Is Instagram Making Us Devalue Experience in Favor of the Appearance of Experience?
I think the answer is yes, at least for many people.
To be honest, I resisted the idea of diving too deep into Instagram for a long time. I saw people getting sucked into their technology and missing the world around them. It does seem like the documenting of an experience has become so important to us that we are willing to sacrifice having the actual experience as long as we are able to get the documentation of what the experience "could have been". On its face this feels somehow icky.
My (soon to be wife) Courtney and I try to spend each New Years Eve in a foreign country. Last year we were in Thailand on the island of Kho Phi Phi.
The water was a ridiculous color of blue. The air was the kind of warm that you crave all year long, not hot and sticky, but light and warm and breezy and comfortably tropical.
We generally do a little hard traveling in the first week or so of the trip and then mellow out a bit for some real "vacationing" at the end. You know how people always say that they need a vacation after their vacation to readjust? This is a great way to do that. (I feel like there should be a **PRO TIP off on the side bar somewhere :)
We were staying at a wonderful resort on Kho Phi Phi, only accessible by boat, hammocks hung between palm trees on the beach, with chaise lounges set to span the small tables that seemed to be constantly replenished with whatever tiny-umbrella-ed cocktail you happened to be fancying that day.
It was perfectly idyllic and utterly enjoyable. The kind of enjoyable where you find yourself sighing, "aaaaaw" every now and again because you are so god damned relaxed. Know what I mean?
And as we sat on our lounges just soaking it up, we had a front row seat to a 19 or 20 year old girl, who may indeed be some big time international "influencer" or perhaps she is an aspiring influencer. But for 3 days straight this girl, and her poor dad, whom she had commandeered to be her photographer, posed for photo after photo after photo. ...of her on a chair, and in the water, and doing a yoga pose, and flipping her hair back, and holding a drink she never drank, and reading a book she never read, and laughing at a joke no one ever told.
For hours on end this occurred. All morning long, a break for some lunch, which they didn't take any pictures of, and then again for the entirety of the afternoon.
Now, as Courtney and I discussed, WE might indeed be the suckers in this scenario. It is totally possible that the resort at which we were staying gave this girl and her family an ALL paid vacation to Thailand just to come out, take some pics and post them to some enormous number of followers she may potentially have. And in fact, she might have been paid 10s of thousands of dollars on top of the vacation!!
And then the jokes on us right..., cuz we paid a grip of money to get our butts into those chaise lounge chairs and to be able to wrap our hands (and lips) around those delicious-ass mai thais. BUT...
Call it a hunch, or call it schadenfreude, or call it the fact that her poses looked just a bit too amateurish and her look not quite put together enough, but I would have been willing to bet my last couple mai tais that she was just a regular girl on a regular old vacation and was dead set on getting some amazingly beautiful shots for her instagram feed. And poor dad was along for the ride.
The short of it is this, it seemed like creating a picture in which it appeared that she was enjoying the beach was far more important than actually enjoying the beach.
And this truly does seem like a problem. Hence my reluctance to let Instagram become too big a part of my life.
However, As a small business I have come to realize that Instagram isn't going away and. to be honest, is becoming increasingly MORE important to todays retail economy.
With the relatively new ability to shop directly inside of the app, Instagram may indeed eventually become the default place for people to make purchases. For many people it has already displaced you tube as a place to look for videos, and displaced google as a search engine for particular sorts of things.
Will it eventually start competing with Amazon as a go to retailer? Who knows.
But there are only a hand full of guys who would likely be able to make that happen. The Zuck is one of them.
And while just this morning Kevin Systrome and Mike Krieger, Instagram's Founders, announced that they will be stepping away from the Facebook owned app, It seems pedestrian to view this as any kind of knock against the Instagram platform itself.
These guys have done all they can do with it and are simply ready to move on to their next project. Share prices (while they dropped some minuscule amount at the open of the market) ultimately remained flat after the news.
Instagram and Facebook aren't going anywhere. And so instead of resisting this shift in culture we, ZB Savoy, are trying to be a positive force from within it by producing quality content for our followers to enjoy.
While I still value a bike ride more than a picture of a bike ride, perhaps we can inspire more people to do more (metaphorical) bike riding by way of our feed.
Be good people!