The crack-cocaine of photography, Instagram develops paranoia then euphoria in users. Yuppie addicts spend hours agonizing over which image to shoot, caption to burn, and filter to inject. Then, they slowly drift away into a haze of fleeting social affirmation fueled by cheap digital likes and trite comments.
The free mobile app hit the streets in 2010 as a way “to capture and share the World’s moments.” Simply addictive, it allows users to post a picture in just three clicks and infuse filler substance into every insignificant moment of life.
Now a viral epidemic, it enslaves 300 million users globally who have all become numb to a non-digital reality. But it’s time for an intervention, because honestly, no one really cares what your brunch looked like. The addiction’s gotta stop.
Posting Pics Like Popping Molly
An anti-social, social network, the program feeds an unhealthy habit. Viewing the world through our smartphones, this generation’s been pointing and clicking and posting in pursuit of instant online gratification from a removed mobile community. And while we develop slick pictures, our relationships with family and friends unravel in front of us.
In the past, photography pulled an artist into the subject. One had to identify each element of design before the shutter clicked. Instagram requires that same concentration but after the picture has already been captured. On Instagram, the post-production decisions surpass subject matter.
So while you were getting artsy trying to find the perfect filter and clever caption for that picture of your girl drinking espresso, your own coffee and your hot date were cooling.
More than annoying, Instagram users view their world through a single lens, searching for objects with a sharable quality. But every mundane moment doesn’t need to be filtered into an online masterpiece. Small pleasures mean the most when enjoyed in and of themselves. That cup of coffee tastes best when you just drink it, and moments become meaningful when you actually make the effort to remember them. Sunsets and first steps should be seen as opportunities for lasting memories not photo-shoots.
It’s hard to over-estimate the problem. Over half of young Americans with a smart phone use the app and many choose to record their lives with a detail traditionally reserved for historical documentaries. Today there are almost a billion selfies permanently recorded on Instagram. That’s more duck faces stockpiled online than war photos stored in the National Archives.
Pics Or It Didn’t Happen
We’re the selfie generation. Instagram’s our vice. And we’re the worst. At least mythical Narcissus had the decency to drown. Our generation just enables each other’s self-addiction in the loathing hopes of reciprocal validation of vanity. After all, we’re not taking photos to commemorate. We’re doing it to compete.
Every picture always tells a story, and on Instagram, you’re either winning or losing. It’s about constructing a photo-shopped persona to advertise our own excellence. Post a pic of your Caribbean vacation, get some likes, maybe a few comments, and you’re doing all right. But the inverse is also true. If your weekend exhibit doesn’t pull down enough attention, it must not have been worth sharing.
Sure recreational Instagram use can be responsible. But it’s rare. My girl Instagrams. Sometimes, I wish she didn’t. At risk of sounding like a Hallmark Card, often the worst pictures turn out the best. The sweat pants, hair-tied, no make-up on memories, those are the ones worth capturing.
Hopefully no one takes this wrong. I don’t meant to be another Luddite, standing athwart this app shouting stop—just more of a murmuring voice urging caution. So take selfies but do it on the first take. Share a quick snap from the beach, then quickly burry your phone in the sand. When our profile pictures finally wrinkle and gray in old age, we will want real memories not more generic, duck faced photos.
It’s time to get clean. It’s time to unfilter our lives.
Philip Wegmann is a Staff Writer and the Radio Producer for The Federalist. Follow him on Twitter.