I have an account on
almost all social media, but the only social media I regularly use are
Instagram and Strava. I've mentioned both of them on the blog before, but I'll
say it again. I use Strava because it is very inspiring and motivating; it
makes me want to work out more when I see all the fun workouts other people are
doing; it makes me want to run faster when I see how fast everyone else is
running. Strava is great fun. I use Instagram because seeing nice photographs
of beautiful people having lots of fun makes me happy; it makes me also want to
go out and have fun. In fact, I like it so much that I created my own hashtag
over it: #havefuntakephotos. This hashtag represents the whole reason I like
Instagram. If we all spent more time having fun and taking photos of the fun we
were all having, the world would be a better place. I just love it.
Participating in all
the fun we're having on Instagram, however, is not as easy as it sometimes
appears to be. If, like me, you follow a lot of famous people and
"influencers," then you're likely to see many several photographs per day that you'd be lucky to snap in two
weeks' time. There's a reason for this: famous people and professional
"influencers" invest an enormous amount of time, and often a
substantial amount of money, in creating content for their Instagram accounts.
It's no mere coincidence that models and actresses are always photogenic and
ready with a winning smile several times a day. What the viewer is seeing is
often a professionally shot photograph, perhaps an outtake from a paid photo
shoot, or a photo takenmonths ago in
ideal conditions, but only posted today.
Like anything else,
you must view Instagram while maintaining the suspension of disbelief. There
are only two possibilities: Either a person's life is not really what it looks
like on Instagram, or the person has enough wealth to dedicate all that time and
money to turning their life into an Instagram account. Either way, you, the
average person, are not capable of producing the same kind of content on your
own Instagram account unless and until you become a millionaire and/or hire a
professional to create content for you.
This is all
perfectly obvious, of course, but it became more obvious to me when I undertook
the seemingly simple task of posting a photo of every workout I completed from
the beginning of my 16-week half marathon training schedule to the end. I'm on
week #11, and I haven't come anywhere close to posting one photo per workout.
One reason is because I don't like to run with my phone (which is also my
camera) strapped to me at all times. I'd rather leave my phone home and pick it
up again when my workout is over. And when I'm in a rush to get to work or
something, I don't always want to invest the extra five minutes in thinking up
a clever Instagram concept-shot, figuring out how to snap it, and then posting
it on the internet for all to see.
But the more
important reason is this: If I posted a photo of what really happens during my workout, then every photo would look
almost exactly the same. The photos would all be along similar routes and
landscapes. I have about a week's worth of running clothes, so you'd only ever
see me in one of seven shirts. I most often take photos right in front of my
house, or from the parking lot outside of work, so you'd only really ever see
the same two spots over and over again. I could post photos of other stuff -
like, the locker room in my gym, or my blender bottle, or the treadwear on my
running shoes - and sometimes I do; but I can only really post so many photos
The point is, when
you start cataloging life as it actually is,
rather than as we would like it to look on Instagram, then it starts to look
very repetitive and uninteresting. Granted, my own life might be a bit more
routinized than other peoples' lives, but I suspect not by a wide margin. I
think most of us do more or less the same things every day. Think of how many
bowls of chopped papaya Milind Soman has posted on Instagram. If I followed his
lead, you'd see a bowl of oatmeal in my "Stories" each and every day.
I don't know, maybe I should do that,
but who wants to stare at my bowl of oatmeal? Even I don't look very closely at
it while I'm eating it.
Life - real life -
is repetitive and, at least in photos, largely uninteresting. That's why our
grandparents only ever took photos when the family got together at holidays.
The rest of the time, who cares? Would you want to see a photo of your grandpa
smiling into the camera from the driver's seat as he headed off to work? Maybe
once, and only for ironic reasons. You certainly wouldn't have wanted to go
through a box of that stuff when it was time to clear up his estate.
In the funhouse
mirror of Instagram, beautiful people appear to be living beautiful lives, but
in reality they just have very good photographers and publicists who ably
present the Vanity Fair version of their
lives. You don't see the daily bowl of cereal, the commute to work, the
business emails and the paperwork, the license renewals, the dental floss, or
the trip to the grocery store. You don't see the standing in line or the
waiting in the airport lounge, you don't see the second cup of tea and the
mindless internet scrolling. You don't see the 25,000 steps I took while
running last Sunday, even if you did see my post about going for a long run.
You don't see the laundry or the dishes.
Instead, you just
see the fun parts. It's nice to see all the fun parts, but it's important to
remember that, when you're scrolling through a long newsfeed full of nothing
but fun parts, there were hours' worth of banalities that lead up to that
photograph, and those banalities were not often worth however many
"likes" the photo got.
It's fun to see this
stuff, but it is definitely not reality.