I Was With You / by Emily Ellis

“Three years ago.” Dave says, in The Sugar Mill Café, where we are sitting eating pastries and drinking coffee, while time is rushing by.

 It was three years ago when Dave and Nikki visited Orange and went for a walk on Mount Canobolas at roughly the same time that I was taking pictures of trees on Mount Canobolas. We shared those pictures on Instagram and hashtagged #mountcanobolas (because this predates the geo tagging feature).

I liked Dave’s pictures of the melting snow and rocks and he liked mine and we started following each other.

Now, I am looking back through Instagram and it was exactly 147 weeks ago.

These were Dave’s Pictures I liked.

Image Credit @hipsterontheshore via Instagram

Today we are sitting in a café and Nikki is telling me about how Dave made her bushwalk that day walk and she had ridiculously inappropriate footwear for snow. I’m laughing. These guys are so funny and I know that because we’ve been friends on Instagram for 147 weeks.

Not long after following Dave I started following Nikki too.

These were the best years of Instagram. Facebook didn’t own it. There were no ads. If you had an interest you hashtagged it and you made a friend who was interested too. People shared their lives. It may have been voyeuristic. There may have been multitudes of people saying, “nobody cares what you had for lunch or what you did that day!”

But actually, there were plenty of us who did care. Who found these small glimpses into other people's lives to be wildly interesting. Who “caught feelings” as the term goes. Because apparently, that’s a lame thing to do (except it’s really not.)

When we meet today it is just like meeting old friends. There isn’t enough time. We already know so much about each other. They know all about my kids. I know all about that time Nikki had to go back to Canada because her mum was sick.

“I was with you.” I say when she tells me it was a brain haemorrhage her mother suffered at only 56. And I was with her, checking daily to see her posting from her mum’s bedside. Her mum made a full recovery.

I wondered from time to time if Dave and Nikki planned on having kids. Their feeds were certainly full of the beautiful children of friends. I never asked because you just shouldn’t ever.

“Five years of trying. We were told we couldn’t.” Nikki offers under the liquid amber trees in the cool autumn breeze and I can’t even imagine. These people are made to be parents. Made. For. It.

But I was with them when they announced their pregnancy.

I was with them in the January heat waves when Nikki was nearly full term and Dave finally bought the air conditioner. And then (after regular checking) I saw that their exquisite daughter Frankie Mae was here.

Image Credit @npullar via Instagram

There has been so much talk on the monetising of Instagram lately. Shadow bans, algorithms the end of the chronological feed. I can’t deny that I find the app less and less appealing. I have noticed an enormous increase in advertising ("sponsored posts"). I don't mind my friends who are making great business out of sponsorship and brand repping and so on (like me), but the non friend posts in my feed that appear because someone paid for them to appear there are super annoying. I’m not interested in a business account. Nor do I want to start a private account and run my landscape and nature shots from the original. And yes Instagram (even though I love the doors you've opened for me) I don’t want you to show me what you think I want to see.

Yet here I am cuddling Franke Mae in a café. My daughter Clara is still asleep because Nikki rocked her to sleep hours ago in the park. I know our story is far from unique. This has happened to others everywhere. I miss the days of #communityfirst. But I won’t abandon Instagram. I think of the incredible friends I've made that I'm yet to meet.

Of my many regular recurring daydreams, one of my favourites is where I'm super loaded and I rent this enormous country manor and fly my Instagram friends (and their kids) there for a weekend.

Hey Instagram! Sponsor that!