A tale of my Instagram Identity Crisis

Ever since country borders started closing and the world went into lockdown, I’ve been spending more and more time online. Have you? Don’t worry, we all have. It’s not a bad thing if it is keeping us connected through these extended weeks and months of isolation. But what if Instagram is an identity crisis waiting to happen?

I’ve been sharing my life on Instagram since 2012. It felt like all the rage back then, but had a mere 30 million users by the close of the year, compared to the 1 billion users there are today.

Back then, the biggest decision was between Valencia or Nashville (remember those days!?) Nowadays, Instagram is a far cry from the innocent uploads of your dog’s face, unless of course you’ve created an account for your pooch and he’s a celebrity of his own…..?

Instagram is less about who you are and more about how you want others to perceive you.

As I write this from the comfort of my bed in the midst of isolation, I’m starting to wonder if the gap between our personalities and online persona has finally morphed into one? Is “who we are online” now who we are as a person?

Instagram is less about who you are and more about how you want others to perceive you. But what if by curating a “version” of ourselves we are moving further away from who we really are? By cherry-picking our “niche” and showing how we fit into the mould we pick for ourselves, we’re not really achieving an identity of our own?

The social media me vs.

The real me?

My Instagram Identity Crisis

I for one fell victim to it. And I think we all do in some way.

If you’re this far in the storyline and you don’t agree with a lick of what I’m saying, head on over back to Instagram and keep doin’ you, boo. But I think we all know there is some truth to it.

Headlines like “Instagram is not real life” and “Me Vs. My Social Media Self” are nothing new. That article was written back in March 2017, and here we are more than three years later. But it is as if we talk about mental health and the impacts of social media every so often, then we go back to our usual habits. Of scrolling, scrolling, scrolling.

I realised I was in the midst of an identity crisis about two years ago. For a few years, I had been living a double life. I had an ordinary run-of-the-mill daily existence living on a farm in Tasmania. It was quiet and surreal. Then I would be whisked away on these grand adventures in the name of “getting content” in exotic locations for brands. Then (as part of my end of the deal) I would be expected to showcase my perfectly styled, edited and re-edited life for the world to see and aspire to online.

Oh, and the captions needed to be approved, first. *rolls eyes*

A Highlights Reel

At the height of my career, I released a book with one of the most known publishing houses in Australia. It was not the first book I would have liked to publish, but it was the one that came out. It was just as glorified and glossed over as my instagram feed – sharing the colourful, happy, perfectly edited version of my travels. And if you’re wondering why I didn’t just go ahead and publish a more accurate depiction of my adventures? “Because it wouldn’t sell on the shelves” (not my words).

It was the “content” that “worked”. Aspirational, inspirational… call it what you like. But it was a far cry from a realistic depiction of the travel experience: of my travel experience.

Where were the missed flights? The time I was mugged? The many strangers I met and all their interesting stories? Where were the bad bits? I had to question myself: did they even happen at all?

They were gone! Forever ingrained in my memory, but not in my public persona. I became obsessed with only sharing the good stuff. What I deemed the good stuff (don’t worry, I know I’m the one to blame here).

Accurate depiction of me day drunk in Barcelona

What you saw on Instagram

Instagram is not real life

I’ve talked about this topic on a video I shared to Youtube a few years ago. Yes, I’m a hypocrite. Because I kept doing the same thing: upload after upload, sharing the edited version of myself.

Why? Your guess is as good as mine. Probably because without these highly edited photos of myself as an “aspirational” traveller, I’d be out of a job (and I just might be when I hit publish on this post, haha!) But this is the same old story we worked so hard to overcome in magazine editorials. Now as I scroll through my Instagram all I see is – perfection.

Separating fact from fiction

But now, eight weeks into a nationwide lockdown in the new country I call home (read about that decision here), I’ve finally pulled the pin on my charade. In what started as a fun experiment re-captioning my old travel photos with the truth, has become a full-fledged mission to write a memoir with the real stories. All the bad bits! In a book! It will be a page-turner, you can bet on that.

And while I’d love to believe I look just as cute as the cool girls of Instagram while I dive in to a tub of ice cream for lunch on yet another day in isolation, I don’t. My tracksuit pants don’t match with the crop top I’m not wearing. Heck, I’m lucky to wear a bra most days!

And while I love seeing people share their rituals and routines online, because truly it is art no matter which way you look at it… all I’m saying is, don’t forget to separate fact from fiction.

Read my stories series by starting here.

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Brooke Saward
Brooke Saward

Brooke Saward founded World of Wanderlust as a place to share inspiration from her travels and to inspire others to see our world. She now divides her time between adventures abroad and adventures in the kitchen, with a particular weakness for French pastries.

Find me on: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

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2 years ago

Thanks for sharing such an interesting information. Keep it up.  Your work is beautiful and useful! Your article is very nice.

Kylie Hartley
Kylie Hartley
4 years ago

Bravo to you Brooke! Travel and life can be hard work sometimes in amongst the gems…