Instagram: An Artistic Technology of the Self
Instagram is being used for lots of things: improving literacy in the universal language of meme, selling purp, helping Justin Bieber on his quest for true love, and most perhaps most potently of all, as an artistic forum by you.
But what exactly do you use Instagram for? When you’re not #sippinlean and finessing your way onto the digital drugs market, are you still blandly documenting your digestive input or taking inane valencia doctored selfies? Or are you looking at Instagram from a slightly nuanced, more creatively curated and artistic angle?
Hopefully, you’re the latter, and quickly joining the ever increasing amateur creatives of Instagram, masters of 21st century photographic composition and aficionados of acute sensory perception. Admittedly, that’s a huge exaggeration of the everyman/woman and his/her iPhone camera, so what if you haven’t got photoshop or a DLSR, you can be your very own Magritte trying to capture that cloud formation on your way home.
The increased sensory perception apparent in much of the internet’s amateur photography is overwhelming. Regardless of statistics (of which there are many) consider personally how many accounts you have come across devoted to digital delicacy and acute attention to life’s aesthetic detail. Much of this can be attributed to Instagram, now deemed the most popular social platform amongst American teenagers, and the foremost hotbed for creativity since Tumblr. Whereas sites such as Tumblr and Pinterest also continue to hone a similar kind of artistic creativity – they lack the authenticity and originality of Instagram, due to its large volumes of original photographic content in comparison to reblogged and re-pinned images.
Of course, many people still possess a Tumblr account whose handle bears the scars of a turbulent love affair with Panic! At The Disco, the platform which could now be cited as Generation X’s answer to the adolescent journal. But alas, nowadays you might not recoil with cringe when someone uncovers your carefully curated Instagram tiles. Instead a sense of pride in successfully representing your idealised online persona, but just what is it that makes reflections of life in 4×6 so appealing?
The attractive idea that everyone and anyone can create a selection of tiles that radiate creativity and photographic talent is all too tempting for generations dragged up on the digital. With the janus-faced digital self often preceding the actual – why wouldn’t you want an Instagram that screams cultural and artistic talent? (why do you think Tinder offer the option to sync your images with your dating profile) Hence why there are evidently those who pour an enormous amount of effort into their Instagrams, creating a lucrative market that can reap huge financial gain from endorsements and advertising.
But leaving the money motivation behind and returning to the notion of Instagram as a positive creative outlet for many people – reiterates its usefulness in combatting a loss of sensitivity that is often a strong criticism levelled at the digital realm. The psychology of Instagram is often rooted in celebrity culture, with Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid dominating adolescent psyche – it can be easy to tarnish this entire social platform with the same unhealthy brush. When not purporting unrealistic body ideals, lip fillers or fad health endorsements, Instagram can clearly be succesfully used as a purely artistic outlet.
This is something encouraged by the app’s creators themselves – with the promotion of the WHP (Weekend Hashtag Project) which encouragers users to seek out a particular themed image or photographic technique each weekend. Here it would seem the app’s ethos is clear – enhanced creativity over weight loss teas.
In a digitally saturated world such as ours, what would be the harm in encouraging increased sensory perception, honing our creativity and celebrating the aesthetically pleasing intricacies of our existence? Recent controversies such as Essena O’Neill waxing lyrical about the evils of contrived social media and Bored Panda’s ‘The Truth Behind Instagram Photos’ – could have easily caused the app to suffer a backlash.
But, it hasn’t. The social media platform is growing from strength to strength, with over 300 million users and 70 million photos shared every single day. Proving that as long as we are aware that our souls belong to Zuckerberg, does any of it really matter? (Jk jk it does)
Although if you take Instagram for what it has the potential to be – a hugely influential platform for publicising artists and creatives of all mediums, a way to indulge yourself in a little creativity your hectic life may otherwise not allow space for – it can’t be all that bad. It lacks the political monologues of Facebook, the narcissism of Snapchat and the arrogance of Twitter, instead leaving us with neat photographic composition that reflects how we want to be creatively perceived online. Returning to this article’s title, perhaps by loosely applying the Foucauldian notion of a technology of the self we could begin to see Instagram as an actual technology that can help us on our quest for ‘a certain type of happiness’, whilst allowing us to appreciate the beauty of life along the way.
By Holly Hunt