A few months ago, while fully procrastinating, I mindlessly scrolled through Instagram. Anyone who is active on the social media app knows that there are moments, whether you like it or not, when you get completely sucked into the little squares. During these out-of-body, mindless Instagram sessions, I often find myself revisiting profiles I no longer follow. Last year I unfollowed many people who fell under the “you make me feel shitty” umbrella; most were skin care pages and many, many fashion or lifestyle influencers.
One of them was Tash Oakley, a I-have-a-perfect life / perfect-body kind of influencer. I had been following her for years, before she had a super big following, and before she started a bikini line with her best friend and partner Devin Brugman. I unfollowed her in pursuit of fully accepting my body, a body that will never have a thigh gap. I started to find it hard to stare at the images of thighs with plenty of space between them and with no cellulite.
Unfollowing her did not deter me from being interested in her and her life however. Every so often, during one of these procrastination sessions, I find myself endlessly scrolling through her page. One time, I desperately tried to figure out if (and when) she broke up with her boyfriend Gilles. I scrolled through the comments on her photos, confirming that her followers were too trying to do the same.
Did I really just spend 20 minutes of my life trying to figure out if someone who makes me feel shitty broke up with her boyfriend?! Ew.
After a solid, and extensive, twenty minutes, I could confirm that they had most likely broken up in June, but still had to post brand photos the month of July. I wasn’t as satisfied as I imagined I would feel, instead, I felt grossed out by my interest, and loss of time.
“Did I really just spend 20 minutes of my life trying to figure out if someone who makes me feel shitty broke up with her boyfriend?! Ew.”
I felt really terrible about myself, specifically about my Instagram habits. “I’m better than this,” I kept repeating to myself.
But was I?
Though I’ve come a long way about being more mindful about what kind of images and videos I absorb through Instagram, I do plenty of secrative lurking that I don’t tell anyone about. Like the fact that once or twice a year I look up my husband’s ex girlfriend to figure out if she has a boyfriend and if she’s happy. There is plenty of lurking I do on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis too, whether it be friends or strangers. And whether I follow them or not has little to do with it. For example, I don’t follow any of the Kardashians, but every so often, I find myself going through each of their profiles. I go back and forth between being intrigued and absolutely disgusted, and yet still, I find myself returning to their pages *secretly* every few weeks.
Knowing that I wasn’t alone, and that in our own unique ways, we are all a bunch of creeps on this social media platform.
It wasn’t until I shared all of my Instagram secret revelations with OOM writer, Maggie Trela, that I felt better. She, too, had many weird Instagram habits she didn’t tell anyone about. She laughed when I told her about my extensive search regarding Tash Oakley and her (ex) boyfriend. “Oh girl, I’ve been there so many times,” she said. “But like, WHEN DID THEY BREAK UP?!” she gleefully ranted on the phone.
What originally made me feel gross about myself, now made me laugh. I wondered if my husband’s ex girlfriend does the same thing. Does she lurk on my or his page to see if we’re happy? Does Kim K snoop? Did Tash and Gilles officially break up? Based on Maggie’s response, the answer was most likely yes.
In a weird way, our weird habits brought me comfort. Knowing that I wasn’t alone, and that in our own unique ways, we are all a bunch of creeps on this social media platform. So, I asked four of our writers, Maggie being one of them, to share their weird and secretative Instagram habits. Since Instagram isn’t going anywhere, let’s at least be honest about the creeping, lurking, and stalking we all do. It’s okay, we all do it, and we’ve been doing it many times.
I lurk on the search/explore feature more than I scroll through my own feed. It’s mostly because I legitimately like to creep on people…on the internet (if you want to know more about your new boyfriend, an ex girlfriend, that kid you went to 4th grade with, DM me. I WILL FIND THEM). I also regularly look up people that I refuse to follow. You know the ones, maybe they’re an ex, or your partner’s ex, or their content is too physically revealing, or they’re a Kardashian. I particularly like to engage with the celebrities I follow too, knowing full well that: 1. They will never respond to my dm’s. 2. They will never like my comments. 3. It’s completely and utterly pointless (hi @busyphilipps and @jengotch).
I am an Instagram lurker, except I don’t creep on the profiles of happy, successful people. I like to deep dive into twerking fail videos, adventuring/recreational activity fails, and profiles that advocate for weight loss but are obviously using two different bodies for the BEFORE and AFTER photos. I’d like to be an anthropological intellectual and say these videos help me understand the frailties of being human, but really I like to laugh at humans being stupid. Instagram also allows me to tap into the chaotic, neutral part of my personality that thrives on sarcasm. I often read hundreds of comments a week in The Shade Room, The DL Hughley Show, and tons of drag (queen/race) accounts. Besides the drag, I don’t care about the other topics, but I like the inventive ways people intertwine pop culture, metaphor, and humor in their replies. They teach me how to be more creative in the ways I use language, which is helpful for my writing. I also spend an hour a week being actively lazy by watching videos for DIY crafts, 4C hair care, and fashion tutorials, which I do not follow through on.
I don’t follow any of the Kardashians, but I will comb through Kim, Kylie, Khloe, and occasionally Kendall and Kourtney’s profiles every few weeks. I am honestly the most invested in Kim and Kylie’s. Kim’s Instagram is just so weird to me. Some of the things she posts have such an…odd aesthetic. Or weird poses. Something about Kim Kardashian’s Instagram page feels slightly robotic, like maybe she is a cyborg and her life is a performance art piece. Kylie’s page is equally weird to me, but I go to Kylie’s page for the comments. There are so many comments. Thousands of people adore her, call her mom, and are obsessed with her makeup. I’m not sure why this has become such a thing for me, but I’m not outright rejecting it either. It is a pleasure, and not one that I feel too guilty about.
Instagram feeds my celebrity obsessions, especially with celebrity couples like #JustinandHayley, #HarryandMeghan, #BarackandMichelle, #KourtneyandScott (I still have hope). I stalk all the photos and videos. Celebrities love lives are so much more interesting. Over the summer, I followed the hashtag #croptop, because I’m still confused on how to wear one. How high should it go? What pants do I wear, and how high should they go? It’s a mystery. #hotdadsofdisneyland is also a really good hashtag that I frequent…a lot.