Please Continue Instagramming Your Amazing Life

In April, a piece titled “Stop Instagramming Your Perfect Life” started making its way around Facebook and Twitter. The author raised a point that the things our friends post on social media can make us depressed about our own lives — because we only see people’s “post-worthy moments”: fabulous meals, vacation photos, good experiences. The title of the piece was later changed to “Instagram’s Envy Effect,” and it was liked on Facebook 145,000+ times. A quote:

“When you’re waiting for your coffee to brew, the majority of your friends probably aren’t doing anything any more special. But it only takes one friend at the Eiffel Tower to make you feel like a loser.”

I wouldn’t be the first person to point out that if you’re jealous of your friend’s life as it looks on Instagram or Facebook, the problem is not social media — it’s you.

My Facebook and Instagram feeds are full of friends getting after it, riding mountain bikes, climbing, catching sunsets and sunrises, dawn patrolling, taking their kids out in the outdoors, capturing their dogs looking adorable — in general, finding beauty in everyday life. Pretty positive stuff, I think. Why would your reaction be to feel bad about yourself when seeing that?

Say your friend Joe has just posted another Instagram photo of a before-work ski run, after-work mountain bike ride, or sunset hike. Is your reaction:

a)    “Joe is always doing something cool. I hate that guy!”

b)   double-tapping the photo, causing a heart to pop up on your screen

If you said a), let me ask you this: If you were having coffee with Joe and he was telling you about his recent vacation, would you listen, nod and become jealous of him and think about how you disliked Joe because he made you feel bad that you hadn’t taken a vacation recently? Or would you listen and say, “Joe, that sounds really great,” and be happy for your friend Joe?

Instagram and Facebook have given us a way to share things instantly, but it should provide more ways for us to be excited for each other, not become more catty and talk shit about our friends. Do you remember life pre-digital sharing? Nobody ever invited you over and said, “Hey, after dinner, I need to show you our photos of the time I got food poisoning and shat my brains out the whole night.” Or, “We had a pretty challenging day a couple weeks ago — the kids were being fussy and miserable, crying all through dinner, and Bob and I had a big fight about money. We got most of it on video, want to watch it?”

Are we really comparing our lives to those of our “friends” online? Do we do the same thing in person?  Do you hang up the phone after catching up with a friend and say “I hate her. Her life is so perfect.”? Well.

I’m a big fan of social media. I like to know when friends find places that make them feel awesome, or do things they’re excited to share, or find joy anywhere. I also like photos of dogs, and there appears to be no over-saturation point of dog photos in my social feeds. I know life is hard, and has its ups and downs, and if you want to share those, that’s great, too. Please share photos of your new baby, recent trip, day hike, birthday cake, rock climb, sunrise, cute dog, dirty feet, amazing meal, inspiration, and happy moments. I will double-tap that, and click “Like,” and I will be happy for you just a tiny digital bit.


More stories like this in my new book, Bears Don’t Care About Your Problems, out now.

54 replies on “Please Continue Instagramming Your Amazing Life

  • Jonny

    This is absolutely spot on man. Long story short, I axed roughly 90% of my facebook “friends” just over a year ago. Instead I started seeking out people that were passionate about the same things as me. Now my social feeds are packed full of ridiculously inspiring photos, videos, and stories to get me stoked to be outside.

    Not only that, through this shift, i’ve met over a dozen people that I now regularly climb with, and have done mountaineering trips with. Thanks to all the absolutely incredible people I’ve been able to share experiences with through social media, i’ve literally changed my entire life to focus on getting after it.

    Thanks for writing this. Social media is a powerful, amazing tool. Especially when it is used for the forces of good, rather than the forces of evil.

    Shameless plug: @alpinejonny on instagram

  • 1speedlos

    Well said. I follow some pretty amazing people on Instagram, and I get really inspired by pics of mountain biking in the Italian Alps, or snowboarding in BC, or hikes in some unnamed slot canyon in Utah.
    Fortunately, sometimes it’s me posting the awesome view of Steve’s Trail in Fruita, or one of the many hot springs we have in Idaho.
    I sincerely hope I can give a little push to my friends to get outside…


    • thom

      ‘I sincerely hope I can give a little push to my friends to get outside… ‘

      I only really use Flickr for social media sharing of photography but to that quote I say – word.

  • Dave Sandel

    I had these same thoughts. “Don’t hate me cuz I do really cool things. Get off your butt and join me; I’d be glad to bring you along!!”

    I was also worried there would be no comedic relief in this post, and then this one hit the funny bone:

    “I will double-tap that,…”

  • TerriB

    Brendan, this post is the best thing since sliced bread. And not just any sliced bread but a slice of my Huz’s absolutely perfect home baked sour dough French bread that he is still here to make after a near fatal heart attack last year. Maybe I’ll post a photo of it on Instagram… Life is short. Enjoy it and the people around you. And post many, many awesome landscape, dog, cat, and people photos. I’ll look at each one and think hey, tha’s rad!

  • skylab

    Totally agree. I actually find these things inspiring…..a little nudge to get back out and make it happen in my own life. …ain’t no time to hate…

  • Titanium

    If I wake up one more time and see a beautiful alpine sunrise from a basecamp high on a mountain… from my FB feed… I’m gonna… grab my gear, pack and self-respect and get out there and get me some.

    Love this, Brendan.

  • Art

    In facebook parlance, I click “Like” on this posting. Tone down the jealousy and grass is always greener, people, and work on your lawn.

  • H.D. Lynn

    I don’t understand Instagram envy! I enjoy my walks in the local park after work as well as visiting and hiking in epic places. My friends are road tripping the country this summer, and one is an amazing photographer! I’m genuinely excited to see what she puts on her feed, and it reminds me of my awesome road trips (if I were better with a camera). Basically, it’s being joyful for someone verses being envious and self-centered.

  • Elle

    Yes I love it! Instagram is such a beautiful way of sharing our happiness for one another. Social media isn’t the problem, not loving your life is!

  • Foo

    I’ll bet you’re one of those people who pretentiously goes around asking people if they’re “livin’ the dream,” because you really want them to KNOW you are.

  • Scott Rinckenberger

    Thanks for posting. The amount of joy I get by living vicariously through other people I know living big adventures is tangible. And, not that I am too concerned with what other people think about my life, but I sure do feel fulfillment when people, online or off, find inspiration from the beauty that I experience in the world and share. I stoke you, you stoke me, let’s all double tap our phones, cuz most people are just too far away to hi-5 every day.

    • Ana

      Amen, brother. I’m at one of those places in life where I’m where i need to, where i should be, but we all know that that isn’t where we always want to be. Seeing my friends doing amazing things keeps me going–because I know that one day, I’ll be back out there, with them, and until then, we can share virtual high fives. 🙂

  • Shelby

    Reading this reminded me of when I used to hate Facebook because my life wasn’t the way I wanted it to be, and I was jealous of everyone else’s life. Once I had the courage to make some big changes, the chance to live the awesome was set before me and I ran with it. Now I love to be inspired by those out there pursuing beauty in the everyday things as well as the extraordinary.

  • Steven Threndyle (@threndyleski)

    If I could take one photo that is half as good as Chris Burkard’s Instagrams, I’d be happy…

  • Kim Kircher

    Agreed. Other people’s amazing experiences don’t make me jealous either. In some ways, social media has become about sharing our best selves with the world. But I think your post goes deeper than that, asking what kind of person feels bad about their friends’ successes and joys? Sure, we might feel a twinge of envy every now and again–especially if our friends are doing particularly rad adventures. That just means it’s time for you to get after it as well.

    • Kendra

      Please live vicariously through me and me through you! I love seeing what someone else did last weekend or sharing the silly things. Instragram on!

  • Rob

    As a father of 3 and a keen outdoors man, I love how we can share our small wins w the world. Crawling thru mud, bashing through undergrowth, the blood, sweat n tears all melt away when your child is perfect for that 125th of a second, or you reach your point.
    In that moment we live more than we have all day, and we share n like not because we’re showing off… But because we want all our mates to know in that moment we lived.

  • MG

    Great post (and I also really enjoyed your recent post about your father, too). I don’t do Instagram, but blog fairly regularly as well as use flickr, and I see these similarly to what you expressed. I like seeing the adventure in the everyday, and I also love getting little snapshots from others who are sharing/blogging journeys truly distinct to mine.

  • greg d

    Comparing the posters outside with my inside……a recipe for certain dispair……. thanks again for terrific insight b.l.!

  • Leah

    I’m with you, being jealous of your friend’s good times is lame, and probably a result of some other issues.

    That being said, I’m getting a little tired of the over-documentation of everything. Whenever I go somewhere or do something cool with my friends, I feel like I spend the entire time waiting around while they try to get the perfect selfie with the continental divide in the background. I would rather actually have a good time than focus all my energy on making it LOOK like I’m having a good time.

  • Ian

    Sorry to interrupt the unison: I think you might have missed the point of the social-media happiness criticism. It’s not about making those people depressed who have a more or less happy life, with great hobbies, good friends etc. And clearly, seeing great pictures of or from your friends can definitely inspire you. But I hope you agree most of the content we see on social media provides a completely distorted view of the life of others. How often do you actually read about (less funny) mishaps, crises, breakups, the bad stories which somehow are part of most our lives? I don’t argue that Facebook, Twitter etc. are the right places to share this. But for people who are already in a bad state of mind, who might be in a serious depression (not just a short-term bad mood) or right before, stepping down the ladder, it can be depressing to see how life of others is and how one’s own life isn’t – and can’t (from their perception). They might not just be able anymore to say, “hey, cool, I just need to change my mind, change my life, grab some change and fulfill my dreams.” And it’s not about envy, for sure.

    I’m not arguing we should stop publishing cool stuff. Only maybe think about how some less privileged “friends” might feel, and wether they might need more intensive attention than just having some pics shared and being asked “How are you?” by some Facebook form.

    And I’m convinced from the figures about the spread of serious depression (again: I’m not talking about feeling badly for a day) as a common disorder in our societies that more people might feel like that than you might expect, even some of those you wouldn’t consider. Thus, maybe my bottom line is just to take care a bit more about “friends”.

    • gengl

      Well said,
      I agree that I can sometimes get depressed at seeing other adventures, I don’t get mad at them or “hate” them…Sometimes I just wish I had more time to get after it. I have lived in my van, I have skied 300+ days a year and it is a great life. Now I have a job, kids, soccer and gymnastics schedules, these all certainly hinder my “getting out there and doing it”…it’s not that I don’t want to, fuck yeah I want to, sometimes life just gets in the way of living….kudos, I am going trail running…..

    • Christopher Kaplan

      I am one of those people who, while in the midst of major depressive disorder for four years, also enjoys looking at the rad pics of people shredding and killing out in beautiful mother nature. It really hurts sometimes, not because I resent or hate them, but because my life isn’t, and I don’t see the realistic possibility of it becoming, like that. It’s so hard sometimes. Thank you so much for your comment.

      (PS This person is 100% spot on about depression. We have a tendency to make light of it or misunderstand it.)

  • paddy

    i love that the enormoLoaf is in the mix of photos. we could all use a little more enormoLoaf in our lives.

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