November 28, 2012

Instagram Or, The Moment I Officially Became Too Old For Technology

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It was 5th grade, and like any happening young man who was becoming interested in the ladies, I needed to buy the soundtrack to Cocktail. You know, the Tom Cruise movie where he spins bottles, acts tough, and doesn’t seem at all like a guy who believes our bodies are actually filled with the souls of space aliens. It was my birthday party that weekend, and I knew that the chicks would want to hear Cocktail. Not the whole album really, just “Kokomo.” Kokomo is a Beach Boys tune with lyrics that are essentially just a list of Caribbean locations: “Aruba, Bahamas, come on, Pretty Mamas. Key Largo, Montego…”. Basically it’s like someone reading an Atlas aloud, but with bongos in the background. And in 5th grade, a party was just not a party without “Kokomo.” So I sauntered over to the Beach Boys section at the local Strawberries, ready to grab Cocktail and win the heart of all the foxiest 10-year-old babes, when I made a shocking discovery. There were not just cassette tapes in front of me, but Strawberries had started selling compact discs too! Yikes. I was hoping to avoid this. CDs weren’t new, really — friends had them, my sisters had them, even my mom had them, but technology then, just as it does now, made me uncomfortable. “Sure these discs are hot today, but who knows if they’ll be around tomorrow? Don’t trust ‘em,” I muttered to myself, in my 10-year-old Larry King way. So I grabbed a tape, hit the cash register, and marched off to what I was sure would be the birthday of my dreams. 

I don’t remember how the party went (I probably scored), but my attitude towards technology has stayed the same. I am not what you would call an early adopter. I was the last guy to convert to DVDs, to buy a cellphone, and to get an HDTV. I still don’t understand how to get pictures off my digital camera, and I’m not entirely sure whether Mp3 is a music file or a boy band with annoying haircuts. Worst of all, I am currently writing an eBook without actually understanding what an eBook is. Seriously. The other day, when talking to my Thought Catalog editor about the possibility, the following conversation transpired.

Brian: I’m interested. But, can you tell me exactly what an eBook is?

Editor: Sure, do you have an eReader?

Brian: No. I have a Kindle. It sends me books from Amazon.

Editor: That’s an eReader.

Brian: Oh…OK. So what are eBooks?

Editor:…The books that you read on it.

Brian: I see. I’m an idiot, aren’t I?

Editor: (Politely declined to respond.)

But I’ve tried to step up my technology game, I really have. I’m great at Twitter, I’ve recently learned how to stream Netflix movies on my Xbox, and my cat is trying to teach me how to Skype. But Instagram, Instagram is where I draw the line. It’s not that I don’t like it, believe me this isn’t one of those “Instagram sucks” columns. If you type the words “I Hate In” into Google, the first option that comes up is “I hate Instagram,” so we don’t need another one of those. It’s just that I genuinely don’t get it. I understand what people do with it, they take pictures of sunsets, and french fries, and themselves looking as attractive as possible, but I don’t get why anyone cares. I’ve seen french fries. They’re lovely, lovely creatures. But I don’t understand why anyone needs to see your picture of them. Or my picture of them. With a weird filter that makes them look sort of like sweet potato fries, and sort of like human fingers. It just… doesn’t make sense to me.

I think I’ve hit my ceiling. The point where technology has surpassed what my brain can comprehend. It happens to everyone. For my parents, it’s texting. You send them a text message and they throw their phone away because they don’t understand why it’s asking them intrusive questions like what they want for Christmas. I have friends who won’t tweet, and others who can’t comprehend why anyone would want Facebook in their lives. For me, it’s Instagram. It exceeds my level of human comprehension. I’ve done an informal survey, to try to understand the appeal that internet’s great list of pictures has to its devotees, and I’ve gotten a lot of interesting answers. “It’s how I check my hair in the morning” was one. “It’s like Twitter, but without having to read” was another. Admittedly, I probably should’ve talked to smarter people. But the best response I got was this: “I use Instagram to show everyone how much fun I’m having.” And that makes sense. A little unsavory perhaps, but honest. And I get that. “Here’s a picture of this awesome food I’m eating/shirt I’m wearing/sunset I’m only slightly digitally enhancing.” I see why that works for people. And I also see why it doesn’t work for me. Because, let’s be honest, bragging about having so much fun isn’t a need I often have. I mean come on, I own the soundtrack to Cocktail. On cassette. How crazy a guy can I be? TC mark

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