Three times in the past week I have been accused of hating everything. Lena Dunham’s “Girls”? Hate it. Going to brunch? Hate it. Your new Facebook profile picture? Hate it. (I’m joking. Whatever you’re doing, it’s working.) Really, I’m not surprised by my friends’ reactions so much as annoyed with myself for throwing around the word “hate” so freely when, in fact, I don’t hate much at all. I do like “Girls,” I just don’t think it’s that insightful. I do like brunch, I just would rather avoid waiting hours for stuffed French toast. And I did love your profile picture. Just until you Instragrammed it, that is. Now I actually do hate it.
The truth tea hath been spilled: I hate Instagram. Not any lazy, whiny “hate”- I despise it on a level somewhere between the finale of “Seinfeld” and the bubonic plague. Stay with me here, friends.
Like most smartphone-toting Penn kids, I created an Instagram account. And, like most Instagram-having Penn kids, I believed I was making a statement of artistic integrity when passing the photo of my Sweetgreen salad through the Walden filter. But as someone with a particularly low threshold of annoyance for all things twee, seeing the same “artsy,” “retro” images of College Green in Lo-Fi and the Fisher Fine Arts reading room in Toaster became boring pretty quickly.
To be fair, Instagram isn’t a terrible idea; after all, why shouldn’t you want to share lovely pictures you’ve taken with other people can appreciate them? But if the goal is to be creative, the predictable snap-filter-publish mechanism isn’t always the best way to get there. Taking a quality photo on your phone (which, yes, of course you can do!) is a process that should require some deliberation, but Instagram flips this: here, what’s captured isn’t nearly as important as the legibility of the final image as having been obviously Instagrammed. Admit it: most of what pops up in your newsfeed is digital fodder. And of course, applying a filter to a shoddy image is the Instagram equivalent of posting “THX FOR THE BIRTHDAY WISHES!” on Facebook in that it says a lot about you by hardly saying anything at all. Yikes.
Because I’m not your nerdy TA who doesn’t leave Sansom East, I won’t try to theorize that our generation has such a short attention span that we generate these faux-vintage pictures to satisfy some deep-seated longing for nostalgia and to drug our inability to “live in the moment.” That would be really, really annoying, wouldn’t it? I’m arguing that although it’s pretty sweet that more people than ever before have had easy access to a creative outlet, we now have a bit more responsibility in what we choose to digitally share with others.
If you were waiting for me to throw around the old “A picture is worth a thousand words” chestnut, here we go: a picture is worth a thousand words. So let’s try to keep it that way for at least a little while longer, okay?