A Gen Z creator speaks candidly about why she feels uncomfortable posting on Instagram these days.
On Aug. 29, 26-year-old Taylor Stewart (@heyitstaystew) took to TikTok to share what she’s finally figured out” about her disinclination to post “anything exciting or creative” that she’s working on on Instagram.
“Instagram is full of what I call ghost watchers, which is basically people who watch your every move, watch everything you’re doing but they don’t support any of it,” Stewart explains. “So they don’t ‘like’ any of your stuff; they never message you to say, ‘Hey, this is cool. Good job.'”
According to a survey conducted by Morning Consult, Gen Zers between the ages 13 and 25 spend most of their time, 88%, on YouTube, followed by 76% on Instagram and 68% on TikTok. Some 38% of the respondents spend more than four hours a day on social media.
Stewart calls this “ghost” behavior “icky” due to the fact that their intentions remain unknown.
“You don’t know if they’re watching you because they like you or if it’s because they don’t like you,” she adds. “It doesn’t have a good feel to it and it just feels like no one really supports you. It’s like they wanna know your business but they don’t wanna support your business.”
Knowing that the “super judgy” people you went to high school with may also be viewing your content is another reason Stewart is hesitant to post on Instagram.
“Whether it be the meathead jocks … or the popular girls, they just kind of hold on to an old version of you, especially if you were an outcast. Like, I was definitely an outcast,” she says. “I don’t know. I don’t like it. Instagram feels like a high school cafeteria.”
Rosalind Gill, a British sociologist, feminist cultural theorist and professor of cultural and social analysis at City, University of London conducted research in 2020-21 pertaining to the experiences of “young people in the U.K.” between the ages of 18 and 30 when it comes to “their lives on and off social media.” Gill found that young women, in particular, “repeatedly” expressed a feeling of being scrutinized by their “friends and peers” online.
“Most young people expected their photos to be subject to a critical scrutiny that bordered on hostility— possibly to be screenshotted and shared for cruel dissection,” Gill writes. “In fact, one of the experiences discussed most frequently in the interviews was that of ‘feeling judged’ by others — even by close friends who might reasonably be expected to have warm and affectionate feelings towards them.”
‘Instagram doesn’t feel safe or authentic anymore’
With more than 4.3 million views and 652,400 likes, it seems Stewart’s video has resonated with many TikTokers who agree with her sentiment. According to her comment section, fellow creators also feel as though Instagram no longer provides a “safe” space for users to post, while others advocate for posting for yourself rather than for validation from other people.
“Instagram feels like Regina George to me,” @laurendaymakeup replied, referencing Rachel McAdams’s “Mean Girls” character.
“This is why y’all needa post FOR YOURSELVES, and not for the approval of others,” @kimndkanyesdivorcelawyer wrote. To this, Stewart replied, “Totally agree however i feel that a sad part about creating art is that deep down u want others to enjoy it too.”
“You captured it perfectly! Instagram doesn’t feel safe or authentic anymore,” @shelbee96 commented.
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