An epidemic is unfolding. No, I don’t mean the vaping epidemic. I’m referring to the volatility of our Instagram feeds. Had a fight with a friend? Suddenly that picture you took with them in the background a year ago has vanished from your Instagram page. A friend was running for a position in College Government but lost? The next day all posts promoting their campaign have vanished. And the most notorious example of all: you break up with your significant other? The first action you take after crying sufficiently is to purge your Instagram page of all the photos you took together. But should it be?
Instagram and other social media applications were originally designed to give a raw, honest look into users’ lives. Of course users have hardly followed these intentions, given the over-editing of photos and potentially misleading snapshots of their lives. I understand this desire to exclude embarrassing moments from one’s feed — who wants to upload a photo of themselves sound asleep on a table in Lulu because midterms hit them hard on Instagram? — so when we do upload a post, we generally do because we enjoyed the moment it was capturing at the time. If we keep these posts up, why don’t we do the same when they include an ex? If social media catalogs our lives, why not keep your ex on your feed, especially if we had fun with them at the time?
Before continuing, I feel the need to point out an important exception to my argument: if your significant other cheated on you, was abusive or treated you horribly in any other way, please celebrate your bravery for leaving the relationship by deleting every digital and physical trace of your ex. I am in total support of your purge, no questions asked.
That being said, if your breakup with your ex was amicable, you don’t need to delete all evidence of the relationship from the world. You started dating that person for a reason. Even though the relationship may have ended, it shows maturity to preserve past experiences on Instagram even if they involve someone you are no longer involved with — in the midst of reflecting on your past, you might even learn something new about yourself or others.
The rare, brave soul who does decide to keep photos with their exes up on their online profiles faces an implied stigma for doing so. For example, my friend from high school has never removed a photo with any of his exes, so his Instagram profile is a detailed recount of his relationships from the past several years, and my other friends have made fun of him for his seemingly antiquated account. In all of these photos, he and his past significant others are beaming throughout past school dances, carnivals and ventures to the city. Yes, he is a Man™, so it is possible that he uses Instagram in a less complex way, but when I asked him about it, he explained that he was not ashamed of his past relationships because of how much they helped him grow, so he decided to keep the photos up. In my humble opinion, he took the mature path after his relationships ended.
I understand another reason why people might take down content involving their exes: they might view it as embarrassing or a social gaffe to keep the photos up. However, I challenge people to avoid seeing their past as deserving of shame, as this viewpoint can lower one’s self-esteem. Life is not like an Instagram profile where we can pick and choose what “happens” or is expressed to the world at any time. The past is unalterable, so we might as well embrace that aspect of reality.
I promise, I practice what I preach: you will find photos of me with my exes right near the top of my Instagram profile — I don’t post often enough to push the posts completely out of sight — and I don’t plan on deleting the posts anytime soon.