Monday, July 4, 2016

Instagram Scam

Recently, I've been posting (and looking) and interacting a bit more with Instagram. In Social, Media, I spoke about my pretty horrible photography skills, a fact which is compounded by the beautiful, albeit staged, photos which pop up on my feed. But such beauty has brought about a poignant discovery: that Instagram, despite all its filters and opportunities to edit, is a bit of a classist platform.

Unlike CNN, or the Huffington Post or any other news outlet for that matter, which makes you work (read: read) for your knowledge, Instagram provides an instantaneous fix of (visual) information. And, as humans are an oft intelligent species with a few politics exceptions, I feel as though Instagram is thus used for the purpose of entertainment where we can sit back, relax and quite literally be informed through a "feed" tube. Even Twitter, with its 140 cumbersome words can't compete. And that's ok... it should just make us careful because it's one thing to relax and another to be lazy. (Whatever, it's a health blog).

Who knows why we can process information so quickly? Perhaps, long before the invention of written language (a result of settling down and becoming "civilized") we used our vision to make snap judgements as to whether we should fight or take flight. Thus, according to the author of The Power of Visual Storytelling "the human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text," (typically at a rate of 13 milliseconds). But as the rapper Eve states in one of my favorite songs from high school, "easy come, easy go". When we can process a photo instantaneously (as on Instagram), we can also make snap judgements as to whether we literally "like it" or choose to move on. But perhaps in all of our efficiency, we miss the deeper trends of what is considered "likeable" and what is not. Because, the way I see it, when one has more funds to put towards their Instagram posts, the more "likable" they become.

Just as humans naturally comprehend visual information in the blink of an eye, we are also naturally drawn to certain physical characteristics we deem "beautiful". Smooth skin containing symmetrical and proportional features has generally been deemed as preferable across cultures. And just as there are universal standards of beauty, there are also universal standards for photography.

Simply summarized from an article on the TED blog, quality photography includes the adequate use of light, viewing our subject from an appropriate angle (think "above" as in selfies) and even the use of a reflector -- to control the use of light. But beyond how a picture is taken, we also like the content of photos on Instagram to take us to new places (again, assuming the platform is used for entertainment). So here is where things get a bit class-y.

To some extent, we can't really control what goes on in our environment. Yes, we might catch a flash of lightning or rainbow or whatever anomaly rolls past our view but even capturing such images can be enhanced when using expensive equipment. But, suffice it to say, if we use Instagram as a vehicle to gain new experiences, it's those with means who can deliver. Never been to Dubai? @followmeto has got you covered (they're also looking for retouchers). Never seen the inside of a Ferrari? Head over to @richkidsofinstagram. Even if it's not the subject that beguiles us, photos taken in good light with good equipment (and a team of retouchers) can often catch our eyes over those which are not. 

So, when a company can stage a photo with an abundance of flowers, high-end goods or whatever or when beautiful scenery is part of a wealthy lifestyle it's sometimes easy to default to "liking" such images more than others. But, perhaps if we listen to what each image tells us we can become more open to a variety of experiences... not just that of @kendalljenner.

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