The Outing of Instagram: Online Communities and Changing Habits
On this hot Saturday morning, I did what I do nearly every Saturday morning. I woke up, made breakfast, then sat down to read the NYTimes. I flipped through the travel section, slightly disappointed in the lack of photos illuminating the stories and then realized - I haven't checked my Instagram today. Immediately upon realizing this, I pulled out my phone, opened the app and hit refresh. Refresh. Refresh. Nothing. So I checked for updates in the App store. Nothing. I connected my phone to my computer, wondering if the app had crashed in some weird fashion and considered deleting and reinstalling.
"Deleting "Instagram" will also delete all of its data"
All of its data!? You mean - it might erase my comments? The autofill when I type in #catsagram?! I decided the risk of doing this was too great and chose instead to seek answers. I opened Twitter and typed in #instagram. Five seconds later I had my answer - lightening from a storm had brought down Instagram's servers. Surrounding that pertinent information were sarcastic Tweets reminding everyone that, yes, they could eat their breakfast without documenting and sharing the process. Others smartly pointed out that it's ironic that nature was the cause of such a disruption in our newly formed digital habits. It was a timely reminder of just how powerful nature is - that despite our technological leaps, nature can still destroy us with its forrest fires, hurricanes, heat and draughts.
After reading through a few more Tweets, I leaned back from my computer and suddenly a brief moment of sadness washed over me. I wondered, what's my "Instagram friend" in London doing right now? Did he explore any new interesting places in the English countryside with his family? Where are my daily, mind-blowingly gorgeous photos of the South African coast? How is my friend in Brooklyn right now? Has she stumbled upon any interesting graffiti? What will my day be like if I am forced to actually live in the moment - sharing my world with just those who are physically in my presence?
While I agree that we need to be more present and respect nature, I think they're missing the bigger point. Nature is a powerful force that will always push back regardless of our technological advances. It may be punishing us for our pollution and destruction but certainly not for our advanced communication tools. But the bigger question is - do we really share just for the sake of sharing?
No - we share to become part of a community, using our photos and comments as a tool to build relationships. Like the closing of ones neighborhood bar - we're not sad because we miss the drinks. We're sad because we miss the people. And thus the world of Instagram is not a magical place for its ability to turn mundane imagery into something beautiful - it's magical because like a crystal ball - it allows me to see what they see - helping me connect with these specific people in a way that no other platform can.