"Will you take a picture of us?" Implied: take 37 pictures. "I think I like this one best." Implied: we look the best and like we are having the most fun. "Which edit should I use?" Implied: it needs to fit my Instagram theme. "What should the caption be?" Contemplates caption for hours. Five hours, or maybe even days later, it’s posted. One like, two likes, three likes… fifty-seven likes… three hundred twenty-nine likes. Yes! New personal best.
With thoughts like these running through nearly everyone’s mind these days, it seems as if we are living in a world focused around appearance and popularity on social media. There is a constant need to post—a constant need to prove your life is the best. While this happens on all social media platforms, Instagram poses the greatest threat to being present in our lives, because the goal of a perfect Instagram ruins our ability to see and enjoy actual moments.
There are over 700 million users on Instagram today, and about 95 million posts flood user feeds everyday. With so many posts, there is constantly something new to look at and compare our lives to. This is dangerous. No matter what event we are attending, there always seem to be a need to publicly document our attendance. Instead of enjoying being with friends, or taking in the culture of a different country, we tend to focus on the pictures.
Every moment is idealized on Instagram because we post only the best. This has created a contagious effect among followers, with each person posting to create an illusion of a certain lifestyle. The process of taking pictures to post and portray the desired lifestyle is the problem. We watch our lives through a camera. Watching fireworks through our Boomerang app, or taking 37 ‘candid’ photos on top of a mountain is more important to us than appreciating the spectacular views in front of us.
We waste more time away from our present moment as we compulsively edit and brood over captions. Before we know it, the event is over and we missed it all because a single post on Instagram seemed incredibly important. Once all the likes are in and we’ve reached our personal best, the moment has already become stale and meaningless. There are few memories to associate with the picture because taking the photo and editing it consumed us instead.
Social media is increasingly woven more and more into the fabric of society and nearly impossible to escape, especially for students our age. Checking and posting on Instagram is apart of my daily routine, so I too am guilty of allowing a focus on filters or captions to diminish my experiences. However, I think it is important to be aware of and challenge this phenomenon, and take time to immerse in life, as well as the technology that surrounds us.