The Filtered Life.
Let’s be honest with ourselves for a second. That photo of your adorable child hugging that cat can be sent by text or posted to someone’s Facebook wall. The amazing video of dolphins swimming by your boat in the Philippines can be uploaded to a shared iPhoto album for close friends to view. But for some reason, we feel the need to filter, edit, crop and rush to post–to show the world that what we are doing is important. So important it warrants that people take time out of their busy lives to stop, enjoy said photo and then take that extra effort to lift their thumb–not once, but twice–and double tap that photo.
It’s as if that little orange heart at the bottom of the screen validates that what we are doing in our lives is worthwhile. We need friends and strangers alike to approve of the choices that have led to this specific junction deemed so worthy of the Mayfair filter. It’s seeking social acceptance. It’s bragging about the places we have been to or the toys we buy. It’s our insecurities eating us alive. It’s OK to admit. We are all insecure about something. Instagram just gives us a cool, hip way to express it or maybe ignore it.
Or, perhaps you just want to share photos and stories of the places you are visiting to inspire other people to travel as well. Posting photos of the charity work you do can ignite change and bring awareness to a problem your followers may not know about. If you’re starting a business, it can be used to share the experience with friends. Instagram (and social media in general) is a powerful tool for inspiration because–what’s that saying again?–oh yeah, a picture is worth a 1,000 words. Maybe I’m attempting to rationalize the use of a medium that has too many factors. Maybe I’m trying to understand by simulation–by trying to place myself in others’ shoes to figure out why they share intimate moments of their life. But instead I am seeing through my own preferences and motivations.
I guess this is the part where I examine my own use of social media: One reason I heavily use Instagram is to share my experiences with others in hopes that I open new travel and lifestyle possibilities for those who want to travel but might be scared. (I also would like to have a successful travel blog and build a travel network.)
But those reasons aren’t the main driving force of my Instagram use. I have spent the last two years living abroad in Hong Kong teaching English. In that span, I have traveled to 10 countries and done some pretty incredible activities–activities that many would agree are “Insta-worthy.” I have shared almost every moment of my travels the last two years, from photos of cage diving with Great Whites in South Africa to being lost and scared in Ukraine. I rush to wifi hotspots to post the latest experiences and sites I have visited–but why?
If I didn’t post them: does that mean I wasn’t there? Of course not. Am I seeking social acceptance? I wouldn’t think so. Many of my friends abroad are doing the same traveling and lifestyle I am, so I don’t feel the need to be accepted by them. Most of my friends back home are married, working for promotions, buying houses, having kids or all of the above, and I don’t need that approval because, as harsh as it might sound, I don’t want any part of that lifestyle right now.
I think my social media sharing comes from an attempt to reach Self-Actualization. Now hang with me for a second as I explain my understanding of Carl Rogers’ theory–because I didn’t choose a psychology degree on purpose–but my understanding (with the help of Saul Mcleod, 2014) is that a person’s basic motive in life is to reach one’s full potential and the highest level of “Human being-ness” (the explantation article can be found here). Basically, self-actualization doesn’t occur until a person’s “Ideal Self” (who we want to be) is aligned with our behavior (self-image).
That’s what my Instagram really is. Photos of a 29-year-old traveler who hasn’t quite reached Self-Actualization yet. I want to be an international communications professional who can move countries every six months. I want to feel happy with not living in the U.S., instead of fighting with the idea every day I am away. I want to marry a foreign woman who will get into as many crazy life situations as possible with me. I want to create my own business opportunities. I want to say I have given 100% at a job. Hell, I want to say I have given 100% in everything I have done. I basically want to be Brad Pitt from Legends of the Fall. I want to speak three languages. I want to be a world traveler. And I. Am. Not. Close. Instagram gives me a medium to share my “Ideal Self.”
Selfies with just the right angle and perfect hair day allow us to show what our “Ideal Self” looks like. Photos of shark-cage diving may lead people to say, “Wow, he is really a world traveler who does the extreme.” Sharing your child’s first day of school and first time walking validates that being a parent is way more exciting than what you’re giving up. Posting 33 photos of you and your partner might be the “Ideal Relationship” you want, but don’t have. We’re projecting the self we want people to see, but we’re not quite there yet.
Why do you post on Instagram? Are you searching for self-actualization?