By: Covenant Odedele
While it seems like our worlds are millions of miles apart, Instagram, particularly renowned for being a hub of beautiful faces smiling in neat, average-sized squares, is a proof of relief; an echoing concourse in the stillness. We scroll through our feeds to see a world altogether different from our own, as if somewhere beyond, an alternate reality exists. Even after hearing devastating news on media, we still do not hesitate to click on the box enclosing a square, a circle and a dot.
Instagram offers an alluring sense of belonging and connection. After all, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, these are among human’s greatest urgencies. To see our friends, even just on a screen, numbs the pain of isolation, at least superficially. Moreover, Instagram provides the unnecessary validation we crave and we can go to great lengths to do it for the gram; some literally sacrificing their lives for it.
According to Wikipedia, The United States Department of Transportation estimated that in 2014, the so-called “year of the selfie”, 33, 000 people were injured while driving and using a cell-phone in some fashion, which can include talking, listening, and “manual button/control actuation”. Also, a 2018 study of news reports showed that there were 259 selfie deaths in 137 incidents reported globally between October 2011 and November 2017.
This dependency is fast morphing into obsession and addiction, and now, it is even morphing beyond addiction into a way of life — a religion. Jesus and Mohammed sought followers to fulfil their missions; and our objective isn’t so different from theirs. But followers are not necessarily disciples. We draw attention to ourselves and lead weekly ‘challenges’ to gain a following because it lets us know our lives are important. Likes reveal whose attention we have caught, but they are not necessarily signs of commitment and loyalty to us. Posts amassing many likes are treated as the gospel and hereby tagged ‘trending’, while individuals with many followers are idolised.
The Instagram cult is very selective in welcoming members into its community. The constitution requires that members should always tell stories through appealing photos to convince others that they are attractive, desirable, and always okay even when times are tough. So prophetic!
It is evident we want to appear better than ourselves — which Snapchat has helped us achieve — and win the likes and loves of our kilometres-far-apart gram allies. However, the self-advertising appeal is irresistible, partly because we competitively seek to prove that we are just fine despite the world falling apart around us. On some level, we also do this to console ourselves while held in the shackles of “oppression”.
Instagram is also the best place to make a person and mar a person. You only need to get through to the Instabloggers, and a name has been defamed. Truly, there are a selected few who are willing to use this social media “influence” positively; yet, there are many more things to be understood.
Let’s face it; we are young and we want others to like us, maybe even love us. We want to talk to friends. We want to relate to others and be the talk of virtual towns. Yes, these are healthy human feelings and when we emotionally and psychologically invest so much in a fundamentally inhuman system with nothing to show for it, we close our apps feeling unfulfilled.
I am an ardent believer in and crusader of the power of media, but I am also a revolutionary who is insistent on correcting some faults even if they have gone neck-deep in us. And one of my channels of deployment is the media, of course. But the truth needs to be told. It has divided more than it has united, and has encouraged competition rather than support. Instead of arriving at self-acceptance, we repeatedly give others power to validate or reject what we find valuable. We have lost the power of our own will and decision; we cannot proudly stand for what’s right all in the name of being woke. Popular opinions have being constitutionalised, and trending tags have replaced our vocabulary of words.
We’ve not seemed to notice that Instagram is exactly what it sounds like: instant; something that vanishes quickly. Instants are important, but they do not weigh a gram. We shouldn’t let mere snapshots dictate our self-worth. While it is a bitter pill to swallow, Instagram and her siblings won’t suffice in the long run. Our generation needs to internalise this sentiment in order to reassess our priorities. To get in touch with everlasting fulfilment and a true sense of belonging, lead the right life and maybe not the “good life”. We should deviate from the religious trend and fulfil the caption with which Instagram was created: “Bringing the world closer together”.