I was off Instagram for almost a month and I don’t feel really interested in going back to it. I did log back on this week and as usual my visual brain was completely overloaded and I started stressing over politics (because while people used to just post photos, now they think they have to be social justice warriors at all times), stressing over the sad stories of people dying, and feeling completely inadequate as a mother because I don’t take my children on fancy European vacations. I did contemplate faking a European vacation and posting about that but since I’m pretty sick and tired of the “fakeness” of social media, I decided against that.
To me, Instagram has become a place for voyeurism and a chance to brag about trips or wealth in an attempt to be validated by a bunch of strangers.
I used it to share my photography simply because I enjoyed connecting with other photographers but there was a time I got caught up in the validation cycle too. I would look at the numbers of likes and comment on posts, hoping others would comment or follow back. This was very short-lived, however, because the idea of networking with a bunch of strangers for attention made me sick to my stomach. And the idea that having a bunch of likes and followers would translate to paying photography customers was looking more and more ridiculous, probably because the photography business was an obvious failure for me.
Now that I could care less about being validated by a bunch of strangers, I hesitate every time I start to post a photo. I mean – who cares if my kid jumped off a ladder at the pool or played with the dog in the yard? Then again, I guess photos like that can be a distraction from the more self-serving ones and from all the political ridiculousness we see on social media anymore. Posting artistic photos over bragging ones is more my goal since I don’t have fancy trips to photograph or a fancy yacht to relax on.
I think those of us who don’t get the chance to go on all those fancy trips should remember that the people behind the photos may not have the perfect, awe-inspiring lives we think they do. Their feed may look pristine and exotic but behind the scenes they may be dealing with trials we can’t see. The photos from Honolulu might be beautiful but they may be hiding a broken marriage, abuse or addiction.
And the woman who is on her tenth trip in the year to somewhere exotic may post all those photos because every day she’s pushing down the gnawing fear that she’s going to end up alone. Those trips may be a way to cover up a fracture in her family. Perhaps the woman laying on the beach in a bikini on her social media faced a situation in her life that turned her world upside down so now she’s decided life’s too short not to experience everything she can in her remaining years. Maybe she’s just spent her entire savings on that trip simply to forget about the sadness at home.
In other words, while we (I) shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, we (I) also shouldn’t judge the person behind the Instagram feed by the photos they share.
But back to my Instagram (Me! Me! Me! . . . Just kidding.) I’m not sure what I want to do with it anymore. Like I said, I like posting fun photos of the kids or artistic images I take, but really, I could care less if strangers online know about my personal life so I don’t know if I will be posting much more on Instagram. If I do, I don’t think I’ll be using hashtags to draw more attention to them. I’ll share them for any friends or family who follow me or for any online friends I’ve made.
How about you? Are you an Instagram user or follower? What’s your motivation for using it? For fun? Business? Simple connection? Or validation? None of those reasons are actually bad – they’re just real. Let me know in the comments.
(And yes, I’m sharing photos in this post. For validation? Actually, no. I added photos to this post because my posts have been really bland lately and need some sprucing up.)