What Instagram Does Not  Show You

Instagram is an extremely curated world.

We all know it is.

It’s not hard to make a tiny square look pretty. Living abroad can look extremely appealing on online. Honestly, you can make a lot of things look put together and perfect on Instagram. That’s why filters exist and apps like @acolorstory and @vscocam can get so addicting. I’ve genuinely always had an interest in photography; I’m no professional, but it’s the closest I’ve ever gotten to an artistic side. I like capturing photos because it helps me notice the things in my everyday life that I would otherwise miss. Like how light can reflect differently on office windows (depending on the time of day) or how vibrant the plants are outside my school.

… or the way a bicycle on the street can look so beat up and rustic all at once. But, by capturing the things in my everyday life in a way that is “IG worthy” it often feels as though I’m only showing you the more appealing side of living in an unfamiliar corner of the world. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of perks that come with living in China (like super cheap flight tickets to some really cool places) but there’s still a lot you don’t get to see.

We all know it’s impossible to see every aspect of someone’s life based on their online presence, but more often than not, we have all been guilty of making assumptions based on a small fraction of what others CHOOSE to share with us. Tiny squares can never show us a big picture or the depth of a person’s life. Yet, we act as if they do. Crazy right?

A tiny square does not show you the everyday effort that goes into making a long distance relationship work. It can be tough.

A tiny square does not show you the pure happiness that is felt when schedules align and you can finally make that FaceTime call you’ve been promising a friend.

A tiny square does not show you how frustrating it is when VPNs stop working during intense episodes of Jane The Virgin or Grey’s Anatomy.

A tiny square does not and can not show you how defeating it is when you wake up one morning only to find out that your friends is having a very distressing night and you aren't close by to help support them or the people around them.

A tiny square does not show you the events you inevitable have to miss out on. Like a best friend’s wedding in July.

A tiny square does not show you the level of stupidity one feels when they’ve realized they forgot to pack Vicks, NyQuil, and other cold medication that is impossible to get here.

A tiny square does not show you how difficult and overwhelming it is to find groceries in a new country… or the simple joy of finding a tub of Nutella in the imports section.

A tiny square does not show you the hour long phone calls with your mom that give you a pep in your step when you need it the most.

A tiny square does not show you the emptiness of a home when there isn’t a 90lb dog charging at you with slobbery kisses and a tail that quite literally attacks you.

A tiny square does not show you the amount of times you’ve wished to teleport home, just long enough for a decent meal.

A tiny square does not show you all the failed curry dishes you've attempted… or the ones that have surprised you.

A tiny square does not show you how much conscious effort goes into relationships of all kinds when you’re working with a 12 hour time difference.

You see, there are a lot of everyday things that are impossible to get a glimpse of online. But, you can always find people on here who are doing their best to be more transparent, and starting meaningful conversations that actually matter. Since coming here, it’s been harder to stay connected with people I’ve interacted with solely on social media. Spotty wifi connections/ VPN services will do that to you. But, it’s also taught me not to refresh my Instagram feed every 2.5 milliseconds like I use to. This forced disconnection has been quite refreshing but my blogging has definitely taken a hit because of it. It’s hard to be motivated when you're not sure if your connection will be strong enough to publish a post. But, I’ve quickly come to realize that all this is part of the story. I moved to China and that’s how it’ll be sometimes. Wifi will suck and I'll be forced to disconnect even on the days I don't really want to. I either waste time thinking about how it was to blog back home or find a new groove that works here. So yes, I haven’t been able to bring myself to post in over a month, and I'm feeling really guilty about it. But I’m also hoping this post has summed up what I’ve really been feeling. Happy, lost, hopeful, and inspired.


A 24 year old Canadian living (& teaching) in Shenzhen, China.