Last week, I went hiking after work on a trail close to my office. It was a beautiful evening: the grasses were at that beautiful stage of green before they turn summer-brown, the sun bathed the red rocks in golden light, the birds were chirping and the air smelled like things growing. That night, I had every intention of posting one of my pictures from my hike, but then I started scrolling through Instagram. One of my friends had lucked out and won the daily lottery for the Wave. Another girl I followed had posted a picture from Havasupai. One influencer had ‘grammed her dawn patrol ski up Mt. Hood, the sunrise colors epic. Another influencer was flying over waterfalls in Indonesia in a floatplane. Yeah, in a floatplane.
I scrolled through my pictures from my hike and the colors didn’t seem quite as bright, the subject matter quite as appealing - they suddenly seemed pretty ordinary. I went to bed without posting.
Social media is an amazing space for inspiration; it’s grown my bucket list exponentially. In fact, I have a whole gallery folder on my phone solely dedicated to screenshots of other people’s ‘grams, depicting places I never knew existed but now desperately want to visit. But, on the flipside, it’s also really easy to get caught up in thinking your life is boring when you’re seeing the highlight reel from hundreds of other people all in one place.
I’m guilty of getting caught up in the Instagram FOMO. When somebody posts a picture of a beautiful place, it can evoke a lot of strange feelings. There’s the immediate sense of wanderlust that I’m sure all adventurers can relate to, there’s a feeling of desire to go there and get a great shot, and oftentimes, there’s a feeling of jealousy.
I know I’m not alone in the Instagram FOMO, because I’ve showed up to some of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in my feed, and found them teeming with people who I’m sure, just like me, screenshotted and bucket listed. Sometimes, the places live up to my square daydreams. But sometimes, they really aren’t all that somebody’s hours of work in Lightroom cracked them up to be. And then, I feel pretty silly for being one of the hundreds of people over-using what was once a wild and beautiful place just for the ‘gram.
I think the main thing to remember about social media is why we’re doing what we’re doing in the first place.
One of my friends messaged me the other day in response to one of my posts that she thinks I’m always doing the coolest things. It dawned on me that while I might be comparing my life to other people’s, that there are those out there who are jealous of my adventures.
I think the main thing to remember about social media is why we’re doing what we’re doing in the first place. I didn’t start hiking or road tripping for the Instagram opportunities or the blog material - I did it because I’m deeply in love with the outdoors. Spending time outside recharges my soul and it makes me happy. I started sharing my outdoor adventures, because I wanted to share that experience with other people. Hiking on my local trails might not be as ‘grammable as flying over Indonesian waterfalls, but it makes me just as happy.
I love to cook, but I spend very little time plating my food or making it “pretty”. I judge my cooking by how it tastes. I wouldn’t judge a perfectly delicious meal based on it’s looks, so why am I judging my outdoor experiences based on the pictures I get? The experience is what’s most important, whether it’s on my local trails in mediocre light, or halfway around the world during an epic sunset. I’m done buying into the Instagram FOMO.
(Pictures are of the trails that didn't seem so Instagram worthy after the FOMO kicked in.)
Narrator: This blog was thoughtfully written by Mikaela Ruland. You can find her on Instagram @airundermyheels.
What's Worse than Instagram FOMO?
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