Instagram: Memory maker or faker?

The double edged sword of Instagram. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has felt the cut of its tension.

On one hand, it is so generous and indiscriminate in bestowing its power. It gives us the ability to choose what we want others to see. We are given a blank canvas to paint any picture we like, either constantly (overly) honest about the painful reality of life, or sticking to the surface level, the pretty, photo-ready parts. Only a few close friends are likely to know that the truth is any different.

Weighing heavily on the other hand though, the challenge of honesty and authenticity is a constant and serious one. Instagram is definately an opportunity for our creativity to be pushed and refined, but I also have a gnawing conviction that there should also be more behind what we share than just the surface aesthetic. Do we feel pressured into taking empty ‘people-pleaser’ photos to prove we are living just as exciting lives the people we follow? Who or what are our personal Instagram feeds first and foremost for? What would you post if nobody was ever going to see your feed? Is it meaningful for you?

I find that occasionally I stumble across moments in life too subjective to share with anyone. A little epiphany of sorts, that changes how I think, but that I struggle to translate into something of any sense outside my own head. Emotions I can’t sum up in a sentence, or any number of words. In these instances, I find myself with none of the tools I usually use to help me remember things; it is just me and my erratic memory.

Often, I let them pass. I put them down – just for a moment – in a corner of my mind. Before I know it, everyday junk gets piled on top of those once-profound memories. Buried in the murky past among a jumble of unimportant things.

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But once in a while I want to file these moments somewhere where I can easily gain access to them again. Somewhere where I’m likely to stumble over them again in a moment of future idleness. A child of Google and automatic spellcheckers, my memory shamefully relies on documentation; everything that isn’t written down seems to slip quietly away whilst my back is turned. I feel the urge to create something visible, something real and solid that exists in the wider world, whose colour won’t fade over time. And yet, something in which the unique, individual moments that hide behind each one of them are out of reach to all but me.

Like certain scents, images trigger memories. To the uninitiated they are no more than their aesthetic appearance, but photos have the power to take me back to a specific feeling, emotion or moment. A cup of tea on a lace tablecloth recalls hysterics after getting drenched to the skin at the start of a holiday. A mug of coffee with a stormy sea view backdrop reminds of a long walk with quality time spent talking; conversations whose words have been forgotten but the echoes of which still reverberate today. An open palm holding a piece of confetti documents a moving conversation that profoundly enriched a relationship. Moments captured and protected.

Instagram, a space that is so public and yet able to hold the privacy of my thoughts, feels like a safe place to file away memories. The challenge is keeping an authentic balance in what we share.

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