Tag Archives: Instagram

The Instagram life part 2

A few weeks ago I wrote about the perils of living your life on Instagram and becoming a piece of content for others to look at. That idea may have seemed far-fetched, esoteric, or just out of step with the times. After all, even us geezers have online selves, right?

Well, at least one person agrees with me, though I’m pretty sure she didn’t read my post. Her name is Clara Dollar, she’s a senior at New York University, and she writes in the Sunday New York Times about “My So-Called (Instagram) Life.”

“Once you master what is essentially an onstage performance of yourself, it can be hard to break character,” she says. True dat.* Her obsession with staying on brand – “funny, carefree, unromantic, a realist” – kills a relationship and buries her genuine identity. “There was a time when I allowed myself to be more than what I could fit onto a 2-by-4-inch screen. When I wasn’t so self-conscious about how I was seen. When I embraced my contradictions and desires with less fear of embarrassment or rejection.”

When I was in college in the 1970s, we couldn’t live on little screens because they didn’t exist. More importantly, we’d just come out of the 60s, when mindless conformity was exposed as a fraud. Challenging authority, openness, and authenticity were virtues.

The “brand” I’d acquired in high school was a burden: quiet, reserved, a little awkward, certainly not cool. But the only way for me to look different was to be different: embrace change, be open to new things, and put my true self out there.

Of course I feared embarrassment and rejection. Who doesn’t? Being yourself is the only way to make good friends, the kind who see beyond each other’s contradictions and foibles. Many  people I knew then are Facebook friends now, with a connection that’s grounded in real life and memories, not a bogus image.

I don’t claim to be devoid of ego. I always try to put my best foot forward (especially because, as anyone who’s ever danced with me will tell you, I’ve got two of the left variety).

But my virtual self is no more calculated or contrived than my real one, which I hope is not much. For example, I won’t try to persuade you I have gorgeous blue eyes that remind you of Paul Newman. Of course, you can always look at my photo and draw your own conclusions.

*A New Orleans expression for “That is the truth.”

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The winter of our dissed content

I’ve got to stop reading. My only other choice is to march into the Florida swamps and find the fountain of youth that eluded Ponce de Leon, so I can shave a few decades off my antediluvian* life and make sense of this world again.

The reason for my latest blast of consternation (sorry, “facepalm”) is a quote in this article about what some young people want in a vacation rental home these days: “You want to stay [in] places that are Instagram-worthy because you are living your life as content.”

No, I’m not! “Content” has multiple definitions, including, “Something that is to be expressed through some medium, as speech, writing, or any of various arts.” But it’s also, “Something that is contained.” Which is precisely what you are if you turn Instagram or any medium into a god and appease it with a sacrifice of your money. Why let somebody else’s platform, app, rules, and standards dictate your life?

I’m reminded of my junior high and high school years, when I was nowhere close to being one of the cool kids and probably would’ve been known as a geek if the word had been invented yet.** That was when I learned not to define myself by what other people see. Of course, in those times a portable phone that doubled as a camera was something out of a James Bond movie or “The Jetsons.” But some people would look at a man like John Lennon and see only a threat, simply because he had long hair.

Content is produced by one party for the use and benefit of another. If you live like that, you’re forfeiting the game before the kickoff. You’re letting the card shark deal from the bottom of the deck. You’re paying for undercoating and pinstripes on your new car (when you probably don’t even need the car in the first place). You’re asking the mean girls and guys to write nice things in your yearbook.

It’s one thing to create and manage your own profile, persona, or brand. It’s quite different to become a brand. Be yourself.

*I advised y’all (my readers) a while ago about the value of a thesaurus. Did you listen?
**An odd duck, a socially awkward sort, or a serious intellectual. I didn’t fit the older definition: a carny performer who bites the head off a live chicken.