Ways Instagram Saved Us in 2020 - Prithiva Sharma

A narrative of experiences that kept people sane in isolation


Day 236?

Today, I dug up my old pen drive to see if eighteen-year old me saved a secret gallery from where I can borrow photos for my Instagram; it had nothing but old cringey poems I’d rather keep hidden.

***


2020 has been a year of unprecedented events – with the COVID-19 pandemic, a global lockdown, and deteriorating economies all across the world.

In other, more happening news – Chris Evans joined Instagram on 2nd May, 2020 and broke the app within 2 hours of joining.

The COVID-19 lockdown started with a calm expectation for life to restart within a week, or two, or three; it reached a frenzy somewhere around Month 2, when the way life stood still started feeling threatening to the sanity of some, livelihood of some, and just overall being of most. In the ninth month now, what we face is borderline resignation, and a reluctant acceptance that life may be on a buffer for a majority of 2021 as well. It is what it is has never felt more real.

Social isolation and distancing from family, friends, and the neighborhood stray dog had people scrambling for something they could do to get a speck of normalcy back in their post-lockdown, oftentimes lonely reality.

I remember waking up on 2nd May with my Instagram DM’s a flood of messages, all the same thing – Chris Evans’ first Instagram post, and I remember thinking, this man managed to partially salvage the disaster 2020 is. I didn’t realize then how my mind was running on a similar track like many.

***


Day 1

Instagram was full of posts of how classes were postponed – a relief at being able to sleep past 7. It was a relatively normal day, one I spend looking at for possible omens now.

***

Day 16

A consensus and a realization that the college semester was effectively ruined, we left and couldn’t go back now. Nandini, studying in Delhi, went home for Diwali in March and was now looking at cancelled trains and flights with a longing – she left her books, ukulele and friends behind in South Delhi and was now alone with herself and two parents who made her feel even more lonely.

College had closed for all purposes, and while online classes were being talked about and set up, students were left trying to get adjusted to indoors we never spent much time in, and outstations struggled to arrange course books they had left behind in Delhi. “If only I had precognition,” Nandini said as our friends group chat (vove cluv, with me, Nandini and Nashra) became more active than it had been through all our college years together.

And that is where lockdown changed things. With everyone stuck at home, some at homes they wanted to escape, social media became a shelter.


***

Day 45

An Ode to my Phone Gallery

my phone gallery

is deeper than the grave

they might dug for this year


i am down to October 2018

a month in a lockdown

i didn’t invite to the party

and i realize how many photos

i didn’t take


January 2017

i went to college

with a broken hand

and i could have clicked

photos of ankita’s

disapproving face

but i didn’t


November 2019

fariha, shrish and i

sat with cigarettes in our hands

feeding to dogs

shrish adopted

like i adopted her


9-4 classes

chai sutta

slight chill in the air

and i could have taken a photo


of tea and Marlboro

in the same frame as

fariha and shrish

but i didn’t


my gallery became a space

for memories i had forgotten

and was now trying to dig deep

to find out


Instagram was hard work

but when you are sharing memories

and words

which only your walls listen to anymore

it’s okay to crop that photo

with that classmate you now loathe

to make a new memory

out of a stale moment


and who would have thought

one day my phone gallery

will deserve an ode


that little red flower icon

that has shots of faces with flowers

candids we didn’t know were being clicked

and it’s all stored

in folders

organized in a way

2020 doesn’t allow us to be


i am not going to class tomorrow

and can’t talk to nashra

about my latest breakdown


mental health series (i /?)

photo taken in 2018

welcome, instagram

to diaries of a mind that

has nowhere to go.


***


Day ‘I can’t count anymore’

What does one do when they can’t meet people they used to hug every day? What is coping when your coping stops within your home?

Instagram became a black hole that could take everything anyone had to say and make space for it. It became a space for words we didn’t have anyone to share with now, for conversations too stilted at home. Khushee, within first few weeks of lockdown, created an artists’ Instagram group which she then invited me to. It’s named cutie gang and is an innocuous presence in my daily DMs, a space where we throw our art and it throws encouragement and appreciation back at us. It’s one thing to get appreciated for good art, another to be part of a community that cherishes you just because you create something, good or bad.

***


Social media activism is not new; Twitter and Facebook have always raged over right and left – Instagram activism was similar. There’s a story feature – a little round icon with ring, that disappears in 24 hours (shorter than some of Nandini’s rants) – and that became the spot for information sharing.

You see an Instagram post being shared on someone’s story, you view it, and you like and share. That post and its information is disseminated through you and others similar to you, because we’re all the same now, and it trickles down to our conscious knowledge and thought formation after we see it on 7 different people’s stories.