That is a frozen piece of pizza, on the ground, covered in snow. I found it in the parking lot this morning as I was leaving school. I posted an Instagram of it.
At the outset of the new year, I set some social media goals for myself. Things like learning to better leverage Twitter as a networking tool, expanding my presence and my brand online, and trying to take more Instagram photos. I hoped to achieve that last one by taking at least one Instagram photo each day for the entire year. For the first few weeks, I did quite well. I started taking photos of everything, some days posting more than one. On occasion, more than five.
Last night, I renounced my quest to post one Instagram a day.
The reason was something that became readily apparent to me just a few days in, but which I ignored until last night. I was taking pictures of stupid, useless stuff. Stuff that my followers probably didn’t care about. Stuff that I really didn’t care about. Stuff like a piece of frozen pizza. I was taking pictures for the sake of meeting a quota, and that made Instagram lose all meaning. It wasn’t fun anymore. It felt like work.
The easy answer would be that it was stupid of me to set an “Instagram quota” for myself, and that of course it starts to feel like work when you force yourself to continually do something even when you don’t want to. But what I realized during my experiment is that the quality of my photos really had nothing to do with the quota. Even everyday, casual use of Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and the like, often results in stupid, meaningless, irrelevant posts.
I’ve now become hyperaware of this fact. While composing a Tweet, I often stop and think, “Why am I saying this? Will someone find this funny? Does this Tweet have any meaning?” That often ends with a, “Screw it, I shouldn’t post this”, at which point I abandon the half-finished Tweet. The same can be said for Instagram. “Does everyone really need to see this? Is it artistic? Do I want to preserve this photo for later?” And Facebook. “Why did I post that? Am I just fishing for a reaction? Am I bragging?” Delete.
Perhaps what set me off yesterday was the introduction of Vine, Twitter’s new video sharing service that many are already calling “the Instagram for video”. Just like my Instagram photos were starting to feel meaningless, so too were most of the “first Vines” I saw posted yesterday. Vines of people Tweeting about Vine. Vines of people making coffee. Vines of people drinking coffee. Vines of dogs. Vines of cats. Vines of people dressed like cats. Vines of a dying Tweetie Bird. Vines of people eating food. I’ve yet to post a Vine, because I feel as if I have nothing Vine-worthy to record.
I get that part of the fun of these services – especially on launch day – is playing around with them, experimenting, posting stupid stuff, or funny stuff, or completely and wildly random stuff. But at some point we have to stop and think, “Why am I doing this? Does anyone care about this?”.
Services like Instagram and Vine are fuelling the frivolous. Many people, myself included, are fooled into this false belief that we always have something interesting to say or share. I think it’s important to be aware of this false sense of importance, to step back a little bit and ask ourselves if what we’re doing means something. Next time you post a Tweet, take an Instagram photo, update your Facebook status, or record a Vine, ask yourself “Why am I posting this? Does it really matter?”. Think critically about what you choose to post online. I know I will.