Let Me Tell Y’all Why I Hate It When You Send Me Reels


If you’re on Instagram, you’ve seen them, shared them and even possibly made your fair share of them. Some people (like me) make Reels because they are a handy tool with simple templates for quick updates and storytelling. Other people plan and make Reels with the sole intent and hope of going viral. The latter can gain hundreds of thousands of views as they make their way through timelines based on Meta’s algorithm. And if you share friends and interests in common, chances are incredibly high that you will see the same set of Reels as they have. But JUST IN CASE, there is always that core group of friends and/or family (in my case there are 11 repeat offenders) who will DM a Reel for good measure. 

No accompanying message. No personal reflection or reaction. No request for your reactions or reflections. Just a cold, soulless DM that I’ve been left with the burden of deciphering the purpose of. 

And after years of this kind of digital abuse, I’ve finally had enough. As they say in South Africa, I am actually gatvol with the whole thing.

Apparently, I am not alone. A few days ago I shared the following meme which summed up my feelings about Reels with perfect clarity.

I admit the tone was terse, but I have no regrets sharing it in my stories. Within 36 hours, 10 of the 11 offenders stopped sending unsolicited videos to my DMs and for the first time in years, I don’t have anxiety or sigh or suck my teeth with irritation when I open my IG app, cast my eyes upward to the right where my notifications are and prepare myself to be disappointed by another day without meaningful interactions with my friends. The digital clutter has been replaced by blissful silence and while I could be happier, I am happy enough.   

What do I mean when I say I “could be happier”? Buckle up for a Gen X lamentation. (Which I would like to point out differs greatly from a Boomer rant. The distinction matters!) 

That the advent of social media has made us less sociable as a species – as well as hampering our social skills –  is well researched and documented. I learned – and accepted – years ago that people use social media platforms to achieve different aims. I am absolutely dating myself, but my and my peers’ online life predates the creation and use of apps. In the beginning, when AOL was king and only the coolest kids had hotmail, chat rooms were all the rage and if you wanted to reach a broad audience you would send an email blast. (There used to be limits on how many people you could include in an email before the use of mail merge tools.) And if you really wanted to throw shade, you would hit “reply all” to the devastation (or glee) to the sender. It was the genesis of the spectator sport once dubbed online evisceration, where long threads of longform points and clapbacks would regale you for hours. I would relish those moments…until I didn’t. I eventually had to ask people to stop including me in their email chains, and when they refused, I took the difficult decision to mark certain friends and family email addresses as spam.  

Then came Facebook, where there was a lot more control of what you saw and read…until they invented and implemented tagging. Suddenly I was being tagged on any and everything. And it was cool for a while. But as I said, we all use social media to achieve certain aims and I discovered after a few painful years that talking to run of the mill misogynists and closeted racist was not one of them. Apparently I have a Marco Polo app. I don’t know why I signed up nor what the app is good for. They only just emailed me to tell me I hadn’t logged in so they were deleting my account. If I was more active, I have no doubt that I would be treated to the same re-sharing and mass tagging nonsense that I’ve had to endure on Twitter (now X), WhatsApp, and now my beloved Instagram. I would be happier if my friends and family actually engaged with me on a personal level, rather than spamming me with inconsequential, disposable video trash, creative as some of it may be. 

As a Gen Xer, I straddle two very different social eras. Our childhood was analog, while our adulthood is very digital. I remember with fondness talking to friends for an hour at a time or gathering in person to watch a movie. The heated and hilarious discussions we would have afterwards were the highlight of the moment. Sure, we can and have kind of recreated that sensation by isolating portions of film and TV, affixing a pithy quote to it and hitting send, but for me nothing compares to a planning an afternoon with your favorite people, gagging a replaying the most shocking portions of entertainment, be it music or film. You learn a lot about a person’s philosophy and point of view when you allow them the space to express themselves without haste. It’s why my generation – for the most part – can accept that most people act in good faith and deserve the benefit of doubt. In our current digital world, many people don’t see people at the other end of an avatar or profile pic. They see an opponent with whom to spar on a pseudo-Socratic level in 240 characters or less. We have learned to presume a person’s position by taking a quick scan of their page and go from there. And yes, I have found myself caught in this web of perpetual bad faith and presumption. I assume that anything that one posts publicly must be what you want the world to know most about you…but not everyone engages with social media the way I do, which is why I relish and cherish deep interpersonal connections instead. This is impossible with the reelification of our relationships. 

My lament is borne from this: Out of all the apps, I found Instagram to be the most insightful into a person’s persona. Facebook is a hellscape of misinformation and X is just where demons congregate to recreate hell, but there is (or at least was) a certain serenity to IG. The subject matter was mundane and intriguing all at once. Showing us what you ate and where you hiked meant you were living life in the real world and still thoughtful enough to encapsulate and share key moments in sepia or black & white. And while IG has become largely performative, there was still an element of the better parts of humanity I in which I take faith inherent therein. Real conversations would take place in the comments and on the rare occasion someone tagged in a post it was because they wanted genuine feedback or commentary. 

Then Zuck decided to compete with TikTok with the creation of Reels, giving misogynists and other varieties of idiots video capabilities to spew their crap, and now my once picturesque oasis has been turned into a wasteland. A lot of that garbage ends up in my DMs. The worst offender of those 11 people I mentioned has sent me videos of a man dressed up as a penis, anti-African ADOS rhetoric and the odd post about travel. Everytime I ask why this was sent to me, I get no response. I suppose that’s better than the other offender who responds to my queries about why I’m receiving a particular Reel BY SENDING ME ANOTHER REEL. 

Very few people want to take the time to develop and nurture genuine relationships and as someone whose love language is time spent, this saddens me. Just recently, I made a new friend with whom I share much in common. We exchanged social media handles (naturally) and carried out hilarious conversations over text for months…almost making it to a year before they asked the dreaded question: Have you seen this video?

Me: No!

Them: Let me send it to you! You’ll love it!

Me (nervously): OK…internally screaming NO! because I know what is sure to come next.

*ping* in my DMs. I respond with a laughing emoji. And folks, like so many other comrades before them, I have not had a hilarious conversation with this person since. All they have done since last year  is forward Reels and gifs. Well, until this weekend when I posted this meme. I’ve heard nothing since. But again, I have no regrets. I will take silence over disposable, impersonal nonsense. 

I know this is a strong position to take on Reels, but it’s something I feel strongly about (obviously). I also know that many people take pride in limiting their platonic interactions to the frequent exchange of surfacy digitized crap all day. It allows you to hide what’s really going on in your life, what you’re really feeling. Meme-i-fying our relationships is cowardly, cold and I personally have no use for it.  

If you’re my friend and you’ve made it this far in your reading, let me tell you something: If I reach up my hand from the depths of my despair and you throw me back a Reel, I’ll make it my business to haunt you into the afterlife.