From the day I posted my first image of two air-brushed cowgirls on a truck tailgate, I’ve been hooked on instagram. I love the platform for it’s simplicity, hunt-ability, and intimate quality. For me, it’s primarily a vehicle of discovery. It’s where I found the Hotel Costes, the killer style of a lady named Sydney Ballesteros, the incredible eye of Andy Spade, and scored entrance to the Feast of St. Cecilia. At it’s best, instagram is a portal into hidden worlds of interesting people, places, and visual inspiration. At it’s worst, a catalyst for comparison and self-doubt.
No matter what group you’re running with online (moms who only do kid pics, selfie-happy millennials, or die-hard professional photographers) it seems like only one thing about insta is truly universal: those darned little numbers. All of a sudden our lives (and our selves) seem quantifiable. You’ve got 2k followers? Well she’s got 5. Your baby’s photo has 100 likes? Someone else’s has more. A lot more. It’s tempting for all of us to translate those numbers into some sort of truth. And that’s where we get into trouble. I can’t tell you how many friends have confided in me that looking at instagram is an increasingly upsetting experience for them. In those conversations I’m always tempted to defend my favorite little hobby and say, it doesn’t have to be that way!
For me, it all goes back to the simple thought: What’s popular isn’t always best. Allow me an example. If we’re going to measure everything by the masses, then I guess Titanic is one of the absolute greatest films of all time because hey, it killed at the box office. See what I mean? That logic is flawed. And sometimes only time and perspective can reveal it.
As a culture, we don’t have much perspective yet on social media and it’s affect on us. But if this app is at all a mirror on our society, then there are some not-so-pleasant (if not entirely new) truths to be dealt with. 1: We like pretty people. 2: We like entire families of pretty people even more. But I would argue that those are just the lowest common denominators between us. And that some of us value sincerity, humor, intelligence, kindness and individuality even more. I know I do.
I’ve had friends who blew past me in terms of followers because they worked at it. They figured out the formula (bikes, shoes, flowers, repeat) and stuck with it. But I’m not tempted to follow that pattern, because it doesn’t interest me. I’d rather stay true to myself and use the platform to seek out new discoveries and experiment with creating images that are interesting to me, likes be damned. It doesn’t have to be a contest. I also would never feel obligated to follow someone whose content was upsetting to me in any way. I think those are the two practices that have kept instagram an overall positive experience for me.
How do you feel about the app? Does scrolling through your feed leave you feeling inspired or inadequate? We’re dying to know… do you have instagram-xiety?
featured image via petite blanche
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