In the world of social media and adults, Instagram represents evolutionary regression. Perhaps most unfortunately, this photo-based application and its usage among the adult population is relatively consistent with how adults have received and adapted to print culture and media trends. In a similar way to how social life in the physical world has changed over time, social media in the digital realm has gone much the same direction. Instagram is a perfect example of the shallow and decreasing length of the adult attention span and the willingness to seek, create, and bestow approval in strictly visual and materialistic ways.
Instagram, similarly to Facebook, is purely about self-gratification. Where Instagram differs from Facebook is in the depth of material. While one can forego the vanity of Facebook in search of tangible meaning, that can simply not be achieved on Instagram.
The entirety of the app is superficial. This is the sole agenda of almost every Instagram user. While there are a good many users who legitimately try to propagate things of intrinsic value like photos of the natural world, mind-bending illusions, philosophical or inspiration quotes, poetry, and self-help, the vast majority of users sharing photos and the occasional video are doing it only for their own validation. In sort of a “Facebook photo album on human growth hormone” phenomenon, Instagram has captured our ability to be narcissistic and pole-vaulted it into another stratosphere.
The filter is something that first became popular with Instagram users. By selecting a predetermined color/effect overlay, users could alter the reality of a picture to make it more appealing to a certain context. As an example, black/white, grayscale, and sepia tones can add a mystique of age, wear, or mystery to an image. While this seems like a fun way to project your definition of reality in order to elicit a desired response i.e. somber, rugged, overly emotional, etc., Instagram users overwhelming use these filters to adjust their physical appearance.
By filtering the face, one can quickly and effectively remove age, blemishes, and unwanted physical characteristics and therefore everyone is beautiful all the time. That’s great, right? Magazine and movies have been doing this for years. Television actors, even sports and network news broadcasters have make-up artists that enhance their appearance. So why not? Why not present your best self?
The reason this is objectionable is because virtually everyone filtering themselves is filtering themselves for no other reason than meeting the perceived approval of hundreds of thousands of internet strangers for apparently no reason whatsoever. By filtering oneself into beauty and thus accruing hundreds and hundreds of ‘hearts’ on your picture, you feel validated, you feel beautiful, you feel better. Don’t worry that you accidentally filtered off half your nose and didn’t notice. It’s cool. The rest of you looks great, albeit not at all representative of what you actually look like.
Magazine and television are forced to filter and airbrush their employees to meet the demands of a shallow and superficial subculture which drives sales. Random individuals filtering themselves on Instagram are doing it purely for their own validation by presenting a false image of themselves to feel good about, and then ultimately returning to their normal appearance in everyday life where they are forced to live without their filtered reality where perhaps they don’t receive regular validation from total strangers.
Where Instagram has gone sideways is in the way adults use it. It’s no secret that most adults would probably agree that Instagram is a game. It’s an app designed for the younger demographic to play with photos and have fun in much the same way magazines like Teen Vogue and whatnot used to operate. However what’s peculiar is that the younger segment of society always did and still does use the app in this way. As an accessory.
Adults, however, have morphed it into yet another tool for vainglory and validation. By filtering not only themselves but their family photos and sharing them in a public sphere using hashtags to draw increased viewership, adults seek to market their lifestyles as perfect and desirable to other adults for no other reason than to garner approval. In a similar vein to the feigned nostalgia Facebook timelines offer, Instagram does it in a far more in-your-face and superficial way because there’s no content or context. It’s just pictures. Instagram is essentially akin to carrying around those old, large family photo albums with you while you run errands so you can show complete strangers how your life is better than theirs.
It promotes a sense of personal value based on what random people in the digital world deem worthy of a heart.
Instagram has real functions. While the app generally isn’t considered a business or marketing tool in the ways other social apps are, it does have a capitalist consumer presence which at least makes it viable for some sector of the population. That sector, however, is exponentially small when compared to other social media applications. In a general sense, Instagram is homemade lifestyle porn and adults are just hoping, pleading, for internet strangers to masturbate to them.