The magic of Instagram


Lunch. Coffee. Skylines. Fresh ingredients. Shelves of merchandise. Feet.

Facebook is so boring. Twitter is so trivial. Instagram is so fake. Why do people continue to use them? What do these services offer us that we continue to use them so heavily? Facebook is a heavyweight champion of Internet traffic. Few people question the usefulness of Twitter. Bloggers post weekly Instagram updates. There has to be something more here than social interaction - if all we wanted was interaction, we'd have stuck with IM programs, guest books, and message boards. Successful social media services must offer something for both the user and their followers.

I don't think it's fame or popularity. I don't think it's entertainment.

I think it might be a magnifying glass.

People who keep journals of gratitude and happiness are measurably happier. Focusing on the positive things in life and downplaying the negatives is just good for our overall well-being. It's one of the secrets of meditation, and perhaps it's the secret of Instagram, too.

Before I started forcing myself to write down three "good things" before bed, I half-heartedly did it in my head. I stopped when it seemed like nothing good ever happened. "Today I cleaned the bathroom" just didn't seem like the kind of positive and inspiring reflection that was necessary for increased happiness. I don't think it's a stretch to say that the majority of a typical person's day is pretty damn average. We fill our days with mundane tasks like walking the dog and getting dressed; a series of minuscule mediocrities. There's nothing inherently depressing about these tasks, but there's not necessarily anything that's joyful, either.

Until you start blogging.

When you have a blog - or an Instagram account, or a Twitter profile, or a Facebook account - you start to look for things in your life that might possibly be worth sharing. You take pictures of the garnish in your drink; you eavesdrop on strangers' conversations; you are more willing to eat at a new restaurant, all for the sake of having something that might be share-worthy. I could blog this, might seem like a narcissistic and shallow reason to actively enjoy your life more, but hey - when we're talking about you enjoying your life more, aren't all reasons inherently shallow?

Peering through the false patina of Instagram reveals the art hidden within our mundane lives. There are other ways to achieve this effect, but social media is fast, widely accessible, and the results are exactly the same - you stop to smell the roses. And yes, it's likely that no one actually cares to know what you had for lunch or what your feet look like in the swimming pool. Maybe it is true that no one would miss you if you left the Internet. But that's not the point, is it? Because you're not doing social media for other people... you're doing it for yourself.

4 things about

The magic of Instagram
  1. For the record, I would miss you if you left the internet. You're right---I think---for what that's worth. You blog for yourself; if other people get any benefit at all, so much the better. Anything else objectively beneficial that results is just a bonus.

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    1. D'awww. :3

      I actually didn't like that Verge piece; I think it was because I found it sad that this guy didn't think anyone on the Internet missed him. It's sad both if it's true, or it's not. I know I miss people when they go dark - bloggers, or forum users, or twitters or tumblrs. There's a reason I took the time to read the things they have to say, after all.

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  2. You know, my diary used to serve that purpose
    I was very conscious of it too - every day's mission statement would be "do something worth writing about"

    Then I realised no one was reading it, not even me, and I stopped writing
    Comics brought me back

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    1. Diaries and journals are kind of strange like that, eh? I read a post from someone who kept journals for something like 30 years, writing nearly every day. They hauled boxes and boxes of old journals with them every time they moved, because... it's just what you're supposed to do. You're supposed to keep your old journals... because! Finally they realized they don't even read them after having written them... so they just threw them all out.

      Journals aren't meant for keeping, I don't think. As soon as you get your thoughts out, they've served their purpose. With my journal, my plan is to fill it and then just reuse it. Paste scrapbooking paper on the pages or paint them over and then re-use them again. I don't need to keep the crap I've written, but the journal itself is nice :P

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"Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect."