I'm that girl. I take photos of brunch and post them on Instagram. I'll roll down the cab's window as we drive over the bridge and take a picture of Manhattan's skyline. I experiment with filters and will spend more time playing with a photo's saturation and contrast than you might find appropriate.
I'm not going to apologize, though. Yes, I am looking at that sunset from my phone's screen, but I'm still looking at it. Yes, I'm standing in this restaurant to get a good angle on my sandwich, but I am appreciating the hell out of that sandwich. Instagram isn't taking me out of everyday moments, it's helping me to appreciate them. Thanks to Instagram, I'm seeing the world in a new way, and it's impacting my life. Before Instagram, I wasn't watching sunsets. I wasn't even looking at my food before shoveling it down. Instagram makes me stop and look around. Yes, it's often because I'm in search of a cool photo to take, but at least I'm looking.
This morning when I woke up, I was so excited to see pink streaks across the sky. I stared out my window at the pink and blue light for a moment, considering how this specific swath of sky would look if I turned up the saturation and put a Low-Fi filter on it. (I'm even annoying myself with that one.) Instead of taking the photo, though, I just looked for a minute and went on with my day. This could be the first step to taking time to appreciate all of the beautiful sights and sounds that I encounter every day without needing to share them with anyone. Someday, these moments will be my own. Until then, I have Instagram.
I've heard from friends that Instagram makes them upset. It forces them to look into people's seemingly glamorous lives, making them feel bad about their own. Some of my friends have even deleted their Instagram apps so they don't torture themselves.
It's easy to get obsessed with social media, and it's not always positive. There are endless campaigns urging people to "look up" from their phones.
Social media does have negative effects on many people. Researchers have found that passive observation of friends' posts on Facebook can increase anxiety and loneliness. There's even a special term that people use for the depression that comes from watching your friends have fun without you, as we so often do on social media. It's called FOMO -- fear of missing out. Social media doesn't have to cause anxiety, though. It's all about how you use it.
In a recent study, people who used sites like Facebook and Instagram to make plans and connect with others were found to have improved moods. To improve your relationship with social media, you can compliment friends, keep track of life events and join interest-based groups.
Trust me, I get that Instagram can feel destructive. I've spent many evenings salivating over friends' beach vacations while I watched "Parks & Recreation" with a Smart Ones dinner from my bed for the thousandth time. It's not easy to be bombarded with photos of the best moments of people's lives. That's why it's important to curate your feed. I follow friends, family, food bloggers, yogis, photographers, comedians, stylists and everyone in between. If someone's posts aren't making me happy, I unfollow them.
For me, it's not about showing off or making people jealous. I like looking at people's photos on Instagram, and I like posting photos that I think others will enjoy. Using Instagram is about adding some color and fun to my friends' feeds. I think of it more as a social art museum. I'm looking at my friends' photography, and they look at mine.
Taking a moment to appreciate the beauty around can improve your mood. Gratitude and "counting your blessings" has been proven to make you happier and healthier. There's even evidence that photographing your food makes it taste better. A study from the University of Minnesota and Harvard Business School showed that when people made a ritual out of photographing their meal before eating it, they found their food more delicious.
Yes, it's important to "give people your love" instead of your "'like,'" as writer and director Gary Turk says in his video "Look Up." Why can't I do both though? When did taking photos and sharing them with your friends negate the real, meaningful time you spend with your loved ones?
When I'm hanging out with friends or family, my phone is generally away. I'm not defending people who sit and text and look at Instagram instead of interacting with people in real life. Instagram isn't about taking the place of social interaction, it's about enhancing it.