I was scrolling through today’s Instagram stories from the handful of people I follow. Nothing surprising; my hairstylist friends posted hair styles, half of them posted photos of their kids, the one getting married posted a photo with her fiancee, my politically-oriented friends posted their political memes, and my DJ friends posted their decks and their crowds.
What struck me, however, was how basically everyone had some sort of effect. There was glitter, there were song lyrics, there were animated stickers and skin smoothing makeup filters. I’ve never used any of these. Part of the reason is that many of these functions are only available on the “stories” interface. I’ve already established that I have trouble with transient photo taking…as far as I’m concerned, if it’s worth photographing, it’s worth keeping the photo for longer than a day.
But that’s what hit me: how few photo-deserving things I do anymore. There are eleven photos between my most recent one and the one I posted from Bermuda nearly two years ago. Only a dozen more before the first photo of my most recent Origin laptop; itself nearly four years old.
Now, I’m not saying that one’s life should be defined by one’s Instagram…far from it. I’m not saying that I’m basing any level of my happiness with my life on a comparison with people who have more photos. Some people have lifestyles that naturally lend themselves to photographing, and I’m happy for them. No, the point of this blog post is me lamenting the fact that I’ve never used the fun toys in Instagram or Snapchat because I’ve never been there. I’ve never been in the sort of situation where I felt like the situation justified trying those things out.
There are a handful of photos on my Instagram that have been edited, but that’s from when photo editing on Instagram was limited to a handful of color filters (“Valencia”, anyone?), while more elaborate effects remained the purview of Pixlr and PicSay. Perhaps this is the result of spending my adolescence in an era when cameras, computers, and sharing solutions were three different things. Maybe I can place the blame on the applications who limit these functions. Maybe I can split the difference and chalk it up to these features catering to those who perceive transient photo sharing as a hobby in itself, while I’m still hopelessly stuck viewing photography as documentation.
Perhaps, instead, the issue isn’t technical. Maybe I don’t post Snaps on Snapchat or Stories on Facebook or Instagram because I feel a need to be sufficiently entertaining to my followers, as if I am tasked with being entertaining for my dozen friends on Snapchat or 130ish Instagram followers, failing if I make merely a “meh” post. I can simultaneously have the awareness that “likes” aren’t reflective of social acceptance and also remember feeling negative emotions when I tried the “ask me a question” box and got zero responses. My noggin is aware that there are zero instances where Instagram is a positive basis for anything, yet “lizard brain” seems to distort all of it.
As I sit at an airport right now, waiting for a passenger to arrive, I wonder what would happen if I made the most random transient photos – Wiz Kalifah thumping over a photo of the tarmac and concrete barricades, maybe a close-up of the carpet I vacuumed today with an animated sticker, or a mirror selfie that focuses on my hand holding up a towel with ooglie eyes until I can fool the facial recognition to let me make the towel look like a sheep. Maybe this is the way to handle the lizard brain – intentionally mess with people’s stories until they either get the joke or unfollow me, rinse and repeat until lizard brain figures out that the entire point of such an exercise is self-awareness, rather than self-centeredness.