I was always the last one to get the newest social media. Initially, it was Mxit – a South African short messaging app that was all the rage back in primary school. All my cellphone at the time could do was play monophonic ringtones. Then came Facebook, which I eventually got in grade eight – by signing up on the computer at my municipal library. Then Whatsapp came around when BBM was dominating messaging and Mxit was basically obsolete. I didn’t have Whatsapp nor BBM, so my high school friends depended on SMS (oh the horror!) and Facebook Inboxing. My one friend – bless his heart -would even send me MMSes if he came across a funny picture.
“Why don’t you get Instagram?” Numerous friends asked me. It wasn’t a secret that I often followed my favourite accounts without actually following them…for instance, typing ‘Makeupmendhimishka Insta’ into Google and then scrolling through her newest uploads. Public accounts are such a boon! To this, my friend Anna exclaimed: “Nimmi, you are such a lurker!”
Social media is not a benign platform anymore. In South Africa, Cape Town specifically– a supposedly liberal cosmopolitan city with deep seated exclusionary practices hiding beneath the surface – a lot of people have landed into hot water for opinions expressed on Facebook – many of which have been racist and Islamophobic. It’s a breeding ground for those commonly known as ‘trolls’ who feed on sowing discord between commentators across these platforms. On Instagram, making your account public means that you are supposedly public property. So many influencers I follow are subject to extreme criticism based on whatever. The hate comments are sometimes severe. I’ve recently been exposed to people having their business accounts [which were perfectly above board] being reported and subsequently deleted. The role of envy and a platform to act on it cannot be underestimated. “Say: I seek refuge from the envier when he envies…”
Social commentary aside, an Instagram account was the next step after starting a blog. Not only is it a way to draw attention to the blog itself, it is also a way to connect with like-minded individuals such as fellow bloggers and brands. Once connected to wi-fi (not my own unfortunately), I downloaded the app and hoped for the best. Staring at the screen in consternation, I then enlisted my fourteen year old cousin, I asked, frustrated: “How do I change my profile picture?” I felt like such a old person. Eventually, a few days in, I would broadcast a message to a few of my Whatsapp contacts: “How do I send a DM???!!!” The more punctuation marks, the higher the sense of urgency.
A few days into it, the cousin who suggested I start a blog asked me what I thought of Instagram. By this point, you may have realised that I have a lot of cousins.
Instagram necessitates a certain kind of perfection. The people who upload eye-shadow tutorials have no creases under their eyes, no faint laugh lines. Just unsmiling face beat. Scrolling down tens to hundreds of such photos on a daily basis can make the beast of comparison rear its head. “Comparison is the thief of joy.” This thief extends itself toward fixating on following and likes.
My pet peeve became people who followed me and then unfollowed me. My bio, as you can tell, addresses this by saying: “Don’t just follow to unfollow. Kanala man. This is why I have trust issues.”
Then came the giveaways! Gosh, I loved the giveaways. Suddenly, I was just a reposted picture and five tags away from getting my hands on amazing prizes in the form of make-up and vouchers. Actually, it isn’t that easy. Also, people are probably sick of me tagging them in giveaways.
I couldn’t possibly do a post on Instagram and not plug my own account! If you’re in a generous mood, give my account (sassyfrombirth13) a follow. Drop your own handles in the comments as well so myself and fellow readers can check out your account.