Insta-sham: How aiming for professional pages stifles authenticity


In the spirit of summer, my Instagram timeline has been filled with pictures of people lounging by the pool or on the beach, traveling around exciting and exotic locations all over the world and dining on what seemed like delectable food. 

But, after going out to take on the summer with friends, I realized how performative the quintessential experiences that are meant to shape and define our youth have become in the pursuit of a perfect social media feed. 

Photography as an art form seeks to inspire people by authentically portraying life, but therein lies “the lie of photography.” After all, social media is a carefully curated highlight reel of people’s lives. 

Scouting out locations and experiences for Instagram is very normal for the influencer-inspired generation of today. But now, taking pictures — rather than having meaningful conversations or just plain and simple fun — consumes many people’s focus when out and about. 

Often, we feel overly self-conscious, and the need to take hundreds of pictures takes over. We hope to find “the one” that will finally make it to our feeds. You may find yourself impatiently waiting to dive into some grub when you’re out, but then someone chirps: “Instagram eats first!” 

We itch to grab our phones to take amazing pictures of sunsets, neon signs, bodies of water, cute animals and cityscapes. But in the process, we may just forget how and why we enjoyed those little joys in the first place.

Concert stadiums and arenas are illuminated by phones raised to the sky. Nowadays, a lot of concert-goers document musical moments for Snapchat rather than for themselves. More often than not, people look into their screens rather than to the stage, recording entire sets only to never watch those personal videos again. The fear of missing out has shifted from wanting to see your favorite band, to wanting to be sure that everyone knows you’re seeing your favorite band.

A lot of us spend more time trying to learn the perfect angles and poses for pictures, rather than soaking in the energy of different environments we inhabit. Don’t get me wrong, I love Instagram, photography and recording precious visual memories to keep for eternity. 

But, it's disheartening to see that a growing number of people today opt to visit certain places or partake in certain experiences for the validation of likes and comments. Being present at a single place and time has become ever so difficult in an age of constant distraction, real and online.

On trips to museums, I often see the same strange thing happening in every gallery, such as people undermining celebrated works of art by posing in front of them for an aesthetically pleasing snapshot, then promptly walking away. For instance, the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art are a landmark in New York City for “Gossip Girl” enthusiasts. In the name of Blair Waldorf, some people sit on the steps to have their “XOXO, Gossip Girl” moment and subsequently leave without wandering inside one of the world’s greatest museums.  

Interestingly, Instagram hotspots like the Museum of Selfies in Hollywood and the Museum of Illusions in New York have capitalized on this recent phenomenon and embedded social media into their visitors’ experiences.

Recently, the rise of “fake” Instagrams, or finstas, have given young people a chance to be “real” and quirky on social media. But Gillian Dauer, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, noticed that this effort has been somewhat counterproductive in depicting reality. 

“Finstas emerged as a place to put someone’s ‘real’ self online, making their real Instagram even more performative. Yet they’re still performing, trying to appear funnier or more creative on their finsta,” Dauer said.

Amber Trotman, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, believes that taking pictures for social media equates to making a performative, but emblematic record of any human experience. 

“You’re more focused on trying to get the perfect picture rather than soaking up what’s going on around you. But now, you also have a permanent reminder of what happened at that particular moment in your life,” Trotman said.

One can find a balance between living in the moment and having a visually stunning Instagram. Social media pictures should be personalized and about sharing life experiences with friends and family, not just a mode of self-promotion or a marketing tool. 

It’s a matter of embracing and controlling social media’s influence over us, rather than succumbing to it. 


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