Imagine you’re on a warm beach in the Caribbean on the vacation you painstakingly saved up for and have been anxiously awaiting for months. However, instead of relaxing and enjoying the sun and clear blue water, you’re searching around and racking your brain to piece together the perfect frame for a photo, much like a professional photographer would. Only once you achieve your desired shot, you won’t be paid money for your hard work like a real photographer, you’ll instead suffice to be paid in arbitrary likes from friends and strangers on the internet who glanced at your carefully crafted image for a mere seconds before double tapping it in approval. You’ve reduced your much sought after vacation into an opportunity to impress followers you may not know personally. That’s the problem with Instagram. It causes people to put their lives on hold in attempt to snag an aesthetically pleasing photo of the potentially “cool” thing they are doing in that exact moment in time.
At any given dance club on a Friday night, bright flashes of light occasionally appear and blind people around them whose eyes have grown accustomed to the dark lighting of the trendy bar. This was done by someone in the hopes of snagging an envy inducing photo of their squad enjoying a night on the town. Before Instagram, bar hoppers used to have a designated photo shoot in their living room before they left for their drinking establishment of choice, but the app has raised the bar for pictures on their site. The backdrop of the shot is now just as important as its subjects, and the right ambience can make or break the amount of likes a user earns. These photo ops can often bring a crowded bar to a standstill as the picture is being taken.
Instagram users are not the only people affected by this concerning phenomenon, bystanders in the vicinity of the perfect ‘gram seeker often fall victim to their lives being interrupted as well. They may freeze out of politeness so as not to intrude on someone’s shot and ruin it with their uninvited presence. So he or she can be in the snap themselves, the Instagrammer may even ask a stranger to take a picture of their desired subject, often multiple times, depending on how the first few takes come out.
After an exhausting night posing at the bar, it’s time for brunch. You base your order on what you think will yield the best Instagram picture. Plain pancakes? Not photogenic or particularly interesting, even though you’ve been craving them. A colorful, Southwestern omelette on the other hand will look great next to your friend’s ham, egg and cheese on a bagel, framed of course by your bubbly mimosas. You ignore the fact that you detest green peppers.
When the food finally comes, you arrange it in just the right position to display all its delicious contents while trying to push your debilitating hunger out of your mind for a little longer. This will only take a minute, anyway.
Now you’re at a concert. Your favorite band that you’ve been waiting ages to see live finally makes an appearance in your town for a performance. Your seat in the giant stadium isn’t great, you’re a few levels up from the stage because you couldn’t afford the arm and a leg price for floor seats. You look around as the headliner starts playing their signature song and see the stadium aglow from the backlight of all the audience members’ phones, desperately trying to record their favorite song in action. In fact, at times you can’t even see the stage with all the phones raised in the air in front of your face in attempt to get their best shot of the performer, blocking your view. You’ve seen plenty of these videos already on Instagram from concerts people you follow have attended and tried to capture. They never turn out good. The bright lights illuminating the stage make it impossible to see the artist’s face properly on camera and the screams from concert goers around them drown out any discernible sound of the music.
This desperate Instagram seeking may not seem that disruptive once in awhile, but the sheer volume the social media site has reached has made it a common occurrence to look around you at any given point in your day and see people taking pictures of random scenes, hoping to achieve a post-worthy shot. A lot of these people are now living their life through Valencia filtered lenses, not experiencing special occasions or even mundane daily tasks with their own eyes alone, in fear of not being ready to capture the next viral image when it pops up. Put the phone down more often during pivotal moments and actually feel the truly unfiltered version of an experience without worrying about how your life appears to online entities and you will gain more vivid memories that will mean more to you in years to come than any number of likes on Instagram.