Peace out Comparison culture. 8 hours of deleting my Instagram one photo at a time.

Wil Reynolds
5 min readDec 20, 2021

TLDR — There’s power in knowing when you are bullshitting yourself. The only way to get better at that is to occasionally take a step back and look at what put out in the world. When is the last time you asked yourself:

Why did I post that happy anniversary shout out to my wife Facebook when I could have just told her?” or “why do I take more pics when I am at expensive restaurants but none at the local diner?”

This is the book (Mistakes were made but not by me) that started this entire journey of deep critical self reflection. It was the first book I read that didn’t affirm that I was doing things right / thinking right, instead it made me say…wait if all these people can BS themselves and it’s clear as day to me in this book, where am I BS’ing myself? It’s funny how the story of doctors fighting hand washing in the 1850’s kicked this whole thing off.

If you want to improve the mental health of your friends, consider posting how awesome your life is a whole lot less on social media. We’re all part of the comparison culture problem, and we can do something about it.

I decided to try to dig deep and look at my own behaviors on how often I pick up my phone, checking, getting dialed in to the urge to check even when I knew I wanted to check less.

I could have zapped the entire account in 3 or 4 clicks but instead I deleted each photo which takes 3 taps per photo. I wanted to evaluate each of my own photos and words, critically, with a cynical eye. Looking at each photo I put out there from a “what were you trying to communicate?” lens.

I was looking for “look how great my life is" style posts, humblebrags, anything that could incite comparison, jealousy, etc - things that are not consistent with who I want to be, did I post a lot of pics of my cars when I bought them, or other flashy things, Rolexes, my 2 pack abs, expensive shoes, that pic that made me look better than I actually do, first class seats, Michelin star rated chefs, I evaluated every photo wondering ... why…with a super critical eye.

Was I ever using brands as a proxy for how “successful” I am, Or was I just trying to share my life with my friends?

I wanna share life with my friends, who want to see me happy, right? For me that was BS!

Maybe 2% of my followers on instagram are people I actually have called or emailed in the last year. I’m also not an artist where I wanted to share my work with the world.

98% of my followers were not friends, but with each accepted friend request, I can get more likes on my photos — and was more likes (even if anonymous) just another way to feel better about myself? (For the record, I LOVE photography and have been into it for over 20 years, but still if I am being honest with myself).

So why do I care about amassing likes from people I don’t know? Could it be to incite jealousy? Hmmmm.

But I cared about how many likes something got. I wouldn’t say that, but I recognized how much more frequently I would login after I posted a photo. If I didn’t post a photo for 3 months, few logins. If I posted a photo 3 hours ago, refresh, refresh, refresh.

The most cringeworthy post of 7+ years

Luckily after going through 3600 photos, one by freaking one, over 8.5 hours I found only 1 that felt like, really dude, that was some whack shit to say. The photo was fine, the caption was cringeworthy.

A hotel I was staying at had a heliport and I snapped a picture of the hotel grounds on the Bosporus in Istanbul (the shots were beautiful)

But my caption said “This place has a heliport to bring you from the airport and the executive suite was 15k a night (I stayed in the most basic one)!!”

Why the heck would I take a beautiful pic like this and caption it with that? The cost and heliport had nothing to do with the picture. So why add that as the caption?

For the record this our moderately priced room where we stayed

Luckily that was 7 years ago and it was the only 1 that I felt really shitty about posting.

Most of my photos were beer, cityscapes, kids, and things I saw beauty in! No selfies in front of everything thank GOD.

Why were airports my #2 most posted type?

Airports are NOT beautiful. Especially the Philadelphia International Airport. So why did I take hundreds of photos from there?

I took a lot of photos at airports and outside plane windows. I took a cynical view and wondered if I was trying to say “check me out, on the go, I’m successful” and I sat with that.

Given I used to be afraid to fly, I can’t help but think a part of me with each photo was saying “hey kid, you are getting over your big fear”. I took so many photos from the Philadelphia Airport, so when I did that deep self evaluation I was thinking…it’s not impressive to be in your hometown airport hundreds of times, yet I had hundreds of pics. Maybe I am self justifying, maybe I’m not but I tried to consider all angles.

Like most folks I took a lot of pics traveling, it just happens that I travel a LOT for work and I love taking pics of architecture / beautiful things, so I’mma give myself a pass on that. But travel seems like something everyone in my social circle does so me going to Ireland isn’t a humblebrag — esp when my photos are of the airport, or is that BS? :)

Well I won’t be updating my Instagram account or logging in so what’s done is done, but at least I used the process to dig in on myself a little bit.

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Wil Reynolds

Serial Underdog @seerinteractive doing SEO, Marketing, & Stuff, I am whatever you say I am.