As I was on a (what would turn out to be over four hours in the rain and two iterations of Taylor Swift’s 1989) drive back from my Boston Halloweekend, I realized – mid-eating a Chicken McNugget – that I hadn’t gotten a picture for Instagram the entire weekend. “Fuck!” I said, mouth muffled by “meat.”
And over the next few hours, as I caught up on all the social media I had missed – all the Halloween Instagrams of people in their various costumes, all the posed Snap stories and (let’s be realistic) Instagram stories – I felt more and more annoyed. I had let a prime social media weekend slip through my fingers like sand, or silk, or (most realistically) me dribbling a basketball.
It was the second time I was in Boston in October, and I had – on both occasions – made a plan to take a cute Instagram with my friends and completely forgotten. It’s a sober truth, I’ve realized, that when you’re a freelance writer-journalist (slash full-time inspiration and model), your chances for taking cutely candid Instagrams are severely limited. Either I’m working, writing, sleeping, eating, watching Netflix or doing some combination of the aforementioned. And unless my followers want endless versions of my dog with the exact same photo filtering (I do an opaque shadow, get used to it), there’s a limit to the content I’m naturally coming into contact with.
Getting an Instagram is more than an exercise in vanity. This might be dumb – do you know me? – but social media is as much a cultivation of personal branding as it is to remember moments. I want to work in media, and understanding various social media platforms, and being active on those platforms, is important to me. And in a post-grad world where I’m a very small fish in…the ocean? A galaxy? It helps me feel connected to the larger world. And yes, I use those photos for Tinder. Sue me.
Before I came up to Boston in the beginning of October, I texted my best friend. “We have to take a photo together.” She agreed (she loves photos of me). But with the time constraints of balancing family and friends, we forgot. I spent my hours with her, and my other friends, drinking at our favorite bar, hanging out at home, getting brunch. I drank up their presence like a sunflower; it had been so long since I had seen them in person. And I just missed them. And I didn’t want to miss any of them by separating myself through a screen.
It’s a phenomenon I realized I’m guilty of when I was in Italy for New Year’s last year. After a semester in London junior year, I realized that those photos I had racked up were nice and pleasant, but they were just that. A photo. A snippet. So when I was in Italy, I tried to put my phone down more. And despite the persistent flicker of anxiety to capture this forever, I decide to live in the moment, and remember the moment, rather than risk it all for a picture. Because then I’ll just remember the picture, and not the thing itself.
So when I went back up to Boston for Halloweekend – a trip I had been hungrily counting down towards, despite one of my best friends being away for the weekend – I made a plan. I would get one picture of us (me) looking cute that I could Instagram. I figured it would be the perfect time once we had our costumes on.
Friday, I drove up. My best friend and I went to the Dollar Tree and Trader Joe’s (where I would eventually forget my credit card) before hanging out at home. After making them watch Will & Grace, we (me, her and her boyfriend) all went to bed before 11:30 p.m. because we’re adults and I literally go to bed at, like, 10 p.m. nowadays.
On Saturday, before I realized that I had lost my credit card, we went out to an early lunch. Then I realized I lost my credit card and, after telling my parents (child), I went thrift-shopping. We discovered it was at Trader Joe’s and I walked the long twenty minutes there and the long twenty back (with a pit-stop at Urban Outfitters; they had nothing). Because I was so desperate to get my card, I didn’t even had headphones or anything on me. So I had to go on a beautiful, twenty-minute walk with my own thoughts.
After I was in my costume (a “Harry THOTter” that was remarkably less well-conceived that I thought it would be), and some other friends had arrived before the actual party started, I didn’t feel like getting up and organizing us into a photo. I thought, “Ugh, later” because I would rather sit and talk and not break the natural flow of our friendship by insisting we take a photo. I figured we’d have another opportunity. But the rest of the party melted together as I chatted to people and walked around and did whatever you do while at a party of new graduates (lie through your teeth about how well you’ve been doing).
Then the next day was a whirl of pancakes and hangovers and packing and showering.
The only photo I took that weekend is of my friend’s sweatshirt, “Rosé and Shine,” because it was the exact same shade of pink as her smoothie.
And so as I was driving back, and burning through backed-up podcasts, I started kicking myself. I missed a prime opportunity to take a good photo. My body is in a pretty good place, my costume was cute, and I was with my friends. Literally what else could I have been doing?
And then I thought back to the moment that I thought would be a good time to take the photo. Me, my best friend, her boyfriend, my other best friend – we were sprawled across couches, drinking Trader Joe’s next-tier-from-Charles-Shaw wine and laughing. I was making a pair of Arthur the Anteater ears out of printer paper and a plastic headband. I imagined, in my mind’s eye, me making us take a photo and getting out of our cozy arrangement, quelling the laughs to make some fake, prettier laughs. And at the thought of that, I just balked. I didn’t want that. I wanted to stay like this, laughing like this, for as long as I could.
I’m not saying I’m judging everyone who took perfect Instagrams on Halloweekend. I’m not saying that I don’t regret missing that opportunity. I’m not saying that I’m swearing off social media forever. I am saying that my body is in a good place.
I am saying that I’m grateful that I was surrounded by such good friends that the idea of pausing our good time to take a photograph was not worth taking a moment away from our time together.