My name is Carla Bianchi, and I am an Instaholic.
Admission is supposedly the first step to managing an addiction, so here I am admitting I have a problem, in the hope that I can overcome this debilitating infliction and regain some semblance of a normal existence here in Japan.
I always thought I was immune to addiction…with the exception of chocolate (we all have our vices), I have never needed any particular substance or stimulation. Alcohol…take it or leave it. I only started drinking coffee last year as a study aid (when I realised languages are not on my ‘natural abilities’ list) and video games tend to lose their appeal after a few days or weeks at most. I’ve never had an interest in drugs, and at the risk of being labeled a Goody two-shoes, I admit that I have never even tried a cigarette in my 30 years on this planet.
Despite all this, it turns out that I am human after all. While it hasn’t been genetically handed to me on a silver platter (though the chocolate habit I will blame on my father), I do in fact have an addiction. I am addicted to the iPhone application ‘Instagram‘. How do I know it’s an addiction? Because the internet tells me that I am showing all the typical signs…
Those that don’t have an addiction, don’t question a particular behaviour. I first began to question my addiction to Instagram around a month ago. I have actually been using the app for over a year, but it’s only recently the addiction has taken hold. I blame the discovery of ‘tagging’ as the start of the downhill slide into photographic oblivion.
There I was, just happily taking innocuous shots of every day life in Japan, when I noticed one of my friends had ‘tagged’ one of their pictures. You tag a picture, so when someone searches for a tag, they can find your picture and hello!, someone will click a magic little button that tells you they ‘like’ that picture. Then before you know it, someone is clicking that other little button…the ‘follow’ one…telling you they like all of your pictures and that they are looking forward to seeing more in the future…and well…you can see how it’s a slippery slope…
Now it’s to a point where Instagram is the first app I check when I wake up of a morning and the last before I go to bed at night (not to mention the 20 required checks I make during the day too). Nothing else gives me that little kick of glee like seeing that beautiful orange balloon appear at the bottom of my iPhone screen, telling me I’ve received some Instalove.
Around the time I first started to question my addiction to Instagram, my friends started picking up on it too. Comments (that I told myself were compliments at the time) started rolling in…’I notice you take a lot of pictures on Instagram’, ‘Your pictures always come up in my feed’, ‘I don’t think you have enough tags’, ‘Are you taking a shot for Instagram?!’.
I tried to play it down, using the usual defense…that it’s just a hobby…I’m a naturally creative person and this is just another way of expressing myself. I would jokingly say that I needed an ‘Instavention’, secretly thinking that maybe I really did have a problem.
Coinciding with epiphany that I might have a problem has been the appearance of physical symptoms. In the last few weeks I have been getting some pretty serious headaches, neck and shoulder pain, I haven’t been sleeping well and the quality of my eyesight has become somewhat questionable.
For a while I have been telling myself that these problems are caused by stress, all that extra kanji study I’ve been doing and time spent reading my students’ creative writing. The truth is that all these physical problems could be, and most likely are caused by my recent addiction to Instagram.
Time and Effort.
In addition to the physical repercussions of my addiction there are other horrifying side effects too. Instagram has been slowly sucking me onto it’s vortex and taking more and more of my time and attention. Skype visits have become infrequent, friends and family are having to wait days and weeks for me to respond to emails, other iPhone apps like Words With Friends have fallen by the wayside and regular followers of Paperdoll will notice that it has been a month since my last post.
If all of that isn’t disturbing enough, I have started to see the world as potential 4cm x 4cm snapshot fragments. As an interior designer, I am used to analyzing the space around me and taking a critical eye to the built environment, but this is just ridiculous. What sane person walks around in life framing up every rusty doorknob and morsel of peeling paint, wondering how many ‘likes’ it will earn?!
Secrets and Lies.
To this end, I have been lying to everyone (including myself) about my addiction. Apologising for the lack of correspondence and blaming it on my impossibly busy Japanese life (ha). ‘Sorry, I haven’t been on Skype because I’m studying’ (when I’m really tagging photos on Instagram with a movie on in the background). ‘I’ve been meaning to email, I’ve just been out enjoying this weather so much!’ (when I’m actually taking walks in countryside Japan…scouring for Instagram material).
The low point came today when I met a friend to study Japanese for the day. I heard myself moaning to him about all the physical ailments that have been plaguing me of late…and I heard myself lying to him about my belief of what caused all the problems. I was bald-faced lying to a friend to cover up my addiction to an iPhone application. I believe ladies and gentlemen, that is what is called ‘rock bottom’.
Guilt and Shame.
Hitting rock bottom was what made me decide I needed to come clean about this addiction and make efforts to overcome it. The guilt and shame have become too much. What the hell am I doing?! It’s an iPhone app.
I should be studying (with exactly 42 days left until my impending N3 JLPT exam). I should be out making the most of my last year in Japan. I should be staying in touch with my family and friends all over the globe. I should be dedicating time to creating my business…my future.
I am so ashamed that as a grown woman, I managed to get hooked on such a ridiculous pastime. How did I get to a point where I need a stranger to click on a ‘like’ button to feel satisfaction and personal worth?
I’ve been living life through the lens of my iPhone for the last month. Trapped in this sad little world, detached from my real surroundings. I’m done. I’m seizing my life back and initiating an Instavention.
I’m going to stop taking an inordinate amount of photos a day. I’m going to stop checking Instagram 20 times a day to waste time looking at pretty pictures. I’m going to stop uploading my Instagram photos to facebook. I’m going to put a stop to all these physical problems I’ve been suffering. I’m going to stop being an Instaholic.
I’m going to start dedicating my time to all the worthwhile, real endeavours in my life. I’m going to start…tomorrow…