The Instagram Generation

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

So, this was a photo I posted on my Instagram about a week ago, and it's here because it's probably a photo of mine that best reflects what people enjoy posting on Instagram nowadays - nice food, a "good" book (that may just be a title that's widely accepted as being "good") but more so, a photographic manifestation of a good life, not forgetting a filter to beautify everything. And I believe it's not just me who posts little squares of my life in photos online - almost everyone I know of around my age; perhaps even younger or older - owns their own Instagram account. We are the Instagram generation and there's no denying that. 

In our society, almost everyone owns a smartphone and walking around, you'll be able to see people who are Instagram-ing on the go. In quaint little hipster caf├ęs, you'll see people standing up just to take multiple top-down shots of their food, in bid to find that one perfect shot; on the streets, you'll see people stopping to take photos of the sunset; and almost everywhere, you'll see people whipping out their front cameras to take selfies - quite a sight to behold if one time traveled from the past to witness all these. 

Truth be told, I've been wanting to write about Instagram since last year and most of my initial thoughts centered around how this social media platform was so unhealthy and promoted unrealistic portrayals of one's life which just served to further aggravate one's insecurities when they compare themselves to others. Everyone just seeks to post the best and most aesthetic sides of their lives here, and in fact my previous profile description used to be "a false representation of my life". To add to that, support can be garnered in an instant and one's popularity could be determined almost immediately via the number of likes one receives on a particular photograph. I had wanted to slam myself for being a hypocrite because while I had such opinions, I was part of this group of people who encouraged such a lifestyle. 

Just look at me and I'll admit it - I can't live without Instagram, now that I've started. To date, I have 676 posts, 770 followers and I follow 516 people's lives in tiny squares. While I enjoy scrolling through my feed and liking almost all of these posts, I have to admit that I do giggle (and maybe judge) a bit, thinking about what went into the making of the photograph - the positioning of items and just looking silly trying to get a shot from all angles. I judge myself as well, though - for the photograph at the start of this post, I took the strawberries from the fridge just for the photograph and put it back afterwards, I wasn't reading the book at that point of time, and the popcorn didn't really taste as good as it looked. I go through all these just to present a false representation of my life. But well, was this really false? Perhaps it's more so of an optimistic version of my life, and not entirely a lie. 

So yesterday, one of my favourite Youtube channels, Shots of Awe, released a video (the one above) that was inspired by an article with a quote by Professor Daniel Kahneman that reads: "The 'Instagram Generation' now experiences the present as an anticipated memory" and I was half expecting that it would talk about how we focus too much on capturing the moment than actually living it, which definitely has been an area of concern among many. 

Instead, it provides an alternative perspective that I personally have never considered - with Instagram and cameras, we now live with the idea that our experiences have to be something that will be reflected upon later in the form of photographs, in this case, and that these are things that we look back upon in future. As such, we are therefore the creators of how our own past looks, we end up being the ones who decide how our life is being remembered, and of course, most people would want it to look amazing, which leads to all the filters and effects and camera angles. Of course, the performance philosopher in the video Jason Silva puts across this point a lot more coherently than how I just did. 

I honestly think this is a pretty nice thought though I'm not sure if I can fully agree with it. Perhaps I'm just finding excuses for my over reliance of Instagram, which is pretty sad and pathetic. I must admit, as superficial as this may sound - and it's true, I'm innately really frivolous - as a social media site, Instagram has made me feel great senses of satisfaction and affirmation in the form of likes and comments and shallow social banter. There is a feel-good effect to it too, especially when I post things related to social advocacy or even encouraging photographs, in bid to spur others on because I feel like I'm doing good, when in actual fact I may not even care for the people around me (not saying I don't, but there is always that possibility).

Of course, I do still enjoy using Instagram and I don't think I'd be stopping anytime soon. I don't know, but I feel like I've been questioning my motivations for doing a lot of things recently, and my usage of Instagram is one of them. It's crazy, how little I seem to know about myself now. 

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