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Instagram Photos

Those that know me know that I have a complex relationship with Instagram — deleting it and downloading it dozens of times over the past year. I'm still partial on the platform. Pros are that it's an unparalleled tool for keeping in touch with old friends and for flirting ðŸĪŠ. Cons are that I'm indifferent to 95% of content on my feed and that it sucks away my energy in return for next to no fulfillment. Right now, the pros outweigh the cons though and it's back on my phone.

For personal accounts, much of Instagram photography is about capturing a memory. It's putting everything you want to remember into a frame and showing the world (including your future self) how amazing that moment in time was for you.

I'm not about it, which is why I don't post on Instagram anymore.

I prefer for photos to serve as enablers of memory: reference pointers for my engineering friends and bookmarks for my humanities friends. They offer just enough stimuli for the retrieval of the memories and emotions around the moment in time that was captured. I find this to be a deeply personal way to interact with photos.

All photos inherently serve as an enabler of memory but its less common for people to take photos with that sole intention. It often lives as a secondary effect of the more common intention of capturing a memory.

This may not always have a tangible effect on the photo itself, but it does have a strong effect on the number of similar photos taken ( # till perfect photo → 1) and the quality of the photo (near-perfect → satisfactory). A more pronounced effect may be a photo of the crowds around the Mona Lisa versus a head-on picture of the painting itself — rather than snagging an Instagrammable pic of Mona, the more important moment is the experience of squeezing through the crowds to reach the front.

I tried this out when I was out in Barcelona last month and found the act of taking photos to be heavily depressurized. It no longer felt necessary that every moment was captured by a perfect photo, an Insta-worthy photo, only that it had a photo good enough to be able to jog my memory in the future. Any one-handed side-button snap will do.

Perhaps more importantly, the photos I took no longer felt like an extension of myself. Because they remained private, they had no impact on my public "brand" — my identity was no longer outsourced to the photos that I took. The nature of the photos changed from encapsulations of myself to references of lived experiences.

That detachment between the identity of the photographer and the photo itself is why I still use VSCO. That platform serves as a collection of compelling images rather than a visual summation of a life. I love that.

What I'm rejecting is not the idea of aesthetically pleasing photos, but rather the idea of the personal Instagram account. I'm not a fan of its impact as a visual timeline of one's life nor of its impact on the act of photography.

I've heard the kids no longer use Instagram like that. Props to them.