Greg Heil | 8:54 PM
As a social media professional, I am constantly using these tools, as well as contemplating the ways that the general public uses them and interacts with them. And for some reason, the way Instagram users are using the platform is getting a bad rap lately.
Specifically, I would like to respond to this article from Relevant Magazine: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/culture/tech/stop-instagramming-your-perfect-life To begin, I’d like to mention that I agree with what I take to be the author’s main point: “I don’t think you can build transforming friendships that take place only in a public sphere like Facebook or Instagram.” I take this point as a given, and as a matter of common sense. Perhaps for some people this isn’t common sense, in which case I would refer you to the previously-mentioned article. However, I do take issue with the way the author tries to make that point.
The author’s strategy seems to be essentially this: “everyone posts pictures of their “perfect” lives to Instagram, and when you get on Instagram and see that your life isn’t so perfect, then you get envious of someone else’s life. But in reality, life isn’t so perfect, so stop posting Instagram photos of your perfect life.” (My paraphrase.) The catch-line for the article, as you can see from the URL, is indeed “Stop Instagramming Your Perfect Life.”
Let me be blunt here: of course everyone posts their best moments to Instagram! What would you have them do, post their worst moments?
Let’s think about how this would go down, for just a minute:
I took a massive dump this morning. Maybe this is a proud moment in my life… but even then, should I post that to Instagram?
A few friends are driving down the highway, and are hit by a drunk driver. There’s blood everywhere, and one of the friends loses a limb. Should we post that to Instagram?
A dog is beaten by its owner, starved, and mistreated for years. Would you Instagram a photo of that dog?
A family is torn apart by divorce, leaving damaged lives in its wake and kids that will never fully recover. Are you going to be posting snapshots from the court room?
A child’s father loses his jaw, thanks to mouth cancer. Would you be Instagramming that new portrait?
Someone is drowning in debt, and struggling to get out. The mental weight of that stress is taking a tremendous toll. Besides the fact that it’d be hard to get a picture of such mental anguish, would you share this on social media?
A family can’t pay the bills, can’t keep the electricity on, and can’t put food on the table three times a day… maybe once, if the kids are lucky. Are you going to be Instagramming that dark mobile home and the empty plates?
An uncle rapes his little niece for years, and no one knows about it until it’s way too late. Does that belong on Instagram?
These atrocious circumstances happen to people all over the world, and in our cities and our neighborhoods, every day. Life is dirty, life is profane, and there are sick, perverse people out there. But life is also beautiful.
I think that Instagram is about finding the beauty in the everyday moments of life, and sharing those beautiful moments with your friends and the rest world. And I think that is a laudable goal, one that should be encouraged, not discouraged.
While the author of the Relevant Magazine article might be right, and some Instagram users are willfully trying to construct a false persona of perfection, that characterization hardly represents every single person on Instagram. I would go so far as to assert that the people thus characterized are probably a small minority. Think back to all of the horrible situations mentioned above: with the millions of users on Instagram (you can expand this statement to Facebook and other social media outlets as well), chances are there are users out there dealing with every single one of the issues listed above, and more. But when they choose to take a snapshot of a delicious meal, of friends hanging out at the park, of a gorgeous sunset, or of a mountain vista, those people dealing with impossible situations are showing that they still see the beauty in life, the good in life, the light in the world. There is so much darkness and sickness and sadness, but there is light and happiness as well.
As an ancient text says, "the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it."