Social media site Instagram has had its fifth birthday this month. It’s perplexing to consider that for five whole years we have rejoiced photographs of exquisitely arranged salads, cherished Kim Kardashian’s selfies and neurotically monitored fitness inspiration blogs that remind us how fat and unhappy we all really are.
Instagram has now overtaken Twitter in terms of the amount of active users, with over 300 million monthly active users, of which more than 75 million use the app daily. As much as it makes me wince to admit, I am one of those 75 million. Instagram is as necessary to my circadian routine as my cup of tea before lectures and my afternoon nap.
I slump in bed in the morning and probe through whose boyfriend has bought them a new Michael Kors handbag this week (always captioned ‘the boy did good’) and discover that another boy from high school has become a self-proclaimed fitness instructor and is offering me advice on how to enhance my biceps by four inches in 24 hours, and I love it. Instagram is perhaps so popular because it allows us to showcase ourselves in a way that we have never before been able to do. It encompasses the innate human yearning to show-off.
There is no better way to show everyone how much better your life is than theirs than via Instagram. It paints an idealised view, perhaps, of what we wish our reality was like.
One could assume, looking at my Instagram, I eat beautifully poached eggs and avocado on toast every morning, before taking a selfie in my spotless new Nike gym-wear, and then spending the evening sipping exquisite cocktails in a bar with my beautiful friends and their perfectly manicured nails and fresh blow dry’s.
The reality however, goes more like this; OMG! For the first time in three weeks of trying my breakfast doesn’t look like a cat has just thrown it up – I’ll Instagram it. OMG! My new Nike leggings are so comfortable I think I’ll sit in bed all day and appreciate their stretchiness, but it looks like I’m going to the gym – I’ll Instagram them. OMG! I have a free drink voucher for that posh place in town lets go there! Then I proceed to photograph my drink before subsequently colliding with the table of cocktails as I try to remove the toilet paper stuck to my Primark heel. This is what I love: you will only ever see what I want you to see.
Instagram has impacted modern society in ways I don’t think we can yet comprehend. ‘Insta-famous’ is a culturally recognised adjective and it’s becoming a career opportunity too. Millions of people, businesses and brands around the world use Instagram as their primary advertising source. Users are constructing livelihoods, and generating a lot of money, from showcasing their bodies, make up skills, clothing, photography and so on.
With this popularity comes a whole culture of Instagram. You must learn the unwritten rules of Instagram in order to maximise usage potential. For example, it is obligatory that if your best friend uploads a selfie, you comment the love heart eyes emoji, the princess emoji, or the burning fire emoji. If they do not yet have eleven likes, you better like that photo, it is your duty. If you buy a coffee, or cook a steak, one must upload a photo, otherwise it didn’t happen. People don’t like it if you put #stunning on your own photo and you must always, ALWAYS be extra vigilant with navigation when you are 78 weeks deep in your ex-girlfriend’s or new boyfriend’s pictures.
Only recently, when travelling America did I begin to recognise the true depths of my Instagram obsession. Living in the jungle with no access to social media, I found myself comfortable and relaxed in my own skin. My own particular Instagram weakness is female fitness pages. I trawl through hundreds and hundreds of spectacular muscular bodies, flawless feminine six-packs, toned legs and peachy arses. I gawp and curse myself silently as I shovel more pizza into my mouth and glare through my tears at my rapidly growing food baby. Perhaps, on reflection, it was a sense of freedom, being separated from the social pressures to be picture-perfect all the time. That said, I’d be lying if I said Instagram was far from my mind the whole time I was away. I couldn’t help but imagine the glory of each photo with an Instagram filter, and separate my photographs between Facebook and Insta-worthy.
Ultimately I try not to worry too much that Kendal Jenner, who is younger than myself, had the most liked photo on Instagram of all time (over 3.1 million likes), and that my pictures get twelve likes on a good day. I know that I can rest assured knowing that if I #girl, SexyDarren37 from Bolton will like all selfies I’ve ever taken.
It also shouldn’t matter that Taylor Swift probably has more followers than breaths I will take in my entire life because ultimately, it doesn’t really mean anything. We need to stop searching for clarity in an emoji or a follow or a like, because we are all so much more than our 180 Instagram posts.
Nobody looks like their twice edited Instagram photograph in real life, and nobody’s figure looks as good in reality as it does with a Valencia tint. Although a picture may be worth a thousand words, I don’t really think one selfie can ever truly be worth 3.1 million likes.