Why is it so hard to be honest on instagram?
I think my most hated blogger complaint has got to be 'people think what they see on my instagram is my real life'. *aghast face*.
Well, yeah, they do. Because you portray it as your real life. It astonishes me that no one seems to respond in this manner when that old chestnut gets wheeled out. 'it's a highlight reel'* they say, 'it's a place for me to market myself as a content creator'. OK, cool, but implicit in instagram being instagram and not a magazine, and in you captioning your heavily edited, carefully staged image 'lazy Sunday afternoons :)' is the message that this is not in fact 'content' - that nebulous catch all for online creative stuff - but a candid record of your actual real life existence.
Unless you openly dispel the idea that what you're filling your feed with is just opportunistic snaps of fabulous outfits you would have worn anyway, or a restaurant you would have visited anyway, or that you just happened to be passing a pastel wall which perfectly complimented your sandals and sunglasses combo, you the creator are in fact responsible for people thinking this is your real life. We all know the implication of realness is inherent in the platform. We all know that social media is supposed to be more authentici than magazines and movies. So if we simply allow that implicit realness to sit there unchallenged, if we choose to caption our photos 'lazy Sundays :)' and not 'Sunday outfit photoshoot', and use that implied authenticity to our advantage to garner lucrative 'influencer' campaigns, then we cannot react with incredulity when our followers believe what we have led them to; that our feeds are real life.
In fact it's actually kind of perverse to do so. Sorry to rain on our influencer parade, but it irks me.
Which is probably why I haven't instagrammed in, like, forever. Because I can't, hand on heart, claim not to be part of this. Not that 'this' - ie projecting a less than wholly accurate image of one's existence on social media - is terrible. There are worse things I could do. The boring disclaimer you always have to put in posts like this is that inspiration is fine and people can do what they like with their feeds - whatever, whatever, etc, boring, heard it before. But the fact is that, while a bit of insta-envy isn't going to kill anyone, there's something distinctly un-fun about scrolling through reams of perfect pictures which you know on one level aren't real but which, on a much more palpable, immediate level, make your own real life, real face, hair, clothes, friends, local weather and brunch options feel extremely drab by comparison.
I know all this to be true and yet I am definitely and admittedly part of this problem. While I feel I manage to be authentic in written form on this blog and on twitter, I struggle when it comes to imagery. How can I roll my eyes all the way round in my head at a painstakingly staged breakfast flat lay, unfollow bloggers I love but whose egregiously insta-perfected feeds make me legitimately hate my life and curse the 9-5 job I love, and at the same time continue to agonise over whether a photo is 'worthy' of sharing, whether its colour palette fits my feed, whether it is *shudder* 'on brand'?
And yet I do. I guess on this count I am a hypocrite. But I want to stop.
The appeal of the curated feed is that a beautiful breakfast flat lay is just that - beautiful. There's a sense of achievement in having captured a gorgeous, glossy image. But even when I get that great shot, the effort I've put into twisting the this moment of my life into something pretty, quirky, enigmatic or aspirational leaves me feeling hollow. It's not real, and the futility of sharing my not-real record of an imaginary life with other people doing the exact same retouching of their own realities leaves me feeling strangely lonely. It's not surprising really. If you know that you're not really sharing anything true, and that the people you follow aren't either, are you even connecting at all?
So what to do? Your suggestions are very welcome. I'm not going to delete my account, but I want to approach instagram differently. I've already started posting some images which are just messages in my own handwriting. I'm just more comfortable being honest with words. But I also want to give myself some kind of framework or guideline to help remind me to be more authentic on the platform in future, and to give some kind of purpose to being there beyond projecting the image of a desirable lifestyle. There are worse things I could do, but I don't want to do it any more.
Any ideas? I'm all ears.
*hence the highlighter in the main image. See what I did there?