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An Ode to These Extremely Chill Ads on Instagram

The mesmerizing videos of rainfall make me feel content enough to stop scrolling.
a forest
Screenshot: Calm/Instagram

I have a problem. Well, I have several problems, but one that I will publicly admit is that I spend way too much time on Instagram. I have stood outside bars and scrolled until reaching the last post I saw during my previous spin through the app, a very deranged sort of FOMO. There are nights when I plop on the couch after dinner scrolling and liking away instead of doing the dishes until, would you look at that, it’s time to go to bed!


It doesn’t help that I have a second account for my cat, which is where I follow other Instagram cats. Cat instagram—a space dominated by rescuers “Kitten Lady” Hannah Shaw and Beth Stern and user-generated accounts like Bodega Cats of Instagram—is a welcome, adorable reprieve from people posting self-righteous workout selfies and smug travel #TBTs. (Where is my mute button, Instagram?)

At least, that’s what I told myself when I followed all of my favorite cats from my cat’s account: This is where I can go for pure joy rather than comparing my life to other people’s. But I usually only cruise through cat Instagram after I get annoyed by human Instagram. I wonder if time spent melting into my couch cushions watching videos of purring kittens offsets the head-slapping exasperation I feel when I see someone post about her #weddingdiet the day after sharing an engagement ring photo.

One night, after feeling particularly annoyed with my time-wasting habit (but also not annoyed enough to stop), I felt the need to share my self-loathing with the world. Perhaps others have a similar problem?

Wow, I thought that would get more likes.

My Instagram feed is mostly politics-free, which makes it undeniably better for my mental health than Twitter, where I follow a lot of political reporters for work. But sometimes politics creeps in to Instagram and makes me feel gross—for being a slug, yes, but also because I’m processing whatever our President just did to embarrass us.


And then out of nowhere, the ad appears as if to save me from myself. It seems to crop up whenever I’m in full Insta-sloth mode: sprawled out mindlessly swiping upward, with my phone in my left hand because the right one hurts. I see it and a smile spreads across my face like the Grinch (the cartoon one not the creepyass live-action version).

The caption proclaims “Do nothing for 15 seconds” and I’m mesmerized as I watch raindrops fall to the ground during a sun shower and follow an invisible brush as it slowly paints the word “Calm” across the screen in white script. Calm is a meditation app that I have not downloaded but whose ads are the equivalent of someone putting smelling salts under my nose.

Sometimes I see an ad that instructs me to breathe in as a circle expands then exhale when it shrinks. That one reminds me of taking lung function tests at the asthma doctor as a kid. It’s fine, but not what I would choose to see when I’ve fallen into an Instagram stupor.

No, I prefer the “do nothing” message. I’m already doing nothing by dicking around on Instagram, but I take it as a sign from the universe that I can stop looking for something to please or anger me. I’ve done enough.

Afterwards I usually close the app. But sometimes, I just switch over to the kittens and keep going.

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