I am a late adopter when it comes to Instagram. I shied away from signing up because I am a lousy photographer and I don’t think to take photos. It’s not instinctual to whip out my phone to capture the moment, being of the generation that used cameras to take photos, phones came with a cord, and time was what you looked at your wrist to find out.
I was also very reluctant to join up because, absurdly, I feared my whole life would have to go on show and I’d have to expose the gap between my professed goal of living a design-driven and minimal life and my actual, messy, mismatched and uncoordinated life. Instagram more than Facebook seems to be the place where your life has to be curated and you’re under obligation to meet some impossible standard.
All of which is rubbish of course. I never post anything to Instagram, but I enjoy following other people most of whom, it turns out, are photographers. There’s no requirement to post, and I’ve enjoyed being presented with a string of images that show me parts of the world I’ll never see in the flesh (penguins under the ice in Antartica).
I tend to steer away from the accounts that promote a curated lifestyle. Not that they aren’t beautiful to look at and the inspiration can be very welcome. But ultimately they depress me. As humans we attempt to make sense of everything by looking for patterns, joining the dots, and therefore we fill in the missing parts. What we don’t see in a curated feed is the messiness of real life – random papers we tidied away before taking the photo, taking out the garbage in our slippers, the three failed attempts before we got a batch of instagrammable cookies.
For those of us living alone, Instagram can also breed social inferiority. “Acceptable” pictures typically involve obvious social gaiety – parties, glasses of wine, several people crammed into the frame obviously having a good time. It’s not particularly interesting to look at a photo of someone sitting in a chair reading, alone, even if that is their (my) definition of a good time.
None of this is to blame Instagram. It’s a great platform for photo sharing. It’s my choice who I follow and what I look at. It’s important to me, though, to keep in mind that what I’m seeing is just a snapshot of someone’s life, and only the best parts. Holding up my life to an Instagram standard is a recipe for dissatisfaction.