Instagram Engagements & Other Charms Our Mothers Never Suffered

Pairs well with “You’re Unbelievable,” by EMF.

Image for post
Image for post
Than what?

We don’t need to know most of what we know. Most of the new information we consume every day could be un-known without causing even a butterfly wingflap’s rift in our worlds. She went to London. He met a celebrity. They enjoyed lattes and acai bowls this morning.

And then later that afternoon, they got engaged. We know this, because they told us. The collective us. The ones watching. Their impending legal velcro doesn’t affect anyone on Earth but the two of them, but they share anyway. Because in the age of oversharing, we all want to have something to share. It’s not bad or wrong, it just is.

My mother never saw anyone get engaged on Instagram. That never kicked her in the belly. She never saw a gleaming diamond catching the sun just right on Instagram, telling her what we’re continually, relentlessly told: There goes another one. It’s a beacon of change, that diamond. Plan a trip to Miami now. In two years that friend won’t be able to nurse her baby with tequila-tinted milk. Instead, my mother just got phone calls or “did you hears” from and about a select few.

We are alive in the age of technologically needing to matter. We’re panning for attention gold. History’s middle children. Happiness flaunting. Perfection performances. Just fucking bragging. And while some people are truly creating and sharing art, others are just creating and sharing versions of signs that say “look at me.” Myself included.

Everyone is exposed to this onslaught of information that doesn’t pertain to them. But I would argue that being single during this dominion of divulgence is far, far worse than flipping through Instagram while your husband clips his toenails on the other side of the couch. Whatever a coupled person needs remedied with a hug, a single person just has to deal with.

Social media isn’t need-to-know, it’s need-to-share. It’s information meant to be consumed by other people that only matters to the person posting it. It’s the tech version of a labrador tilting its head to the side in confusion. We don’t need to know these things, but they tell us anyway. The real kicker? We don’t need to know these things, but we listen anyway.

Why, specifically, are single girls listening? Why are we watching? Why are we following? We seem particularly vulnerable to social media’s claws, having no defensive shields apart from a pair of mittens from Target. It’s not masochistic, and don’t give me one more meme to that effect. There is a real reason we’re here, many in fact, but I’ll highlight this one as it disproportionally pertains to someone who is alone: Social media is, among many other things, a fail-proof avenue for being less alone. If dating apps and setups don’t work, and all our friends are married and getting married-er, should we not have a guaranteed place to find…like, people?

Image for post
Image for post
Oh fuck off.

I have internet friends. I have internet conversations. I have moments in my life that would otherwise be silent that aren’t because of a little computer I keep in my coat pocket. And if I want to keep those little joyful moments, I have to deal with other people’s big ones.

I’m not going to stop participating. Single women shouldn’t retreat into luddite caves and insulate ourselves from the snowpiercing evolution of social interaction. I think what irks me most is that no generation before us ever had to deal with this shit. More uncharted territory for Generation Y to machete through with a butterknife.

My grandmother was never single. She married at 19. She died before Instagram existed. Oversharing wasn’t something opened up to the entire world of people she’d ever met, but was rather limited to a Mah Jong table of four with a fifth person waiting to sub in by knitting a colorful throw. She couldn’t have given less of a shit about her former coworker’s honeymoon on the Amalfi Coast. She never knew it happened.

No one who taught us everything from walking to speaking to how to pump gas can teach us anything about how to stomach years of quiet, paper-cut-like pain you feel when you look at your phone and someone else is happy in it. No one else has suffered the effects of being assaulted hourly with evidence of things other people have that you don’t, for years. We, currently single grown-ups born of pogs, the TI-83 calculator, and Road Rules, are on our own.

We are pioneers of grinning, bearing, and “liking.” Other people’s joy, happiness, achievement. And not just every now and then at gatherings or holidays. It’s every goddamn day. Our choices are participate and endure, or retreat and be lonely. I’ve chosen the first option, and here are a few ways to deal with it that my mother never taught me:

Post mediocre photos. Post things that are definitely only amusing to you. Go places and do things you never tell anyone about. Go places and do things that look terrible on camera. Engage in conversation wherever you can find it. Yes, your cat really is that cute. Engagements and weddings are emotionally exhausting. Having friends and holding their babies is not. Print photos sometimes. You don’t have to be happy for everyone. You should be happy for you, even when your news isn’t “big.” Amuse yourself. Filters are fine. You are not left out. And know that all the things you share with everyone, will eventually be shared with someone.

What a time to be alive.

Image for post
Image for post

NPR once called me a humor essayist, let’s go with that. Host of A Single Serving Podcast. shanisilver[at]gmail

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store