| March 20, 2017 |
There’s a whole lot of Intagram Inspiration talk coming your way. That’s Insta-Ration for short.
The era we live in constantly intrigues and confuses me. I seem to be in limbo between appreciating the easy access to information, and strongly disliking the emotional battle we have on social media. It’s really a curious thing. People are becoming “Insta-famous,” exposing their lives via video and photo in a way that hasn’t existed before. We have access to the whole world at our fingertips, yet many young adults are battling depression and self-esteem issues. We seem to have it all, but really don’t have it all together at all. Our relationships are suffering and we are living out of balance. It can sometimes feel incredible, and other times downright overwhelming. I certainly feel there’s a huge cost-benefit to the world of social media, especially on a platform like Instagram.
I will admit that I’ve found some huge benefits to Instagram. I’ve been inspired by the success of others, and a big part of recent my journey to the Pacific Northwest was sparked by images of foggy landscapes and breathtaking mountain ranges I saw in little squares. I have grown to appreciate Instagram in many ways, despite my underlying tumultuous emotions regarding social media. I really fear disconnect from the world and shallow living without real relationships. I see so many people scanning through their Instagram news feed while sitting at the table with a group of friends, waiting at a red light, or before bedtime.
And, yes, I’ve seen myself do this.
The reason I love Instagram is because it’s allowed me to connect in curious ways to my surroundings. It’s a really complicated relationship that has actually grown beyond the screen. I’ve actually connected with real humans from Instagram communities, and am now even more baffled by the world of social media.
Read on for my first Insta-Meet and more complicated, bipolar emotions regarding Instagram, social media, and the millennials…
I genuinely believe the little square images I began seeing of the Pacific Northwest played a major role in my Law of Attraction to move from South Florida to Washington state. I began marveling at the work of various artists in the PNWonderland page, and grew a fondness for the work of individuals such as Scott Kranz. These images did more than inspire me–they burst me into action. I sprung myself from behind my phone screen to in-person, standing amongst mountains and landscapes that seemed unrealistic and only to live in pixels. It has been refreshing to see them and feel them, to be amongst the living mountains and waterways.
Once actually catapulted into the world of the Pacific Northwest, I started using Instagram as a means for inspiration of places to go. I was screenshot-ing (is that a verb?) views from lookouts and hikes across the PNW, and my list was growing… and growing… and growing… of places to see.
One day, I stopped myself. I realized there was way too many things to see and, while my muses were all hiking and traveling to these picturesque places, I recognized it wasn’t enough to just screenshot their views. I had to create my own.
So I let go of making lists, and instead began making plans. I needed to just get outside and create on my own. I allowed whatever opportunity arose to be my plan. I went with the flow, with some objectives in mind, but felt the need to surrender the pressure of doing what everyone else was. I saw people with incredibly unique “styles” to their photography, and I thought, “SHIT! I don’t have a look! My photos aren’t all pink and dotty. They aren’t mysteriously underexposed, or overexposed, or sepia-toned, or… anything. They just are.” I started feeling entirely myself behind my camera lens. I was capturing beauty, but also creating it.
I feel that Instagram sometimes overemphasizes the need for continuity. For filters. For a style. For something that defines you. “Don’t post anything with text,” they say. It doesn’t “look good.” But, if I’m going to post something in a little square (or rectangle, now that IG allows it), I’m going to like what I’m posting.
Are we posting for others, or for ourselves?
For the likes and comments, or for self-expression?
I feel that Instagram can sometimes stunt creativity. We scan through the creative work of others and dream to be like them. Yes, I believe we should live inspired lives. Yet, sometimes we lose the process of self-discovery. When we live our lives vicariously through the perceived success of others, it stunts our own growth. We constantly feel like we are “catching up” to others, but we really just need to catch up with ourselves. We compare ourselves to others and connect behind a screen, building our measures of self-value on the number of likes or comments we get on a photo. It’s obsessive and annoying.
But, there is a light in all of this. I really believe it.
As my Insta-Ration turned into action in the sense of propelling myself into the scenes I once marveled at behind a screen, I also turned Instagram into a platform to meet others in person.
One weekend in mid-September, I stumbled upon a post by one of my favorite photographers, Scott Kranz, who would be doing a free information session at Eddie Bauer in Seattle on mountain/landscape photography. My heart skipped a beat. I had been marveling at his work for some time, was drawn to his story of leaving corporate life behind to pursue his passion. I knew I could learn from him, but didn’t want it to be behind a screen anymore.
So I showed up, learned from, and connected with one of my favorite photographers. Now, we keep in touch every so often and I added a little authenticity to my Instagram experience. All these people–these famous photographers, videographers, artists, etc… It’s very difficult to feel who the person behind the lens is. Because we only reveal so much to the world, we can make our lives seem as we wish. Instagram doesn’t automatically post the ugly moments, so it’s up to us to keep it authentic.
When we are given the gift of creation, of art, we sacrifice our whole selves to our creations. Yet, sometimes we live in fear that our creations are not enough. We get into a cycle of needing perfection, comparing to others, and feeling like we can never be what we want. If we create something marvelous, we fear we can never do it again. So many writers and artists are bottled up with fear. They deeply fear rejection from others, from themselves.
Elizabeth Gilbert really hits all the feels in Big Magic when she lists the fears we often have in living a creative life. Be prepared.
You’re afraid you have no talent. You’re afraid you’ll be rejected or criticized or ridiculed or misunderstood or—worst of all—ignored. You’re afraid there’s no market for your creativity, and therefore no point in pursuing it. You’re afraid somebody else already did it better. You’re afraid everybody else already did it better. You’re afraid somebody will steal your ideas, so it’s safer to keep them hidden forever in the dark. You’re afraid you won’t be taken seriously. You’re afraid your work isn’t politically, emotionally, or artistically important enough to change anyone’s life. You’re afraid your dreams are embarrassing. You’re afraid that someday you’ll look back on your creative endeavors as having been a giant waste of time, effort, and money. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of discipline. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of work space, or financial freedom, or empty hours in which to focus on invention or exploration. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of training or degree. You’re afraid you’re too fat. (I don’t know what this has to do with creativity, exactly, but experience has taught me that most of us are afraid we’re too fat, so let’s just put that on the anxiety list, for good measure.) You’re afraid of being exposed as a hack, or a fool, or a dilettante, or a narcissist. You’re afraid of upsetting your family with what you may reveal. You’re afraid of what your peers and coworkers will say if you express your personal truth aloud. You’re afraid of unleashing your innermost demons, and you really don’t want to encounter your innermost demons. You’re afraid your best work is behind you. You’re afraid you never had any best work to begin with. You’re afraid you neglected your creativity for so long that now you can never get it back. You’re afraid you’re too old to start. You’re afraid you’re too young to start. You’re afraid because something went well in your life once, so obviously nothing can ever go well again. You’re afraid because nothing has ever gone well in your life, so why bother trying? You’re afraid of being a one-hit wonder. You’re afraid of being a no-hit wonder”
Mmmmm, Elizabeth Gilbert, you never cease to amaze me.
I think we should put it all out there, because who knows the reward we will get within ourselves. I’m trying to let go of perfection, and just be happy with what I create. I am working on fearlessly exposing myself, even when it ain’t so pretty. Because it’s not all butterflies and rainbows, I guess.
There are other people out there who also just want to be genuine and create.
Back on December 9, 2016, I experienced my first official “Insta-meet,” and second genuine experience with Instagrammers. I met with a group from PNWonderland, an incredibly successful Instagram page created by Mr. Tommy Blades. As I already mentioned, I began following PNWonderland long before moving to the Pacific Northwest. When they posted they’d be doing an InstaMeet at Franklin Falls, I knew I needed to attend so I could personally thank the creator of the page. Unfortunately, snowy conditions and messy mountain passes led to a relocation of the event, but I was still on board for a Snoqualmie Falls expedition with a crew of PNW photographers (or whoever would show up).
It’s pretty neat to think about the transition from admiring the PNW at a distance (on my iPhone) to living the life my Instagram news feed had so effortlessly depicted. I didn’t need to hide behind my screen to see the mountains and waterfalls I had dreamed of: they were right in front of me! En route to my first Insta-Meet, I stopped in the town of Snoqualmie to enjoy the Charles Dickens-esque time travel. I nearly expected Scrooge to pop out from behind the children waiting in line for Santa’s Train at the Northwest Railway Museum.
Once at Snoqualmie Falls, it wasn’t hard to find our group. They were the people with a bunch of cameras and adventure dogs. They exuded an energy of “I don’t care if the weather is shitty, I’m creating today.” I socialized with the group, as we discovered there were a few trails closed off due to icy conditions. Despite this, we all began down a main trail towards the falls. I talked to many people *and their dogs* about how they ended up in the PNW, what kind of art they enjoy, and other real-life things. I kept thinking how awesome it was that a social media platform allowed for this kind of connection.
I left feeling pretty joyful… and with an Instapix camera, thanks to the PNWonderland raffle!
So, yes, my experience with Instagram has been relatively fruitful.
Besides stunting creativity and allowing for self-doubt, there’s a few other things I don’t like about Instagram. I don’t like how it misguides people, making them believe any peak is achievable because someone did it on the ‘gram. It’s dangerous, because people will see an image, and set out to see it with their own eyes–perhaps despite their comfort level with the actual journey.
I don’t like how people are putting too much emphasis on relationships behind a screen. I don’t like how we are forgetting about human connection, and focusing on screen connection. I don’t like when I’m sitting in a restaurant, and I see a family of five with a tablet shoved in front of the kid, Dad on his phone, and Mom scanning through Instagram or Pinterest. I don’t like how I can’t start a conversation with people in a waiting room because I’d be disrupting their phone activities.
I just DON’T like it.
But, sure, I’ll still take some Insta-ration every so often.
I don’t want my art to be tireless. I don’t want to create to make you happy. Instead, I will create to connect to myself, to others, and to the higher self that lives inside my soul.
As Elizabeth Gilbert so eloquently put it in Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear:
“Be the weirdo who dares to enjoy.”
Here’s to enjoying our creations, Fellow Dreamers.
Be it. Whatever it is.