#12 Instagram: Hero or Villain? (spoiler: It’s neither).

I use Instagram every day. I check it too much. In those weird in between times when I know I won’t get through the full 50 questions on my favourite study app. I check it in the queue for lunch and then again 10 seconds later when the person ahead can’t find the right change. I wonder why no one has posted anything in those 5 seconds and then shove my phone back in my pocket, annoyed with myself. On several occasions I’ve thought about deleting it altogether. I don’t have Facebook on my phone. I don’t have Twitter. Why do I keep Instagram around?

I guess first and foremost because in 2017 it’s the best place I know to discover photographers. Not just 2017 photographers either. So often I run into a picture with the comment ‘[photographer] tribute’ or some such. Given my relatively short list of known masters, I google these names and if I like what I see I add them to my list of photographers to learn more about. That list is always growing. There is actually a list. I’ll write about it one day I’m sure. Often the photographer who posts the tribute picture is damn good as well. I’m not picky in my inspiration. I love any photo that makes me feel something. I love how quick it is. I love seeing the collectives and hashtags and projects that spring up giving people something to be a part of. I love the sheer ease. (Almost) everyone’s phone is an incredible camera these days – in Japan a surprising amount of people still insist on using garakei (flip phones). I feel like Instagram is a reminder for a lot of people that they can make a photo with their phone.

Shibuya, 2016

It’s not all love though. I do often think about deleting it. I hate how much I check it. It’s a treasure trove of fantastic photographs, but rarely do they get the time they deserve. Whether shot on film, digital, on a phone, I love physical photographs. In a book, on a wall, a print in hand. I’ll look at a print for ten minutes, twenty minutes. If something really gets to me I’ll look at it again and again and again. I’ll circle back to it in an exhibition and look at it for another 10 minutes. It’s hard to give more than ten seconds to an Instagram picture. It’s too small on the screen – even on the big ass screen of my lovely new OnePlus3T. It’s surrounded by other pictures. The customer in front might find their change and be gone. It’s too quick.

My biggest issue with Instagram though isn’t an issue with the platform at all. It’s an issue with myself. I love numbers too much. I’ve had a Fitbit for 18 months or so now – I take 10,000+ steps a day, I run 5km+ in 30 minutes 3 times a week, I’m active for 30+ minutes a day, I track my sleep (5hrs20 last night). I try and study for 60 minutes a day. I love fill the bar quests in Warcraft. I play D&D, where half the game is dice rolls and 5ft cubic spaces, every Sunday. I love how easy it is to see my phone’s data usage or available storage numbers by just swiping right. My problem with Instagram is that I end up taking way too much interest in the numbers. My numbers, other people’s numbers, everything. I wish they weren’t there, but that’s not the world we live in. It’s embarrassing.

Shinjuku, 2017

When I’m shooting (I currently only shoot digital) – I don’t think about numbers. I don’t try and take a certain amount of photos or shoot for a certain amount of time. I shoot when I feel like it until I don’t or I have to be somewhere else. I have numbers rules in my Lightroom just to stop myself getting lazy with my imports. I have a 32gb memory card in my camera so I don’t have to care about the numbers.

Photography isn’t numbers.

Photography is, obviously, photography.

Instagram has both in spades.

March (Shinagawa - Akasaka) (5 of 8).jpg
Akasaka, 2017

In trying to conclude this I’ve forced myself to remember that they’re not actually related at all; photography and Instagram. Instagram is a whole other thing, separate entirely from the pleasure of making photographs. Instagram is neither a hero nor a villain of photography. It’s a social media app with some cool features and some annoying features. Photography gets me out of bed in the morning.

This post kind of got away from me towards the end. All credit to you if you kept up with it.

Tokyo, April 2017

4 thoughts on “#12 Instagram: Hero or Villain? (spoiler: It’s neither).

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