Virtue & Mischief: Instagram induced paranoia


Sometimes I think God is messing with me for the sheer entertainment value my pathetic exploits might provide. Then I come to my senses and remember he’s got American politics to keep him chortling, 24-7.

Still, it’s hard not to wonder sometimes. In the “God is messing with me department,” my Exhibits A, B, and C typically equal “Abby, Daniel, and Luke,” in some fashion. For instance, Exhibit B might decide to whack with a hammer the plumbing underneath the first floor bathroom sink, just to “see what might happen.” Thankfully, due to Providence or some other inscrutable force, we need not consign that question to the realm of the speculative. We have empirical data to inform us.

Or maybe Exhibit C neglects to bring sheet music to a musical performance, relying instead on his band-member neighbor to supply music the two can share. Slight hitch in plans: friend-neighbor messes up and has the wrong sheet out for two of the numbers, forcing Exhibit C to try—futilely, it turns out—to perform his responsibility from memory, causing much embarrassment, red-facedness, and post-performance gnashing of teeth and reveling in sackcloth and ashes.

This consideration of child-related drama (and God’s potential role) brings to mind a recent episode we experienced with Exhibit A. Exhibit A (hereinafter “EA”) is a perfectly normal, considerate, responsible, and level-headed teenager 95 percent of the time. The other 5 percent of the time, EA is under the insidious influence of Instagram, an internet-based photo sharing application. Let it be said now: Instagram is evil. It is a pestilence. To borrow from Mencken, it is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash. But I grow lyrical….

EA cannot be interrupted when he/she is on Instagram. Indeed, EA’s consciousness cannot be penetrated at all. Screams of “The house is on fire—get out now!” would be greeted by an Instagram-involved EA with a shoulder shrug, a “shhhhhh!,” and absolutely no alteration in direction of gaze (which is to say: EA’s eyes would remain glued to the I-phone gripped firmly in EA’s left hand). Ergo, I hate Instagram.

I received a frantic text from EA a few days ago. “Dad,” it began, “I’m having some difficulty with my Instagram account. Can you help me when you get off work?” it asked, reasonably enough. “Sure,” I typed back, not grasping the tsunami of emotion and heartache which was slowly undulating in my direction.

I arrived home later that day and heard muffled sobbing from upstairs. I went to EA’s bedroom, where the sobbing sounds became more pronounced. “Hi, [EA],” I said. “What’s wrong?”

“Oh my God, Dad. I can’t even talk. I can’t even talk. This is horrible. Something is SERIOUSLY wrong with my life!!!” EA exclaimed. “My Instagram account won’t let me in! I didn’t do ANYTHING wrong. And I can’t get in. So, like, I tell it I can’t get in and I want to make a new password.”

“Yeah. That seems simple enough.”

“OHMYGODDAD, just shut up and listen! I’m not done. So, yeah, like, I give it the email account I used in the first place to sign up and tell it to send me a confirmation number to that email, right?” I hesitate, uncertain whether I’m supposed to interject. I don’t. Wise move, for once, on my part.

EA continued quickly: “But then I go to my email account…AND I CAN’T LOG IN TO IT, EITHER! I’ve forgotten the password!”

“Oh, my,” I offered lamely.

“YEAH—‘OH MY’ IS RIGHT!” EA mocks me. “OH MY! So then I tell my first email thingy that I can’t remember THAT password and to send me a confirmation number to my second email.”

“And you can’t remember that password, either?”

“NOOOOOO. I CAN remember that one. So I get the confirmation number that’s sent to my second email account and enter it into my FIRST email account…” EA drifted off and began to heave and sob some more. “BUT THEN GOOGLE COMES BACK WITH A MESSAGE THAT SAYS MY IDENTITY CAN’T BE VERIFIED!!!!!”

“Hmmm,” I replied unhelpfully. “That is a pickle.” Wrong rejoinder.

“WHAT?” EA demanded. “A PICKLE???” she shrieked in all caps. “JUST GET OUT, DAD. YOU DON’T GET IT. YOU DON’T. OHMYGOD.” EA buried his/her head in his/her pillow and wept. I left EA’s room, feeling genuinely dejected and wondering what life without daily drama might be like. As I slowly descended the stairs I heard actual teeth-gnashing and occasional exclamations involving the word “pickle.”

Days went by. I attempted, without success, to retrieve EA’s Instagram account myself. EA tried various interventions as well, but all ended in frustration and abject mourning, a grieving which I neither understood nor appreciated. Our entire household was left in a pall, thanks to the multifaceted, pernicious fickleness of Instagram. A couple of days ago, however, Instagram came to its senses and reestablished contact with EA. It allowed EA complete use of EA’s former account, but—naturally—provided no explanation for the cause(s) of the temporary shutdown. We were all left to wonder what happened.

Was it God exercising his edgy sense of humor at our expense? No, almost certainly not.

On the other hand, you know what they say: Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean somebody isn’t out to get you….

By Tim Swensen

Virtue & Mischief

Timothy Swensen is the author of the column series Virtue and Mischief. He can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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