The Instagram Issue | Cameron Chang

Any views or opinions presented in this editorial are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Pulse Magazine.

Social Media is an aspect of pop culture that seems to be manifesting everywhere you look. There’s something about showing off your “incredible” life experiences with your peers (and, in most cases, not your peers) on some sort of large scale platform that is both liberating and addictive. An iPhone app titled “Instagram” was released in the fall of 2010, as a way for photographers to take great pictures from their phones, without the usual work that comes with professional photography. Naturally, it gained overnight success and is now the most popular social networking system next to Facebook. Instagram is basically Facebook. Or, at least that’s what it’s become. Everyone has an Instagram. If someone in San Diego is over the age of 11 and has an iPhone, chances are they have hopped on the never ending social media slave train at one point or another. Even I, the guy ranting on Instagram, has an Instagram. I turned to Instagram in the hopes of documenting my life with some awesome photography, but Instagram isn’t about photography and it never really was. The underbelly of insecure rich girls and self-loathing LAX bros (just to name a few) have turned Instagram into a self-exploitative realm that is ravaged by sympathy craving selfies, eye rolling inspirational quotes, “artsy” sunset pictures, and food. Lots of food. Since all posts on Instagram are associated with photography, Instagram has become the ultimate outlet of self-exploitation. Today, I am going to explore the constant annoyances I find whenever I’m on the site, and the motivations behind them.

Let’s start off with the infamous selfie. Even though most teenage girls who use Instagram supposedly “self-parody” selfies with mindless hashtags like #arentisopretty #ilooklikethiseverymorning #jknotattractive. This is a big heaping pile of BS. All they want is you to tell them how pretty they are. Every time I see “pretty” pictures of guys or girls on IG whether it be a godforsaken selfie or an outdoor shot with an over filtered sunset in the background, or with a dead flower in their hair that they claim just sprouted out of the dandelion patch, I always look at the comments section for each of these photos to see how many people say “OMG your so pretty!!! Why can’t I be you!! haha Love you :)”. A message to these commenters: Why would you do that? No one in their right mind would ever take a picture like that just because they thought “Oh! It seems like a nice day out! I’m gonna go put on my $200 Brandy Melville outfit, put on so much makeup that I look like a barbie doll, and go stand under the tree outside and put flowers in my hair, because I feel like it!” All these users want is to basically force others to comment on their looks, in most cases. Now I’m not saying that people who do this have low self-esteem or confidence issues, I’m just saying a primary motivation for these photos might be insecurity. People who need to feel better about themselves often turn to social media and stage this scene where they look great and everything around them is just peachy keen. It is because of Instagram that these self-exploitative sympathy cards (selfies and cheesy outdoor shots) are taking place.
#artsy. Every time I see this horrible and pretentious hashtag so “subtly” pop up as a caption for an overly filtered sunset or a flower or a FREAKIN TREE, I proceed to have a mini rant in the confinements of my home. I have a few problems with this hashtag. Actually I have problems with hash tags in general. I don’t hate the actual hashtag, per say, I just absolutely detest what it’s become. Another thing that causes me to have angry convulsions within my home is the overuse of the hashtag. Some guilty of this will put, hmmm I don’t know 20 TO 30 HASHTAGS on their respective photo. And it usually ends with #toomanyhashtags #wayyytoomanyhashtags #jk #immakeepgoingwiththesehashtags #sorrynotsorry. Also let me talk about the “Sorry not sorry” hashtag. I understand that certain hashtags,(that are supposedly laced with a “self-aware” sense of humor) should be taken with a grain of salt. But to me, it just comes off as plain obnoxious. It advertises this unexplainable obnoxiousness, and I believe some might use this because the hashtag kind of promotes this hidden sense of teenage rebellion. Anyway, back to the topic at hand. #artsy. One, if you do have an “artsy” photo (even though artsy is about as vague a term as hipster or cool), don’t say your picture is artsy, which shows that you have approached this post with a sense of unnecessary pretentiousness and conceit. And I know what a common rebuttal to this statement would be, “Hey Cameron! You’re wrong! We only say this to make fun of ourselves”! Uh no. This goes back to the issue of pseudo self-parody on instagram. Why would any actually put #jknotattrative or #artsy? Because deep down in their hormonally crazed teenage souls, they really do thing they look attractive or that overly filtered picture is “artsy” (seriously though what directly defines artsy? Nothing!) and they want people to acknowledge this. People should not be using a social media site as a way to improve self-esteem, it’s just not the correct outlet.

As you could probably already conceive there are many aspects of Instagram that cause me to freeze, nervously twitch my eye, break out into a series of temper tantrums and cry around a pool of tears. However, nothing about instagram pushes my buttons like this does: Quotes. Two types of quotes in particular: the “Inspirational” quote (I use that term so, so very loosely) and the “Please Feel Bad for Me” quote. I have already discussed how often I see horribly staged photos of “tortured teens” in “beautiful” settings (I’m sorry; the middle of your street is not a beautiful setting. And, Jesus, GET OFF THE TRAIN TRACKS YOU’RE GONNA GET HIT.) And just when you thought these photos couldn’t get even more manipulative or pretentiousness, nope! These photos come with pretentious and manipulative quotes as well! Yayyy. So if I see a picture of someone making a contemplative or “deep” face behind the oak tree in their backyard that’s leaves are brown, verging on black, and it’s probably got like 10 of those leaves left, it’ll also come with a caption like “Don’t let the rain fall on your face, wipe it off. :)))) @thesuckerwhoohsowillinglyagreedtojoinmeinmysympathycravingescapades #love #feelinggreat #life”. DON’T LET THE RAIN FALL ON YOUR FACE??!! WAT. I’m not exaggerating when I say that that barely scratches the surface of some of the most obscure and horrific attempts at inspirational quotes used on Instagram. Lucky for me, it makes for great comedy. Unlucky for me, I’m worried for the sanity and intelligence of my teenage counterparts.

Oh wait, IT GETS WORSE!! Every once in a while, I’ll come across a post that shows a white background with black text, or a beach at night with a black and white filter, or a picture of the individual user looking somber and ever so candidly wiping the hair from their face. Whenever I see these things, I get scared. Because I know what’s coming. The dreaded “Please Feel Bad for Me” quote. One of my biggest problems with social media is that there is a lack of privacy in a teenager’s life anymore. I’m not saying it is Social Media’s fault directly, I’m just saying I feel like I’ve indirectly invaded on many people’s privacy with some of this things I’ve seen on IG. And the “PFBFM” quote is a huge culprit of over exposure of privacy. This usually comes in the form of an overly dramatic photo with an oh-so-clever caption like “I’m sorry I wasn’t good enough”, or “I thought you were the special one. And now you’ve shattered the glass.” This is wrong on so many levels. First off, I’m sorry random-teen-feeling-bad-for-yourself, but let me put this plain and simple. We don’t really care. Now, I just seemed like the most colosal a**wipe of all time just there. Before I continue, allow me to say this. I’m not a sociopath who has zero compassion for other humans are something like that. What I’m trying to express is that, in the context of social media, we don’t care. It’s not personal, really, and if you saw a post parallel to your own pop up on your IG feed, you wouldn’t give a damn either. Also, you could be awesome. You might be a wonderful human being with interesting qualities that make you individual in your own special way. However, these posts just make you look sad. Really sad. This is the lowest form of self-pity; when you pine your “horrific” problems on Instagram. Well, there are these sources called family and friends that are specifically there to hear about your problems and pick you up when you’re feeling down. Why on earth would you advertise the ABC family soap opera that is your life on a site where 70% of your followers you know from correcting each other’s homework in Spanish class?
And here's what gets me even more pissed off! Since your manipulation worked, innocent victims will comment on the post saying “So strong. What’s wrong babe :))”. And then the poster replies with a simple “I don’t want to talk about it”. Ok. Dear user, if you didn’t want to talk about it then WHY DID YOU POST THE THING IN THE FIRST PLACE?!!You obviously wanted some form of comfort. You have successfully accomplished your plan of making others feel bad for you, and now you don’t even want the help. Good job Instagram, you have blessed the world with another outlet that allows us to inappropriately display personal issues on a dangerously grand scale. And please, fellow Instagram users, don’t post memes. Just…don’t post memes.

Instagram was a good idea. In fact it still is a good idea. A fun, accessible, and free outlet that allows friends and colleagues to come together and share their awesome photographic experiences with each other? What’s not to like! But of course, for the millions upon millions of social media junkies in our world, Instagram was just Facebook for the iPhone. Let me conclude this with a few words of advice to my teenage colleagues. Dear hormonal teenagers of the world (I include myself in this category, truly), don’t use social media as a way to get sympathy. I understand you are going through hard times, but please don’t inappropriately use a site designed for photographers as a self-awareness campaign for the hardships of your life. Instagram can be a peaceful and fun environment for all if we remember what it stands for. Photography. Or just delete your Instagram. Yeah, go with the latter.

Cameron Chang is a staff writer for Pulse Magazine.