Before I begin my piece, I would first like to share that I am a 21-year-old creative student-professional. Now, not all 21-year-olds are creatives nor are all creatives 21-years old, but they presumably have one thing in common—Instagram. However, what’s ironic is that I only made an official account a few weeks ago. It’s not because I didn’t know anything about Instagram, but more so because my knowledge of it was too much to handle.
While Instagram is often pooled together with Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, it’s an entirely different entity. And as a millennial, I can certify that it’s the initiation rite into the 21st century. More than a social media account, it’s become a status symbol. There is a certain standard every Instagrammer must follow before posting a photo—because God forbid you post something that hasn’t been post-processed. Think about the shame, the embarrassment, and the judgment!
Although I was an anti-grammer, I was also very observant. I saw the pattern behind the pictures. Instagram had become a hub for artisanal food, selfies that are at least 75% headroom, flat lays with a little shadow play, and a lookbook for filters only available on VSCO cam (I’d say the most popular would be HB1 with just one dial up the exposure option). I saw how my friends succumbed to the pressure of posting during prime time and being fixated with getting at least 11 likes just so they would see a number instead of a row of names (now the issue is getting at least 50 double-taps). In fact, I even know some people who have bought followers just to avoid being dubbed as unpopular. It came to the point that every dinner out was halted by a top shot of our obscure food from an even more obscure restaurant.
As the phenomenon was taking over, I publicly declared that I would never make an Instagram account. I thought that making an account was beneath me, and that I was too mature for this pretentious hobby. My friends even made an official hashtag for me, #andiwalanginstagram, just to make it known. But what I hid from them was that I secretly wanted to have my own account. So much so that I made a fake one where I followed different fashion labels, bloggers, celebrities, and artists. Because no matter how much I tried to deny it, Instagram was beautiful to look at. It was a creative escape that fueled my desire to be inspired. Everyone made a big deal about aesthetic but deep down I knew the exact reasons why. I was so critical of the Instagram world that I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to meet my own standards. It was easier to ridicule the social media platform rather than acknowledge the fact that it had taken over my life like everyone else. And worse, because I hadn’t even made a real profile yet.
So, why make one now?
One day, I found myself in a rut that couldn’t be remedied by a typical scroll through the feed. I then detached myself from the screen and decided to look at the things around me. I took photos of interesting clothes that I could mix and match, food that was meticulously plated, and places that had rough walls and dilapidated chairs but looked breathtaking with a single ray of sunlight shining through. As an outlet, I began editing those shots and experimenting with color stories and typography elements. Needless to say, I got my inspiration back. But little did I know that my efforts would give me far more than I ever tried to achieve. I realized that I wanted to share these experiences publicly. Not because I wanted to boast of the sights I’ve seen and the things I have, but because I wanted to share the best parts of my life with the people around me. And there it was, the lone step of finally making a personal account.
Of course, with the amount of apprehensions I had in the beginning, one cannot expect that I no longer had a set of Insta-insecurities with me. I did create an account but as a defense mechanism, I tried to make it satirical. I bound myself through a mental contract that I would post the pretty pictures, under the condition that my captions took a mocking tone and ridiculed the lengths I went through to capture the shot. A few posts along the way and I realized the self-depreciation wasn’t even worth it. After all, what was I trying to prove? And to whom?
I’ve been judging those who curate their Instagram posts so pristinely, claiming that they exploited life’s moments. In reality, I was the one sabotaging my own through a secret account and satirical efforts. Being a full-fledged Instahoe has made me realize that I’m not exploiting any proverbial moment because I’m creating a new one entirely. The pleasure of enjoying an experience is not diminished by the fact that I chose to document it and edited to my liking. It just means that I would like to appreciate it on another level. One dimension is immersing myself in the moment at face value and seeing it for what it is. And on the second layer, I’m able to look back (more appropriately, throwback) on it with a different set of eyes. I revitalize it with a new color grading, a new focus, and ultimately, a new perspective.
Let’s face it, curating one’s Instagram is as fun as it is indulgent. It evokes the same sense of wonder it did when I first exposed myself to art. Mine reminds me of the days when I began tinkering with Photoshop, customized HTML backgrounds for Friendster and Multiply (don’t even deny your accounts), turned magazine cutouts into amateur collages, and played with my coloring books as a toddler. Instagram is a creative experience, redefined. Have I met the artistic standards I’ve set for my own posts? I wouldn’t say so. But I do remember being happy when I made them.
Instagram is something to be appreciated—not for the likes that have become social currency or for the followers that are a source of self-validation. Maybe pressure and judgment are its byproducts. But then again, so are creativity and inspiration.
Main photo from @andioftheday on Instagram