All for you

We're often quick to share our picture-perfect moments on social media. But could keeping them to ourselves feel even better?

So, I’m sitting in the perfect artisan coffee bar. I’m knitting with a photogenic grey Shetland wool, and my wooden needles nearly, but don’t quite, match the rustic wooden slab of the tabletop in front of me. Then the coffee arrives and that too is perfect: it’s in a vibrant red cup with a white interior and the creamy froth forms a perfect leaf in the dark chocolatey brown of the coffee around it.

It’s the perfect Instagram moment: I reach for my phone – then stop. Suddenly I don’t feel like sharing this. I want to savour it for myself, to keep it just for me. I’m going to wallow in it now and then store it up for later, when times may be tougher and I can bring it out as a comforting memory, a shield against less pleasant experiences.

Why do we share moments like this on Instagram? Why do we love to enjoy other people’s beautiful experiences? Part of it is the simple pleasure of seeing a good photo. Part of it is the joy of sharing something with a friend, even though they’re not close by. Another element is a feeling of – not envy as such, but a kind of yearning, a wish that that picture could be part of our own experience, too.

So when I share my Instagram moments, while it’s part of the narrative of my story from day to day and moment to moment, there’s also an element of showing off – not in a bad way, but in a way that presents my lovely experiences to others. Part of the enjoyment comes from sharing it with followers, whether those are close family and friends or unknown fans around the globe. They get to enjoy it as well and I get even more pleasure from the moment when they tell me they’ve loved it too.

But on that particular occasion in that particular coffee shop, I suddenly didn’t want to share any more. “What if,” I thought, “I start keeping my Instagram moments to myself?”

First, I take away any search for affirmation. Whether we think we care or not, all of us look for validation in the likes and comments from our social media followers. If that un-Instagram moment no longer needs validation, it becomes more complete in itself. It stands alone, without the need for likes.

Secondly, I don’t have a photo of a memory to look back on. That’s sort of a shame – but then, who’s going to look back at a picture of a cup of coffee when they’re 90 years old? And, in fact, the memory becomes stronger and fuller without the photograph to back it up: instead of transforming that cup of coffee into a simply visual moment, I hold on to the full memory – the smoky aroma rising with the steam, the earthiness at the back of my tongue and the sweetness of the foamed milk as I sip, the warmth between my palms as I hold the cup, the sound of the coffee machine working in the background and the other customers in the café happily chatting around me.

Finally, there’s something precious about keeping this just for me. No one else gets to peek into my world at this moment. No one will know where I am or what I’m doing. No one else gets to share this cup of coffee: I’m wrapping a beautiful memory around me, creating a small haven from the world – just for a moment, but that is enough.

Five things I’m not sharing right now

  • When I spot the first buds appearing on trees on my walk to work.
  • The cardigan I’ve just finished knitting – instead I’ll wear it and know it’s all mine.
  • My mid-morning break with a cup of tea and a captivating novel.
  • The view when I emerge from the trees and spot the sun rising over the sea on my early morning run.
  • The date and walnut muffins I baked on a whim cooling on my wooden bench.

This article was originally published in Breathe Issue 28, A Fearless Future - View Magazine

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