The alluring and perilous nature of #instagram

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They say that if you do not capture a moment or an experience through a photograph it is as if it never happened. What is more, if you do not share that same photograph on social media with a gazillion hashtags to accompany it, then it sure is lost in the cloud of time. Does this mean we only lead meaningful lives if other people know about them or if the virtual world can see for itself? Let us hope that we are not as frivolous and if people out there think that is the case, then they need to reconsider if they are living for themselves or for others. A couple of days back I came across an article about this young woman who photoshopped photos of her summer in Southeast Asia – is it because she wanted to project an image of an enviable lifestyle or to give the impression to people who knew her in the virtual world that she had an interesting life? Are we really so scared of coming across as boring people with uneventful lives? Looking back on my own experiences in Asia I am so glad to have had, I realise that at that moment I was not concerned with ‘capturing the moment’ because that that would have meant fumbling around for my iPhone, snapping the photo, switching on the 3G (which would have probably cost an eye due to some of the locations) and then waiting for the photo to load (good reception permitting). Consequently, that would have meant tarnishing the moment, or worst still, reneging on ‘living’ the moment. It does not mean, however, that I did not take any memorable photos (I used the traditional DSLR for that) – it means that the photo opportunities came at a point where I could have afforded to snap away. Yet it still did not occur to me to go public with what I deemed a very personal and special experience. Incidentally, I did try to go with the flow when I was in Italy and post some photos on Instagram, just because I felt like doing it I guess. More often, I’d much rather meet people face-to-face and tell them about my journeys. If they would care to listen that is. Luckily most of the people in my life are of the latter inclination.

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However, this is not always the case with a restless generation of people who prefer looking at an image for a millisecond and reading the caption that goes with it. I admit, the power of an image is irrefutable and does not necessitate the viewers to use their imagination, or in more extreme cases, look up the place for themselves. The power of Instagram is also something to mull over. What does it say about the times we live in, this alluring yet perilous social media platform? It is alluring because we can share our joys, sorrows, good news, bad news, mundane trivialities and obviously mesmerising travel locations. Hurray for the freedom of visual expression and originality where everyone with a smartphone hosting Instagram is an instant photographer! Simultaneously, it is perilous because we can become addicted to it. After spending a few minutes scrolling down the ‘photo feed’ we would have absorbed so many different images, taken in so many different lifestyles, and read about so many different highs and lows of people’s lives that once off it we are tempted to feel empty, confused and inexorably wondering why our life is not peppered with such multifarious experiences. If you feel this, just hang on a second and ask yourself, ‘Is this the case?’ and the answer is NO! We do not need to feel all of the above, what is now also partly known as FOMO (fear of missing out). We should be mature and reasonable enough, and most importantly, honest with ourselves to admit that everyone’s life is meaningful and that comparisons are hideous. We should not be concerned that our ‘followers’ on Instagram or our ‘friends’ on Facebook think we lead a hollow kernel of a life if we do not post on these platforms. Let them think what they want and just live your life as you will!

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p.s. If I feel like it, I will share a post with you on what I have been up to this summer in lieu of my absence on Instagram. I guess that all things considered I will try ingratiate myself more with this popular habit of instagramming one’s life (I even have another two apps that are related to Instagram!) although it will be fits and starts, and will be a form of self-expression rather than the need for self-validation. I am not a technological dinosaur, in case you were wondering, but it is just that I need to find a point in doing it more often. Perhaps my blogging persona will push me to be more adventurous in this field, if only because I inserted an Instagram widget in my blog as well, so in a way it makes me partly duty bound to add interesting-looking snaps!

p.p.s. Frankly, many of the photos will be in contradiction of the ‘instant’ concept; so judge me not if they are #instalater (not that I care). In the offchance that you do mock and tell, then maybe your instant snaps and experiences are so ‘unremarkable’ and ‘vapid’ that you feel you ought to validate them as being special by transposing them to Instagram  :p

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