Have you fallen victim to the Instagram clichés?
Have you ever gone and done something just to Instagram it? Have you ever stopped dead in the middle of the street because it had to be in your Snap Story for the day? We’re all a little guilty, whether we like it or not, of feeding into our online personas. Hell, some people even make a living off of it. Take every single fashion or lifestyle blogger ever for example. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it–– everybody deserves to document their life in their own right–– but this is simply a glance at the value of perception that has been created in the modern age.
To be absolutely clear, there is no disrespect to living this way. It’s practically all of us. This is basically targeting how I live and breathe. So who better to look at it critically than someone so immersed in the Insta-image? The focus is making our lives look #OnFleek… even if they’re not. Thai photographer, Chompoo Baritone, recently did a photo series on what happens behind Instagram photos that got me thinking about the obsession with social media image.
Recently, I caught myself glancing down into a tin of over-baked muffins, wondering which angles could best hide my shame. To be fair, this was my first attempt at baking muffins, and my first attempt at baking anything in a toaster oven (ah, the college life). On a passing glance, these looked like a pretty solid baked good. The tops were… muffin-ish, and the burning on the sides really only looked like shadows–– when being viewed from a window-lit, overhead perspective.
So I grabbed my phone and took my flatlay, placing the tin of dry delights ever-so-candidly on the perfect wood table. No one would know. No one could know. Because no one, so help me god, was going to touch these picture-perfect culinary disasters. It garnered a good sixty-something likes on Instagram; my “accomplishment” for that day. I’m sure more than sixty people looked at it that day, but maybe some didn’t like muffins (monsters), or perhaps they could totally see through my bullshit.
When I say “the modern age”, I don’t mean that these ideals have never mattered. Perceptions have always been a preoccupation in society; the way one looks, acts, dresses, lives. It’s been of importance for as long as we’ve documented. But the recent technologies–– Instagram, Snapchat, Tinder–– have forced us to develop this odd fixation on looking like we’re living in the moment and looking like we’ve got our shit together.
But when you think about that #SQUADGOALS #FOODPORN #NONEWFRIENDS excellently-filtered picture of a bunch of cute drinks, enviable meals and accessories from the group to ‘personalize’ it… it’s just a bunch of people with their phones hovering over their dinner, in a silently understood battle for a perfectly grammable shot. And then, of course, the food gets cold adding filters because honestly if you’re using Valencia, I can’t use Valencia. (Just kidding. Who uses Valencia in 2015?)
When it comes to our social media image, honesty isn’t the best policy. Would you rather see a picture of someone’s unfolded laundry and messy floor, or the well-placed magazines and books they’re not actually reading on their bed? Why is it that we can’t show the truth–– or more rightly, why is it that we don’t want to look at the truth? When did photographic idealism leave the pages of magazines and advertisements and end up a fixture in our personal lives? Our little glimpses into the lives of others is barely a glimpse at all; we curate, touch up, crop, filter our “moments” so much that when they’re finally posted, are they our moments at all?
“A good lie finds more believers than a bad truth.” – German proverb, according to my few seconds on Google. That is true, isn’t it? We gain likes and followers the more attractive our pictures are. We get more right swipes the better we look, the wittier our profile, how ‘fun’ we look. Whether or not it’s all true to life is barely a question anymore. We get positive feedback on the visual content produced, not the real story. Does it all tie in to how we behave when it comes to things that aren’t traditionally pleasing? When someone asks you how you’re doing, do you give “fine” as an answer so they’ll accept it and move on? So they’ll ‘like’ your answer and keep scrolling?
There’s no harm in taking nice pictures of nice things. If you like something, if you want to remember something, if you want to share something–– by all means, snap it. Just because I’ve sat down and thought critically on the subject doesn’t mean I’m going to stop posting my meals, my selfies, my #baes. The idea isn’t to criticize, but to think critically. Perhaps there is a need to find peace with more vulnerability and less perception perfection… on and off screen.
Article and images by Megan Breukelman