We have found the perfect way to define ourselves as people. Social and cross platform digital media are used as tools to create a digital representation of oneself, a digital footprint. Lets take a quick look at Instagram’s digital politics.
With the arrival of online social media, interaction face-to-face between people has become increasingly rare. The introduction of social networks into the social landscape allows relationships around the world to flourish, changing the way that we fundamentally communicate as humans. In principle, a global social network not only connects people faster and easier than ever before, but makes word of mouth a dominant social ideology. Corporations and brands now had a way to personally interact with their consumers and consumers a way to interact with the brand. Publicly available consumer data was refined and finally accurate. Successful brands must become the consumer, not just sell to them. Social media has changed the way that we view and produce content.
Instagram is the epitome of modern communication. According to Instagram’s press blog, there are 150 million active users per month, 55 million photos posted per day, and 1.2 billion likes per day. In just a few clicks and a tag, we can categorize ourselves within rigid definitions. We are obsessed. We’re obsessed with intercommunication and overstimulation and are constantly looking for the approval of others — another follow, another like. We consistently create and curate content based on others opinions. We are prisoners to our peers.
We engage in “Reactive Storytelling” defined by Ross Simmonds as, “the intentional integration of a top of mind story or idea with a compelling marketing message that your audiences finds relevant and compelling. When a business uses Reactive Storytelling they are able to leverage a human truth or an insight to generate instant feedback.” In short, we define our digital media footprint, posting images and statuses based on the approval of our peers. But, businesses aren’t the only culprits of refining and defining themselves through Reactive Storytelling. Reactive storytelling doesn’t just influence the way we shape our profiles online, but has begun to guide our interests and activities within the physical world. With the expediency of this medium, Instagram has become a tool for documenting virtually everything about a persons life from their last trip to the zoo to what they had for dinner — a vegan apple and avocado salad with a crushed almond puree. Instagram has become an app for multiple dynamic and interconnected communities. This digital footprint of ones life is a gift and a curse.
“You get more explicit and implicit cues of people being happy, rich, and successful from a photo than from a status update [on Facebook],” says Hanna Krasnova of Humboldt University Berlin, co-author of the study on Facebook and envy. “A photo can very powerfully provoke immediate social comparison, and that can trigger feelings of inferiority. You don’t envy a news story” (source: Slate.com). You wouldn’t look through an Instagram newsfeed while your drinking with your friends at a bar or out to dinner? I would hope not. People tend to explore these social sites when they are bored, lonely, or dissatisfied with themselves or their lives. In actuality, everyone’s life looks better within their internet social sphere and is full of partial truths. Consumers are becoming brands themselves making others question and compare their lives. Choosing to take part in a social movement such as Rich Kids of Instagram objectifies and materializes our culture only furthering people from their personal aspirations. Envy becomes motivation to pursue materialistic wealth instead of passion.
Don’t take this the wrong way though. Social media, including Instagram, are incredibly powerful tools. Tools that when used right, can provide incredible utility for your individual and business brands. I would like to offer a warning. Don’t let the technological media landscape take over and define your life. Instead, use it to help you and inspire you creatively, share your passions, and refine your style, but not completely change it. As said in Fast Company, “If you get bored with social media it’s because you are trying to get more value than you create.” We must take technology in stride, using it to build communities of inspired individuals instead of delicately curated images of ourselves.
As Sean Gardner, Forbes #1 Social Media Power Influencer, said “Social media is not just an activity; it is an investment of valuable time and resources. Surround yourself with people who not just support you and stay with you, but inform your thinking about ways to WOW your online presence.”