only he gets me. Look at how tired I am—but inside my soul is aflame with the exquisite pleasure of being a working mom! These are paraphrased, but you get the gist.
As I continued to follow every beach vacation and proclamation of love, it wasn’t enough to grit my teeth silently and scoff to myself. I needed someone else to taste the bile, to reassure me that these women were as insufferable as I thought they were. I began taking screenshots of their posts and sending them to friends so we could mock them together—a sect of secret cyberbullies. We had some good laughs, but over time, it made me feel small and hateful. I knew I needed to stop.
No more overly dramatic, hypercurated emotions. Let her tell the world how her son is a fierce firecracker whose shenanigans will build a strong, loving man (read “Her asshole six-year-old just smashed another iPhone screen”). Let her glow in the generosity and romance of her one true love (read “Her lazy husband sends flowers once a year but never gets up in the middle of the night with a sick kid”). I don’t need this false highlight reel.
I suppose that mocking these kinds of posts might have lent a bit of lightness to days where I felt bogged down by expectations and the reality of never feeling perfectly satisfied and filtered. Or maybe it helped me revel in my anger and resentment. My attitude toward these pretenders? Be totally over the top about how you have it all and I will cut you (down to size)—or send a screen capture to my friend with an cruel, alternative caption. These hyperbolic posts were making me feel so bad, yet my life was wonderful. It didn’t add up.
It’s so easy to hit the Unfollow button, so I finally did. I also took a hard look at why I use Instagram at all. What I love most is keeping track of friends and family and maybe grabbing a cooking or decor idea or two. This is the real, useful stuff. No more toxic entertainment at other women’s expense—especially my own.
If I’m really truthful, I mean, why start lying now? I’ll admit that, instead of hate-following, I occasionally hate-creep. But I take zero screen caps.