Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Instagram - A Social Media Haven?

Like many people, I have had the moment where I have turned my back on Facebook. I’ve given up on being so connected, frustrated at how difficult it is to sit through anything without the unthinking reflex of a diversionary scroll through what people I have met at parties or old jobs are up to..

But in the past, my freedom from Facebook has only ever lasted for a few weeks. I’ve always been back, digital tail between my legs, tentatively liking "status" update about something funny my nephew has done.

This time, however, I’ve cracked it. It was almost inadvertent. Tired of my phone constantly running out of space for very important photos of my dog, I read a memory-saving recommendation that suggested deleting the hefty Facebook app. It was the clean break that I needed. Now, I check it, on my laptop, once or twice a day. I no longer get notifications. I don’t spend hours scrolling all the way down, because on the browser, it’s too easy to accidentally like a holiday snap from a school-friend you haven’t spoken to since 2001, and that is as creepy as it's mortifying.

Mostly, though, I don’t miss regular Facebook because it has become so exhausting in its incessant, vein-popping rage. Twitter, which was entertaining and useful for a bit, is even more apoplectic, a cesspit of political panic, celebrities apologizing for any offence caused, celebrities saying outrageous things for attention and millions of people furiously calling each other stupid. Social media is becoming more of a grind than a pleasure, and more confusing than it is informative.

The website Lifehacker ran a story this week that praised “the gentle respite of Instagram”. Yes, I thought. I get it. That’s the one place left. The one haven of pleasantries where people can post pictures of a pink mottled sky, or a double rainbow, or a gurgling baby pulling a sweet face, and where other people don’t respond by calling them twats, or idiots, or showoffs. These tiny moments of online kindness seem all the more essential the more scarce they become. Instagram is funny, too, like Twitter used to be. Mostly I follow accounts that poke surreal fun at celebrities and are camper than a drag queen at the bingo, but the ones that do it best, such as OfficialSeanPenn (nothing to do with actual Sean Penn), make me laugh in the same way that seeing a whip-smart standup might.

What really makes it work, though, is that I’ve set it to private. Most people I know have done the same. Everyone has their reasons for doing this, or not, but for me, it was because I can’t imagine anyone but my friends and family will want to see endless pictures of my dog looking like she’s smiling (most of my friends don’t want to see it either, but with one or two exceptions, they are too polite to mention it). It’s mundane and nice, and what a relief that is. This is specific to me being an adult, I know – for teenagers, the pressure to get likes, to angle the camera a certain way, can be crushing, and in younger friends the need to keep up appearances' is clear – but in my relative grownupness, I feel secure in posting a picture of a gnarled tree that looked spooky and knowing that if anyone thinks it’s dreary, at least I won’t hear about it.

To scroll through Instagram, carefully curated and gated off, is indeed a respite. So why do I keep thinking of that scene towards the end of the high-school classic Mean Girls, an essential film for our times and all times, where the vicious, warring teenage girls are asked to publicly apologize to each other? It’s the girl who’s there for comic relief, who chokes up as she wishes they could all just get along. “I wish I could bake a cake made out of rainbows and smiles and we could all be happy,” she says. She doesn’t even go to the school. She just has a lot of feelings.

There are times when I think Instagram has turned us into that girl. We all know about the online echo chamber. Of course it is dangerous to only see your own view reflected back at you. Of course that makes political events all the more shocking, if they do not go your way. To rope everything off, to choose to only engage with things that make you feel good, can seem like giving up, and now, more than ever, apathy cannot be the way of the world.

We live in an age of no subtlety, of stark polemics, where grey areas are shouted down by the loudest voices, where everything is forced into being either/or. But often it doesn’t work that way.

Guest Authored By Rebecca Nicholson. Rebecca is an Freelance Writer. She writes for The Guardian, Sunday Times among others. Follow Rebecca on Twitter.

I enjoy scrolling through Instagram because it feels like a break, and if its portrait of life is a rosy one, then surely we deserve that, sometimes.

I don’t stop reading the news just because I’ve also liked a picture of a band drunkenly celebrating the end of their first tour or a new couple looking happy on a holiday.

A whole cake made of rainbows and smiles is sickly, of course, but one slice every now and then doesn’t do any harm.." -Rebecca Nicholson

    • Authored by:
      Fred Hansen Pied Piper of Social Media Marketing at GetMoreHere.com & CEO of Millennium 7 Publishing Co. in Loveland, Colorado. I work deep in the trenches of social media strategy, community management and trends.  My interests include; online business educator, social media marketing, new marketing technology, skiing, hunting, fishing and The Rolling Stones..-Not necessarily in that order ;)
    Follow Me Yonder..                     Instagram

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