This post isn’t too far off one I did a few weeks back on Instagram, but is such a prominent topic in my mind, that I felt it necessary to retouch on it.
Let me begin by saying I love Instagram. I love the creative outlet it has given me, without it I don’t know where or who I would be now. But as with everything in life, it has it’s downfalls. Downfalls in the form of what I refer to as blackholes. Blackholes of newsfeed of the coveted lives of others that suck you in so deep you start to lose sight of who you are or want to be.
That may sound slightly melodramatic but what’s alarming is that more of that statement is true than false. Instagram started out as nothing more than a hobby to me, just another account created in an attempt to keep up with the times. But as I grew, and the apps popularity grew, so too did my interest in it and the importance I gave it. At first it was a novelty, I felt like it was exactly what I’d been wishing for- a place to appreciate all the random little things in life I’d always loved but didn’t quite know how to appreciate appropriately. A pretty relatable example would be the iconic white girl Starbucks cup snapshot. Before Instagram I feel like it was almost unacceptable to photograph things on the simple grounds “they looked good”. Almost as if people were unaware, we’ve past the 35mm film roll phase – iPhones take more than 35 pics at once so relax Carol, one coffee cup won’t break the bank. I learned this one term in English literature this year which really stuck with me and that is: aesthetic autonomy. The theorist Kant was the first to use this phrase and he attributed it to the notion of “purpose without purpose”. One example we were given in class was that of the music of a violin. I’m sure 90% of people will agree with me when I say the sound of a violin is beautiful but why is it beautiful? What is it’s purpose besides entertaining you and filling you with joy? And why? Why and how does it fill you with this joy?
This concept often comes to mind when I think of Instagram as I think in many ways it provides an outlet for this ‘aesthetic autonomy’. I mean your coffee cup serves no purpose to anyone but hey, it looks good so why not slap a pic up! I love this aspect of Instagram and I take great joy in it. Even the way in which Instagram refers to your feed as your gallery brings me such happiness as I feel that’s exactly it. It’s my gallery to showcase my artwork, curated by me, for me.
Only recently, I wonder am I still the curator? The catch with Instagram is quite bittersweet really- what you dish out to others, you probably take in 5 times as much of everyone else’s. And sometimes it can be hard to see where the line is between admiring someone else’s life and then trying to recreate it. I’m all for seeing Instagram as one big pool of creatives sharing ideas and inspirations, but I think it’s important not to lose yourself in the process. The thing is a lot of the time this is exactly what ends up happening.
You know when you stare at a word for a really long time and then the letters start to look like mush? Especially really simple words like “was”? Only two minutes in and you’re thinking “Wuz” .. “wOs” .. you can’t even spell a word you’ve probably written 20 times a day for 10 years?? Instagram literally gives me this same stupid brain. It usually takes place right before bed, right after I set my alarms and tell myself Ive ten minutes to scroll on my phone (knowing I’ll be two hours). 10 minutes in and the “fun” (trauma) has just begun. Before you know it, you’re back and forth between your account and someone else’s looking for clues on how to become them, before finally coming to the conclusion it’s best to just totally delete your Instagram because you don’t stand a chance.
Dramatic? Yes. But true? Also yes.
Unfortunately, this is the sad truth for many people, including me. I get such bad stupid brain that I start craving things so far off the mark from what I actually desire, it makes me wonder do I even have a brain at all. It’s like the deeper you get into Instagram, the further you are drawn away from your original purpose. It becomes less of a field for expression and more of a field for making impressions, or more often than not, impersonations. Thousands of bloggers are plastered all over Instagram, all with virtually the same persona. Are these similarities just coincidental or are they the product of Instagram blogging normalisation?
As much as I love being my own individual self online, I too struggle with being sucked in by these “norms”. I see bloggers with their perfectly in-theme feeds, covered with perfectly proportionate pictures of them perfectly posing in front of their perfect background set ups- and I think to myself, “that looks good, if I want mine to look good too I got to recreate that”.
So I slave away pinning up blankets and sheets with thumbtacks and whatever else I can think of, buy an iPhone 8 Plus way out of my budget, and stand in front of an Amazon tripod taking pictures of myself hopelessly aiming for a picture I know I’m never gonna get. Now it’s not the process I don’t like, I love doing all of this I love putting my ideas in motion and watching them materialise (to some extent). It’s the pressure I put myself under to fit this “blogger” mould, that I just can’t stand because truthfully I know, when I’m squeezing myself in to fit this shape, I am moving further away from my true self and my true aim.
When I take a step back and look at myself and what it is I’m trying to recreate I realise it’s nothing at all like what I truly want for myself.
Lately I find myself wondering if I should start taking my pictures in front of a white background, or pick one colour and stick with it- create a theme of sorts. But truthfully I hate this idea, I love colour, I love exploring different possibilities in each of my pictures and outfits so the thought of sticking with one set theme seems so boring to me. But yet I keep thinking about doing it. Why you might ask? Well that’s easy- to fit in, to fit the “Insta-blogger” narrative plastered all across the web.
I become so caught up in someone else’s life that I begin to forget about my own. I forget my own vision. I forget that, yeah sure their neutral toned outfits and minimalistic backgrounds are nice but I love colours and wacky backgrounds.
It’s not a case of “I’m better than them” or “they’re better than me”, it’s just that we’re simply two different people with two different visions. There is simply no comparison.
I forget that I am a student, with minimal resources and a low budget camera. I lose site of the fact these “bloggers” I find myself comparing myself to are of, literally, no comparison- I don’t have companies funding my wardrobe, I’m not being flown across the world for photoshoots, I don’t have top quality camera equipment and for Christ’s sake I don’t have an assistant following me around to take and edit my pictures.
When I remind myself of this, it all seems a little silly. I realise, the problem isn’t them or even me, it’s that I haven’t accepted that we are two different people for a reason.
The thing is, I think everyone has a fire within them, a purpose of sorts, that lights our souls. It’s the reason we’re here and it’s what keeps us going. It’s our passion and our drive and it’s what makes us unique. It gives us our vision, each person’s different from the next. And when we become consumed by other people’s visions we too often forget about our own. We let the fire go out or give our flames to others. But we mustn’t do this. We need to hold onto our visions and our dreams and feed them because that’s what makes us, us.
Now this isn’t to say lock yourself away in a dark room isolated from the world for fear they’d steal your vision. All successful people will admit to accepting help along the way and this is no different. It’s okay to be inspired and to, in turn, inspire others. But do not confuse replication for appreciation. They are two different things and if you are not careful you can fall down a dark hole of comparison.
Don’t become consumed. Don’t allow your vision to become distorted by influencers on the internet telling you what you want or who you should be. Appreciate their visions, take inspiration but do not alter yourself to fit a mould that doesn’t suit you.
Stay true to yourself and in turn the universe will be true to you in fulfilling your vision.