I personally think the Mona Lisa looks better with #nofilter, but maybe that is because I actually looked at her. She looks ok in Black and White, but the “Rise” filter on Instagram definitely washes her out. In reality, the Mona Lisa is considered one of the most disappointing tourist attractions, but that can change with fifty likes on Instagram. I know serious thought goes into this, because why pay to go to the Louvre if you can’t get a good shot of Mona? Most of the people standing in front of this historic piece of work do not even look at her, they snap a picture and go, which I found a common act at many tourist attractions. After traveling Europe for four months, I realized that the culture I learned the most about was the one involving social-media. I am now convinced that Instagram has not only altered how we spend our time, but has started to dictate the decisions we make.
Just what we need, more distractions. It was enough of a distraction when I went with my family to Europe ten years ago with our new digital camera and camcorder. That was my first experience seeing what a photo looked like immediately after it was taken, the beginning of our hunger for instant gratification. This was the first time I realized that while our technology was moving quickly, it was also slowing us down. If we didn’t look good in front of the Coliseum, we could take the picture again and again and again, until it was perfect. Only because with this advancement in technology, could we delete and delete and delete. And then edit mildly to show a few family members who expressed interest about our trip. I feel bad for the five-hundred people out there who weren’t able to subscribe to those three weeks where we were #blessed to be in Europe, but I was able to make up for it in part II of my European travels.
I won’t be the first to say that I didn’t brag a little about my life on Instagram when I studied abroad. I am guilty of posting pictures I knew would make those at home envious. I thought my life was worthy of constant updates, which started when I went to Croatia and one hundred people liked a photo I posted of myself swimming in a waterfall. And I posted pictures everywhere I went, as did my peers. It got to the point where we always had to ask for the WIFI password so we could post pictures of pizza and decorated cappuccinos. Everyone’s pictures were the same, of course, despite our different opinions in which filter made the cheese look the best. And after a few weeks abroad, I began to notice that my pizza didn’t taste better in Lo-Fi.
“Can you send me that picture of me? It’s ‘Insta’ worthy.” I recognized that I was annoyed by the obsession, yet I continued to partake in it. It became an unsaid agreement with friends that we would take candid pictures of each other for Instagram. I learned the very strategic planning in taking an “Insta worthy” photo. Sometimes it involved going out of our way to places we didn’t care about too much, like standing outside a fashion show during Milan Fashion Week when we could have been in the city seeing real street fashion. New clothes were even purchased for the photos that would be taken during this event, which was ridiculous because we could not compete with the Italians in Gucci. We were replicating what we were seeing in fashion blogs in our own “street style.” We wanted to achieve the look that is casual yet very articulated and thought out, but our inability to fit in at all proved that while we could Instagram that “look,” we couldn’t actually accomplish it. But because my friends really wanted to show their followers that they went to Fashion Week, off we went, and it became a miserable, expensive day that was accompanied by a photo. #notcool.
This went on and on, everywhere we went. I noticed people were seeing but not looking. We were caught up in the perception of where we were and not the place we were in. It became reminiscent of my experience involving the obsession of the first digital camera. Too much time was spent looking down at the screen or through the lens, when it should have been spent experiencing the environment we pay so much money to be in. But the second time around it was not just about taking a good picture, it was about creating a story to go with it. It became a waste of time and energy, and while there were photographs to remind us of our time spent in incredible places, moments were often lost by our obsession with the need to immediately tell others.
If we learned to limit our consumption of Instagram, I would be willing to change my perspective and argue that it has the ability to share important information, which I do believe, despite my pride. I would even argue that it has the potential of helping an entire country. That one really cool picture of me in a waterfall that got one hundred “likes” inspired other study abroad students to want to go on that same trip, and those who travel there are able to learn about Croatian culture and why it is a growing location for tourism. I hope those students went for the right reasons, of course, and not just to Instagram swimming in a waterfall, but regardless of why they went, they are assisting in putting Croatia on the map. That may be cooler than my #instaworthy photo.
Our priorities just need a little rethinking. If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to Instagram it, does it really fall? We know the answer is yes, and we know things happen behind the scenes of social media. Why do we have to know everything about everyone? What happened to ignorance being bliss? While social media continues to advance, it is not advanced enough to control our actions, so why do we let it? I do not reject the concept of social media, because I understand how it enhances our lives by connecting us to bigger things, ultimately making the world a smaller place. But I reject our obsession with it for the reason that it causes us to lose sight of what we know is important. The crisis of social media does not pertain to the actual programs, it stems from how we alter our lives to fit the mold, which we have ultimately created. This mold happens to be a perfectly square box with the ability to create our #happy and “unique” stories, in X-Pro II.