It should come as no surprise that the uptrend in Instagramification has marginalized intellectual content. It will always be easier to post a picture, than to write about something that’s on your mind. As a result, people are killing themselves in the gym and starving themselves under the guise of dieting, to get the type of aesthetic that will garner attention on the Internet. An interesting question was posed to me the other day. Have we ever considered that it’s our internal life, and not our exterior that needs the most attention? Maybe all of that time in the gym would be better spent sorting out our personal issues? Well, people aren’t dumb, and maybe investing in your physical attributes pays more dividends, especially across a visual medium. At minimum, it gives yourself and others a tangible way to evaluate change.
But the trend of taking photos makes me wonder why the Internet has turned us all into aspiring models, and hasn’t inspired a different type of creative expression in the average person. Namely, the type of creativity that doesn’t come alive in photos. I pray to Howard that our Instagram profiles aren’t a reflection of our intellectual lives, because if so, we’re all fucked. If you consider that Instagram affords people the most creative latitude of all of their daily pursuits, then it’s a sad/sick joke that our profiles feature a reiteration of someone else’s idea. That is, of course, unless you were the first person to ever take a picture of your food, or to record your fitness progress, or to show your cleavage in a family photo. And don’t forget the lyrics to a Florida Georgia Line song and a cute lil’ emoji.
It wouldn’t be surprising if people were reticent on the Internet because they have friends or family or future employers that wouldn’t approve of them airing their opinions. This is legitimate. Whether you like it or not there is a certain amount of propriety necessary in a functioning society, and you would hate to sit down next to Larry at the staff meeting after reading his 2,000 word essay titled, “How to Manipulate Your Co-Workers and Advance in the Company.” But what worries me is that we’re sacrificing our authenticity for the sake of that same propriety. If you can’t say what you’re feeling, you may as well not be able to think it, which inspires comparisons to the type of intellectual captivity on display in Nineteen Eighty-Four.
If we grant that the worth of something is relative to its availability, then it seems that a photograph is no longer worth 1,000 words. Our constant exposure to these images are stripping them of all value. So an 1,000 word essay reads more like a novel, and a novel reads like an encyclopedia. By that logic the written word should be regaining momentum as the most powerful form of communication (in the interest of full disclosure I almost failed Logic 2500 and it wasn’t for a lack of effort).
My biggest issue a shameless lack of creativity in the Instagram business, and the problem starts right at the top. Let’s use The Fat Jew for example.
The guy steals content from other people, and avoids any type of copyright infringement by tagging the source in the caption. It won’t be long until there are laws that govern intellectual property on Instagram, because likes have become a form of currency. You could argue that The Fat Jew is giving that Instagrammer exposure by using his post, and that maybe some people will click on his page and give him a follow. But do we follow The Fat Jew to get leads to other people – who by the way are probably already blown up – or because we think he is a funny Jewish guy that is also fat? The upshot is that his brand survives on the effort that it takes to copy and paste.
Instagram gives people an incredible opportunity to be creative, yet even the top people in the game rely on stealing other peoples posts. Could you imagine if you travelled to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro to get a once-in-a-lifetime photo only to have Annie Leibovitz put the photo in her magazine, and give you a small credit in the bottom corner. No, that would be ridiculously annoying considering all of the legwork that you put in. So consider this a call to action to all of the “creative types,” wherever you are. Broadcast your talents and creativity and ideas all over the Internet, because why not? In a world where everyone wants “to be heard,” give people a chance to see what and how you think. Otherwise you risk being categorized as just another person devoid of any intellectual independence. And that’s no fun.