Muting People Saved My Mental Health

For me, it all started with Myspace’s Top 8. In case you’re not in your mid to late twenties (b*tch), this was something we cave people were subjected to back in the early 2000s. On your Myspace page where you posted songs by the Black Eyed Peas and wrote your boyfriend’s name with a whole bunch of “<333333″s, you also ranked your favorite people on the platform. In order. For everyone else to see.

Now, your Top 8 wasn’t to be taken lightly. It was the space reserved for your BFF, your S.O., the popular girl you were trying to befriend, and your sibling who bullied you into putting them as number four. Got in a fight? Your frenemy got demoted or removed from the coveted section. Holding hands with someone new? They quickly got a spot on the leaderboard. It was the first big way to say “here’s who I like, here’s how popular I am, here’s how I’m judging others”, and we lapped that sh*t up.

When the Top 8 first started, it didn’t make me feel bad, exactly — it was more like a game. Find ways to level up, get on other peoples’ boards, gain virtual popularity. It wasn’t until my first serious boyfriend moved “Anna” (a random girl from one of his classes) in front of me that social media made me feel like a failure for the first (and definitely not the last) time in my life.

Myspace’s Top 8 was how I found out Tyler (name hasn’t been changed — hi, Tyler) was cheating on me (again, for the first, but not the last time). It led me on my first ever stalking spree, where I stared at photos of Anna, comments from Anna, likes by Anna all night, trying to figure out what she had that I didn’t (besides boobs). Trying to figure out why he wanted her when I was already in love with him. That night led me on a decade-plus long cycle of “feel inadequate, stalk, feel more inadequate, stalk.” It’s some sick, masochistic sh*t, and while I’d love to say that’s all changed in the 10 (okay, 12) years since I sat on my twin bed, crying to P!nk… uh, no such luck.

Social media has absolutely obliterated my self-confidence, my happiness, and my mental health. And it’s probably done some serious damage to yours as well.

Now, it’s pretty much common knowledge that social media is basically the devil. It’s addictive. It’s dividing. It leads to depression, anxiety, and unrealistic perceptions of beauty. It gives you sh*tty posture. But, in case you didn’t watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix like everyone else (which was probably suggested to you by a friend on, yup, social media), here’s the deal. From the National Center for Health Research:

“25% of 18-25-year-olds report having some form of mental illness. Depression is particularly increasing among girls. Some researchers have suggested that this increase in mental illness is, at least in part, connected to the rise of social media use among adolescents and young adults.”

Wait, there’s more. From Child Mind Institute:

“Teenage and young adult users who spend the most time on Instagram, Facebook, and other platforms were shown to have a substantially (from 13 to 66%) higher rate of reported depression than those who spent the least time … A 2017 study of over half a million eighth through 12th graders found that the suicide rate for girls increased by 65%.”

Last one for good measure, from McLean Hospital (affiliated with Harvard Medical School):

“In recent years, plastic surgeons have seen an uptick in requests from patients who want to look like their filtered Snapchat and Instagram photos.”

So yeah, social media is super bad, which is something you — just like I — probably already knew. But, much like tequila or texting exes, that hasn’t stopped any of us from continuing to pose, post, and peruse. And while once upon a time we had to log onto a computer and search for people to investigate, algorithms are now so smart, they decide who we stalk, when we scroll, and how long to keep us engaged.

It wasn’t until my wedding in 2018 that I actually realized how bad Instagram made me feel. After waltzing down the aisle, I quickly found myself jealous of engaged friends — total hater sh*t, I know. But after spending so long planning my own event, the post-wedding blues hit hard, and I hated seeing other people post their ring selfies and bachelorette photos. I was sad, I was uninspired, and I was jealous. So on a whim, I muted every single one of my engaged friends. Every. Single. One of them.

I didn’t want to unfollow or block them, because frankly, that felt too b*tchy, and besides, it’s not like I didn’t like them anymore. I just didn’t like seeing them so blissfully happy. I felt empty after spending months DIYing and pinning and being the center of attention. It wasn’t exactly rational, but their posts made me feel bad and instead of just continuing to feel bad, I decided to stop seeing their posts altogether. And just like that, my love of muting became a way of life.

After the engaged people came the girl in my friend group everyone else loved but I couldn’t stand. Then competitors in my field who always seem to be outpacing me. Then the really hot people. Then some of my best friends whose posts just kinda… annoyed me. I used to think muting someone was the ultimate “f*ck you,” but now I look at it as a means of self-preservation. I’m literally under no obligation to look at someone’s over-filtered picture. And just because I muted someone, it doesn’t mean I hate them IRL (unless, of course, I do). It just means their posts — at least at the moment — make me feel bad. So why not just stop looking at the thing that makes you feel like trash?

Nowadays I mute freely and without thought. Sometimes it’ll be just for a brief period of time and then eventually I’ll go back and unmute, and other times friends are muted for the long haul. It doesn’t really matter, because the worst case is I forget and I never unmute someone. And like, not to quote Kourtney or anything but, “there’s people that are dying” — not liking someone’s weight loss picture isn’t the end of the world. Ultimately, social media made me feel fat and lazy and untalented and jealous. Now, I’ve whittled down my timeline so it makes me feel, well, not good, but at least a little less horrible.

While it’s not a cure-all — muting is an avoidance tactic, and you need to do internal work to figure out why what you’re seeing makes you feel inadequate — it’s definitely a way to not only make social media more enjoyable, but take back a little control over what you view. It’s not a great idea to just stopping looking at things that make you feel uncomfortable altogether. It’s important to see differing political views and perspectives to form rounded opinions. But social media doesn’t have to be a way of life and if looking at your sorority sister’s abs a month after giving birth makes you feel sad, then bon f*cking voyage. Mute away.

Granted, deleting your social media accounts would probably make you feel the best and free you from the toxic cycle, buuuuuut if completely nixing your handles feels off-brand, editing your timeline is the next best thing. The next time you look at someone’s post and feel that pang of inadequacy, instead of spiraling down into a vat of self-pity, just mute them! Before long you’ll probably find that your self-confidence has risen and your screen time report is slightly less embarrassing. Win-win.

Images: Kate Torline/Unsplash; Giphy (3)

A Travel Influencer Was Accused Of Scamming Her Followers Out Of $180k

We all know 2018 has been the year of the scammer, and the gods of winter solstice have come through with one final controversial event to propel us into the new year. The alleged scammer’s name is Aggie Lal (more commonly known as @travel_inhershoes), and she popped up this December with a simple yet elegant plan that will be sure to influence your financial goals for next year. A few months ago, Aggie announced that she had created a 12-week course called “How To Grow Your Instagram,” where Aggie’s most loyal followers—called her “Master Tribe” because white women on Insta can’t be stopped—could go “behind the scenes of going from being a broke traveler to becoming a six-figure earning travel blogger.” All for the low, low price of $497.

Okay so right off that bat your bullsh*t detector should be going off. First of all, there is no need for a 12-week course on how to grow your Instagram. I will give you this course in six words: be beautiful and post thirst traps. As an added bonus, you can also be rich. Being rich is always helpful. But that’s not even really the issue. The issue is that, according to several people who signed up for Lal’s “Master Tribe” (ugh), the course didn’t deliver what was promised. I am just shocked and appalled that something I saw on Instagram might not be real!

Things started to go south when one of Lal’s students published a Medium essay called “I Was Scammed by a Celebrity Influencer” detailing their experience in the class under the pseudonym Wannabe Influencer (gotta love that honesty). Wannabe Influencer said she’d been following Lal for a long time and was “damn curious” about how she built her brand, only to find herself $500 deep into what she alleges was a scam. (For the record, I have spent $500 to have a 40-year-old man who still sleeps on a dirty floor mattress teach me improv comedy, so no judgment.) The post was picked up by Buzzfeed News, and it was all downhill from there.

Lal enrolled a casual 380 people in the “course,” meaning she made $188,860 on the sales. (Not bad for a girl with no talent.) Despite a promise of 12 weeks of instruction, Lal only ended up providing courses for six weeks. According to Lal, this lapse was due “hurdles with health” and “internet connectivity issues,” which sounds a lot like sh*t I say when I fail to show up to work for the fourth day in a row. However, Lal continued to post her regular Instagram content, which just violates the cardinal rule of playing hooky: don’t post to social media while you’re claiming to be out of commission.

But it wasn’t just the lack of classes that were a problem—members of the Master Tribe (every time I type that my fingers almost fall off) were supposed to learn “not only social media techniques” but also “photography classes,” and the “business side of things.” Unfortunately for the people who paid $500 to learn how to use an iPhone, one student described Lal’s content as “basic information you would find from a simple Google search,” and complained that the videos were “barely five minutes long.” When Lal did upload videos, some students reported her making problematic comments like “People who work at Starbucks aren’t living up to their full potential,” which is pretty rich coming from a woman who looks like a sentient pumpkin spice latte.

One of the big issues participants took with the class (apart from the fact that it’s something you bought from a random person on Instagram) happened when Lal issued a “challenge” to the class. And what was this challenge, you ask? The challenge was to post about the course to your own followers, trying to get them to sign up for the class themselves. As anyone who has ever had a friend that got too deep into LulaRoe can recognize, this has all the makings of a pyramid scheme.

This all brings us to the inevitable notes app apology, posted to Instagram in true public gaffe fashion:

View this post on Instagram

I woke up to terrible news that some of the students in my Mastertribe course felt disappointed with it. ::::: I was heartbroken because this course was my baby, which I’ve been working on since June. It took me and my team months to create almost 9 hours of video classes. I never held any information back, always being open about everything I know: including sharing my media kit, email examples, Lightroom, Photoshop and camera tutorials etc. ::::: I want to sincerely apologize from the bottom of my heart who anyone who feels like what I shared wasn’t enough. :::::: Due to some hurdles with my health and WiFi connectivity, 4 out of 66 videos didn’t get uploaded as scheduled last week. I did apologize over the weekend to the Mastertribe directly but no excuse can justify me not showing up for those who I care about thre most, my tribe. :::::: I already spoke to each Mastertriber directly and offered to anyone who felt disappointed in the whole situation a full refund (to be processed by this Sunday). :::::: I was honored that so many beautiful people joined the class and it makes me feel truly terrible that I’ve let my tribe down ???? :::: My intention has always been to inspire this community I dearly love and I would never want you to feel taken advantage of. ::::: I am closely talking with each member of the Master Tribe but wanted to let my wider community know what is going on. My goal is to support the next generation of Instagrammers by sharing learnings from my journey so far. ::::: Love always, Aggie ❤️

A post shared by AGGIE LAL ???? travel girl (@travel_inhershoes) on

Like most Insta-pologies, this didn’t exactly go as planned. Lal told BuzzFeed News she is offering “anyone who felt disappointed in the whole situation a full refund,” but disgruntled Master Tribe members flocked to the comments to tell their own stories. They claimed that Aggie had initially blocked people who asked for refunds, calling them “Bad Apples.” They also called her out for claiming she “just woke up to” news people didn’t like the class, when students had actually been reaching out for weeks. It reminds me of when I ghost a guy for six weeks because I found a guy I liked better, only for that relationship to fall through, so I hit the original guy up with an “OMG I just saw this” text.

Others just generally took issue with how the class had been run and Aggie’s characterization of people who left the class as being “unmotivated” or “not dreamers.” (Because paying $500 to have to watch a bunch of Instagram tutorials is totally the dream.)

But perhaps most damning of all, several comments pointed out that Aggie’s follower count had grown suspiciously since the news of her failed course, despite the fact that many people were actually unfollowing her. All of this points to the original sin of Instagram: buying followers (and getting caught).

Uh yeah, you think a lady who somehow finessed her way into $180k in fake “course” money wouldn’t buy followers when the going gets tough? I sure do.

Time will tell if this is truly a scam, or more of a well-meaning-but-poorly-executed blunder, so I’ll be watching closely. Aggie’s latest update is a doozy, and she swears up and down that she’s done right by the people who demanded refunds:

View this post on Instagram

????✨ ::::: I wanted to share an update with my wider community about the progress that's been made with my @MasterTribe. All students who asked have been refunded. The 300 who remained enrolled will continue to learn from me and will also receive personalized feedback. ::::: Despite my good intentions and a firm belief that what I know and shared is enough to become successful in this field, it's clear now that I could have communicated my knowledge in a more hands on manner and I have taken this as a huge learning experience. ::::: I started Master Tribe this year with the hopes of repeating the success of the first edition and providing even more value. The first @MasterTribe in 2017 produced some of the most original and admirable accounts in this space, with some of the students growing organically from a few hundred to well over 100k followers. I strongly believe that I can help current students achieve a similar success and I will put even more effort in to make sure it happens. ::::: In the meantime, I've decided to step back to restructure the way I run my page in a team of one so that I can continue to deliver quality content that so many of you enjoyed. :::: Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and see you in the New Year. Xxx Aggie

A post shared by AGGIE LAL ???? travel girl (@travel_inhershoes) on

Maybe you really can develop a lucrative Instagram career from watching videos of one girl who’s clearly more attractive and has more access to money than most. Maybe you’ll win the lottery and not even need an Instagram account, for that matter—all things are possible. Maybe, just maybe, if she was going to produce content “in a team of one” (who’s snapping those pics, sweetie?) and charge $500 for it, she should have actually had the content ready to go when people signed up. I know, call me crazy.

The real scam, if you ask me? This bitch is NEVER wearing shoes when she travels.

Images: travel_inhershoes / Instagram (4)

7 Annoying Instagram Habits That Are Only Okay When I Do Them

Do you ever see someone on Instagram or Snapchat just acting a fool, doing the most annoying shit and committing every social media faux pas in the book? Yeah, you probably follow some really goddamn annoying people. But the real question is: Are you one of those annoying assholes? Sure, we’re all afraid that something we post will get screenshot and roasted in someone else’s group chat, but we can’t follow all the social media rules all the time, can we? Here’s a list of the things that, when other people do them, they’re annoying, but when you do them, they’re totally okay.

1. Lip Syncing

There’s nothing more obnoxious than when you open someone’s story and it’s just them lip synching. They’re generally always in their car. Like, um. OK. You’re just lip synching away in your car to some Cardi B song and driving like a damn lunatic. I am neither impressed nor entertained. These jackholes are probably leaving a wake of destruction behind them as they swerve in and out of lanes picking which filter to use. It’s plain irresponsible is what it is!

Then again, sometimes a dope Nicki verse will come on and I need to show all my followers that this white girl can, in fact, rap. Am I guilty of the lip syncing snap? 100%. Do I judge you when you do it? Also 100%.

Kylie Jenner Snapchat

2. Concert Videos

Unless it’s one small clip of the chorus of the band or artist’s most famous track, I couldn’t care less that you’re at a concert. I just think, “Wow, this person is so thirsty for other people to think they’re cool that they don’t enjoy the music at all, they’re too busy Snapchatting.”

If I’m at the show, I’m pretty sure everyone is dying to see how close I was, just how amazing they sound live, and how hot the lead singer is in person. Like, five snaps per concert is tolerable, right? RIGHT?!

3. Obnoxious Drunk Stories

Yeah, we get it, you like to party. You and your friends are having such a good time in a dimly-lit sports bar, or is it a club that no one else went to? IDK, but obviously you’re having an awesome time, drinking awesome shooters, soaking up each other’s awesomeness, since your phone is out the whole night documenting the experience. I can’t tap my screen fast enough to make it through this shit.

Yet, if it’s me and my friends, you probably want to see what shenanigans we got ourselves into last night. You definitely want to see our 2am Taco Bell run. We get into such zany mishaps! We’re basically doing you a favor because you probably stayed in, and now you know what a good time you missed. We did such a good job documenting our night, now it’s like you were there with us! God, we are so funny. Lemme just watch all of these back three times while I’m at brunch.


4. Photoshop

It’s so obvious when someone photoshops a pic. I mean, you expect me to believe that your skin is perfect when I can obviously tell you accidentally made your hair blurry? Hun, we can see you IRL. We aren’t buying what you’re trying to sell.

But like, sometimes I have a zit before a big event and it’s obvious that the zit is not part of how I generally look. So it’s totally fine for me to just erase that…. and brighten up my under-eyes… and whiten my teeth. Really, I’m just presenting the best version of myself to the world, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

5. Deflecting Captions

Girl, your selfie is hot AF. I don’t know why you had to caption it “When you’re really just thinking about tacos.” Have some goddamn respect and just post the picture where you look hella pretty and leave it at that. You don’t need to hide the fact hat you’re like, really pretty by accompanying a picture silly and quirky caption that deflects the real reason you posted it: to show people that you’re really, really ridiculously good looking.

I’m not just going to post a picture without a caption, though. I might as well make it something clever so people know that not only do my boobs look great, but I also have original thoughts. Beauty and brains. Yes, that’s the ticket.


6. Messaging Through The App

If you have my number, why wouldn’t you just text me instead of making me open this stupid app every three seconds? Just fucking text me. If you send me a meme and I respond, that can just be the end of the conversation unless you want to take it to text.

But, like, we’re already talking in the app so why get more digital formats involved? Might as well finish the conversation, however long it may be, in this app and then if I have something else unrelated to say later, I can just text you. When you think about it, it’s actually MORE convenient this way.

7. Liking Celebrity Posts

Really, you think Kim K gives a shit if you “like” her picture or not? Insta lets you see which of your friends have liked celebrity posts, and when I see the culprits I just SMH. These people don’t need your likes. Likes are for people you actually know.

Well, sometimes a blogger I follow will post a really cute outfit and I think they should know that I appreciate the effort. And if I like a post from a Kardashian, like, who really notices and/or gives a shit? Probably no one, unless they’re like me and think I’m an idiot for giving out likes like a podcaster gives out promotional codes for meal delivery services. 

Kim Kardashian

Read: 6 Basic Fall Instagrams That Are Never Acceptable To Post