INSTAGRAM USED TO BE MY FAVOURITE SOCIAL NETWORK BY FAR.
Note the past-tense in that sentence, though. Instagram used to be my favourite network, because Instagram used to be totally different. Remember the days when it was truly “instant”? When people would use it simply to document their lives – snapping a quick photo with their phones, and then uploading it right away, maybe slapping on a filter to make it look a little better, but not stopping to worry about whether it was “on brand”, or how it would fit in “the grid”?
I loved Instagram back then. For the curious (for which read “nosey”) amongst us, Instagram was a way to get a little insight into other people’s lives – to see the small details that we otherwise wouldn’t ever know about. There was something fascinating to me in getting that behind the scenes look, and if the photos weren’t particularly polished, well, who cared? They were, at least, REAL, and that was what mattered.
Somewhere along the line, though, all of that changed. These days everyone has an Instagram theme. I can’t seem to look at Bloglovin’ without coming across another article instructing me to colour-code all my photos, make optimum use of hashtags, and carefully plan their grid, so that they never post more than two selfies in a row, say, and every photo works perfectly with the ones that surround it. There are apps to make this easier, and when one of them changed its layout last month, so users could no longer meticulously plan their Insta grids on it, the internet promptly freaked out, leaving people fretting over whether that photo they just uploaded REALLY works with their theme, or whether they should just delete it.
The worst of it is, I haven’t been immune to this. Last year, I decided to follow the advice and create a “theme” for my Instagram account, and even although I KNOW it’s ridiculous, I can’t seem to break away from it for too long. Now I can’t post all of my outfit photos on Instagram, because they don’t all work with the theme. I’ve deleted photos because, in retrospect, they’ve looked out of place on my grid. And, as a result, I find myself posting less and less, and spending much less time looking at other people’s photos (many of which have now been replaced with screenshots from Snapchat, or “inspirational” quotes). And don’t even get me started on the new smart feed, which means you no longer see the photos of the people you’re following in chronological order – you see the photos Instagram wants you to see, interspersed with a huge amount of advertising.
Instagram is no longer “instant”. It’s no longer a way to document your life – or not for many of its users, anyway. Instead, it’s become a heavily-curated space, which people spend a whole lot of time agonising over – and while I’ll admit to enjoying a beautifully colour-coded feed just as much as the next person, I personally think the network is all the poorer for it.
Are we over-thinking Instagram? I know I am: what about you?