Don’t Be a Square: Say No to Instagram FOMO

Originally published by Keep it Wild.

Last week, I went hiking after work on a trail close to my office. It was a beautiful evening: the grasses were at that beautiful stage of green before they turn summer-brown, the sun bathed the red rocks in golden light, the birds were chirping and the air smelled like things growing. That night, I had every intention of posting one of my pictures from my hike, but then I started scrolling through Instagram. One of my friends had lucked out and won the daily lottery for the Wave. Another girl I followed had posted a picture from Havasupai. One influencer had ‘grammed her dawn patrol ski up Mt. Hood, the sunrise colors epic. Another influencer was flying over waterfalls in Indonesia in a floatplane. Yeah, in a floatplane.

I scrolled through my pictures from my hike and the colors didn’t seem quite as bright, the subject matter quite as appealing – they suddenly seemed pretty ordinary. I went to bed without posting.

Social media is an amazing space for inspiration; it’s grown my bucket list exponentially. In fact, I have a whole gallery folder on my phone solely dedicated to screenshots of other people’s ‘grams, depicting places I never knew existed but now desperately want to visit. But, on the flipside, it’s also really easy to get caught up in thinking your life is boring when you’re seeing the highlight reel from hundreds of other people all in one place…

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Creating Memories or Taking Selfies?

Is snapping a selfie the same as making a memory? Is our instant gratification culture is confusing the two?

With Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook documenting our every step, it can be really hard not to want to have “experiences” that make people scrolling through their news feeds jealous. I can’t tell you the number of hikes I’ve been on lately where teenagers show up with a hammock, stage three or four iPhone pictures and then pack up and leave. Last year I witnessed a couple get out of their car, take two steps down a trail, take a selfie, discuss the caption, and then get in their car and drive away. I think we can all agree there’s no way these people are actually making memories. But it can be so hard not to fall into the trap! Sometimes I’ll have an idea in mind for the best Instagram post. Topher makes fun of me all the time for taking pictures just for “the ‘gram”. Am I guilty of that? Absolutely. We can be having a piss-poor time, the weather can be crappy, we can be hot and hungry and tired and not enjoying ourselves in the slightest, but I stop the car, snap a picture and then doctor it up and make this fake memory for the sole purpose of likes online.

Especially when you’re a photographer, an artist, its a thin line. Sometimes, I want to shoot something because its beautiful, its inspiring. Sometimes I just want to shoot something because I want the photo for social media. Sometimes I set the shot up, take a million different angles, and try really hard. Other times, I snap one photo, just cropping out the hoards of other people doing the same thing, check to make sure its clear and am on my way. Because it looks good on everyone else’s feed. Because I have a witty caption in mind. Because I’ve been dreaming of the shot and I don’t want to admit its not the experience I’d hoped.

An Instagrammer I really admire, @minayounglee suggested truly experiencing a location, with no cameras, cellphones, etc, for 30 minutes before the first snap is ever taken. That way, you have time to really have an experience. To get a feel for the spot and find the perfect shot before you start blindly shooting and ruining a moment with your social aspirations. Its a humbling idea. Could I really sit still for thirty minutes without taking a picture?

The answer is yes. Absolutely. This summer I was gone for a month and a half in some of the most beautiful spots in the country and I only have 400 pictures to prove it. Do I wish I had taken photos some of the places we stopped? Absolutely. Do I regret not taking enough pictures? Honestly, no. The experiences are so much more valuable than a million photos of something I only saw through a lens. I am no Nat Geo photographer, and lucky for me, they have captured most of the world for me already (way better than I ever could hope to!) When time permits, I pull out my camera and try to create art. When it doesn’t, I’m learning to try to create an experience instead. I’m still guilty of pulling out my camera or my phone and taking several generic photos, but I also try to really be present in the moment. I want to be “Instafamous.” I think everyone does! But I also want a mind rich with memories and experiences. So, its a delicate balance. If you’re trying to create art, go for it. If you’re going for an experience, stop with the selfies. You don’t need to prove you were there, if you yourself are not going to remember it because your back was turned to it for a Snapchat.