#40iscoming and I’m confused about Instagram

I joined Instagram in March 2016, almost three years ago. I was getting ambivalent about Facebook (smiling condescendingly because you detest social media, think it’s all a load of cr@p, and would never even get near it? You are a superior human being. Statue on its way. Also, I know you ask your friends to stalk your ex on Facebook for you. It’s all ok. Peace and love) and Instagram seemed a lot more promising than Twitter – 140 characters, or even 280 or however much you’re allowed these days, may be enough for heads of state but not for brevity-challenged me. I loved walking around finding things to photograph. Clouds, tree, greenery, books. The thought of finding stuff to post on Instagram made me slow down and notice things; for the first time in ages, I was very aware of the seasons, of the order in which trees bloom. This, I decided, was better than meditation.

A sample of my Instagram posts, 2016:

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I even wrote a post about mindful Instagramming, complete with seven snappy rules, summarised below:

  1. Stay firmly on the supply side. Your mantra is “post, not scroll”. No falling into the newsfeed vortex like you do on Facebook!
  2. No more than five selfies (or photos of your food!) per year. Think “still life” and imagine you’re very artistic indeed. Now scan your environment for beauty, humour, surprise, and stories. They’re there.
  3. Spend no more than 5 minutes actually posting.
  4. Take five seconds to look at what you’re about to photograph before you press the button. Better yet, set yourself a challenge to only take one photo, instead of taking 15 and choosing the best to post.
  5. Don’t buy a good camera. Use your battery-challenged phone, so it dies at random times while you’re out and about and you end up just looking at stuff you’d like to photograph.
  6. Engage your other senses. Imagine how cool it would be if you could post a photo that also had the smell, texture and sound of what you’re photographing.
  7. (Work in progress) Get excited about likes and followers, but remember you’re not just a narcissist, you’re now a mindful narcissist. So let the ego have its little party, then let go – or at least try.

How have I done on following my own rules? Well…here are my “Top 9 of 2018”:

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Yeah, so we’re looking at me, me, me, me and the Dolomites. Oh, and me. And me in a hat. And me at 13. Not so great on that “no more than five selfies per year” rule then. (Or the “no more than 5 minutes actually posting” one, but let’s not go there.)

So what happened? Have I become a lot more narcissistic over the past few years or just a lost less hypocritical? It’s most likely a combination of the two. Eckart Tolle is probably not proud of me.

I didn’t do much better with staying on the supply side…

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Have you ever seen this “You’re All Caught Up” message? I get it quite a bit. That’s Instagram gently telling me that I have just fallen down the newsfeed vortex. I still can’t decide if it’s meant to be helpful or condescending.

(While we’re on supply side, there are some great things out there if you can keep yourself out of the scrolling vortex, even if (especially?) if you’re a #40iscoming type person. For fashion you might actually want to wear, I love @doesmybumlook40, who is funny and cool and the inspiration behind my new obsession with Needle and Thread (@needleandthread) dresses. Also check out @thatsnotmyage and @myfashionable40s – plus @salihughes, the only source of skincare and beauty advice you’ll ever need. Oh, and between @newyorkercartoons and @theyellowhairedgirl, there’s always something to smile about.)

Some good news on following my own rules? I did NOT buy a good camera (still have that same battery-challenged phone as a matter of fact – 10 points for Gryffindor!), my ego is probably having a little party, I still post words, clouds and carbs in addition to selfies, and I have become better at not posting photos of my food.

But yeah, I’m still confused about Instagram. Is it good or evil? Should I stay or should I go? Pros: no political rants, generally positive vibe if you’re careful who you follow, lots of pretty photos (duh!). Cons: newsfeed vortex. I guess I’ll stay for a while more. New rules: turn notifications off. And just say no to FaceApp and its ilk. Check back in with me in three years’ time, ok? (If you can’t tell who’s in the selfies, I messed up again.)

You can stop scrolling now. No, really, stop it.

P.S. Did you really think I wouldn’t mention Brene? She’s at @brenebrown. Great video on empathy vs sympathy posted just today. You’re welcome.

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