Why I can’t seem to get myself back on Instagram

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.

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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.

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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.)

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My bedspread is not white | Athens, Pennsylvania Photographer

When I look at Instagram this is the impression I get: 
Every photographer owns white bedspreads in rooms with white walls and white ceilings, perfect for angelic photos of their blue eyed, blond, curly haired babies sleeping while wearing homemade neutral colored sweaters or magazine worthy pajamas on a furry blanket.
Every photographer has hardwood floors, perfect for capturing the reflections of their solemn faced cherub, sitting in a stream of light with their teddy bear/doll/dog/cat/sibling/something cute or cuddly and oh so photogenic.
Every photographer lives behind the most amazing forrest known to man and everyday beautiful light streams through the trees and on to a soft bed of leaves where the photographers little girl spins in a white dress because white denotes perfection and purism and all things good and holy in the photography world.
Don’t forget the home of a photographer is spotless, their children are spotless and well behaved and when they come to photograph your family you will appear the same way.
Everyone will see your photos and know how lily white perfect your family is. Not how real they are but how pretty they can look in front of a camera.
Yes, you’re reading a lot of snark in my words. Maybe because I’ve been a quiet observer of the photography world for a long time and have become a bit disenchanted with the way photographers like to recreate reality and then get very twisted up inside of their reality does not look like their Instagram feed. Maybe it’s because I had become that photographer and this year I want to disengage from the photography world and capture authenticity. 
My house is dirty. My kids are dirty.
I have one off white bedspread my parents gave me and I rarely put it on my bed; no reason why, I just forget I have it. My bedroom walls have horrid brown panels and there isn’t one big, beautiful window casting light on to the bed, the clean children or the hardwood floor. If there was any white in this house my children would have already marked it up or I would have already spilled something on it or my aging dog would have already peed on it.
I’m not rambling about all this to condemn photographers for showcasing pretty pictures of their lives. I understand Instagram and Facebook and blogs are only a snippet of a person’s real life. Those photographers can do what they want. I just prefer not to be one of those photographers. Then again “those photographers” may really have pretty white walls and bedspreads and their lives might actually be that sunny all the time. If it is then that’s what they should showcase because that is their real life. It’s just not mine. 
I’m almost 40.
The last four years of my life have turned me upside down and shook most of my insides out and I’ve shoved myself back together and I’m not who I once was. Every day I care less and less and less about what others think of me or what others think I should do or be.
Dr. Seuss said it best “I’m me and there is no one else I’d rather be”.
What a freeing feeling when you no longer see a well lit, white washed view of life and think it has to be your own; when you realize life creates scars that you didn’t ask for, didn’t deserve and that you aren’t alone in not being perfect.
Here is my goal from now on: photograph what I see, perfectly beautiful moments or not. I plan to capture real life and if that real life makes someone a bit uncomfortable or makes them turn away because they don’t see a world of white and sun, and perfect smiles then  I’m ok with that because I’m photographing for me, not for perfection.