The Instagram Game
By Tucker Morrow
The other day, I was on Facebook, and I noticed a link where a guy who had been in a plane crash had taken a “selfie” of himself, with other passengers in the background. The plane had just crash-landed in the ocean when this guy snapped a picture of himself with his phone (he said he had a life-proof case… so in other news, life-proof cases apparently work really, really well). Let me repeat that for you, this guy survived a plane crash in the ocean, and one of his first reactions was to pull out his phone and take a picture of himself. Think about it, you’ve just gone from flying above the ocean, to crash landing in the ocean, and your thought is “I wonder how many likes this is going to get on Instagram.” I couldn’t help but think, how many likes would that picture get on Instagram? Babies and small animals seem to usually be good for 30-40 likes, bathroom mirror selfies usually get 10-20 (and also make you feel fairly uncomfortable), something special, like an engagement, usually merits 70-80 likes, but a selfie of you in the ocean after a plane crash, I think that would win Instagram. That’s when I started thinking, Instagram is kind of a game, a game everyone with an account passive-aggressively plays. For the first time ever, we have a number to tell us how cool something we did was. We have a way to compete with other people as to how cool our lives our in comparison to theirs. Somehow having a moment and enjoying it isn’t good enough anymore, we have to share it with our followers and see what they think of it based on the number of “likes”.
Now don’t get me wrong, I really don’t have a problem with Instagram, I actually really like it, but I we need to be careful how we use it. Sometimes, we can unintentionally create a false version of ourselves that we broadcast out to everyone who follows us. I think this all started with us experiencing something and desiring for other people to see what we had the privilege of seeing, but somewhere along the line it turned into a source of validation for a lot of us. We now let other people have the power of “liking” something we did and cyber approving of it, or just scrolling over it, and we ourselves have the power to determine whether a picture is worth “liking” or not. Then we anxiously look at our notifications to see how many people “liked” what I did today, or what I had for dinner, or the new outfit I got.
We are so desperate for this cyber affirmation that there are websites you can pay in exchange for them getting you more followers. In an effort to share experiences via social media in order to further our relationships, we sometimes end up limiting our relationships to social media. The very instrument that was intended to help us connect better with people occupies all of our time at the dinner table so we don’t have conversations with the people sitting around us. Instead of enjoying the moment, we are constantly trying to find a cool way to share it on our page, or we are looking at what other cool things people are currently doing without us. While we are trying to share a specific moment, we’ve taken ourselves out of countless other moments that could have been really special had we been fully present in them. One of my favorite childhood memories was listening to my Grandma and Grandpa tell me stories about their life together. I loved hearing all the stories from their childhood (they grew up together) through adulthood (especially the ones about their son, my dad, getting into trouble). The thing that stuck out to me was that whenever they shared an experience, they were both totally in the moment. They were focused on each other, and something special happened. They weren’t trying to make something special happen, and they certainly weren’t competing with other people or seeking validation. They were just loving each other and being all in without worrying who would see. Let me tell you, countless special things happened. One day I hope my wife, Page, and I can sit with our grandchildren and tell them about all of the funny, special things that happened without having to tell them “go check grandpa’s Instagram.”
Like I said, there is nothing inherently wrong with Instagram or any other social media, when used correctly they can even be valuable tools. But don’t get your self-worth from the response you get about a picture you posted, you are infinitely more valuable than that, and don’t miss a special moment because you’re trying to capture another one. One of my favorite writers says “memories make us rich” and sometimes, memories that aren’t officially documented can be more special for those involved. So be all in, use Instagram, but don’t play the Instagram game. Experience life, and life to the full, without worrying about the number of likes, and please, if you wouldn’t mind, “like” this post so I can feel validated about what I write.