Hi. If you don’t know me yet, I’m a pretty “with-it”, understanding type of guy who tries to be affable and understanding.
If you already know me then you know that I really am a pretty “with-it”, understanding type of guy who tries to be affable, and understanding.
I just wanted to be clear on that, you know, get it in open before I ask a question and risk sounding like some upset old guy who doesn’t understand those crazy kids today:
What is the deal with Instagram?
Not to sound obtuse or judgmental but… what is the deal?
The point of social media is to make other people jealous of you (and for businesses and Big Brother to monitor us -tinfoil hats on!). There are some people who just need that extra “wow factor” for their selfies heretofore not yet attainable to the public. That is where something called The Museum of Ice Cream comes in. The Museum of Ice Cream (sorry it’s not actually a museum, just a catchy name and if you go there seeking the origins of Neapolitan ice cream you will be very disappointed) presents dramatic, alternate settings and scenarios for customers to interact with and have fun in. These places afford people unlimited opportunities to explore the boundaries of how much more awesome they can make our lives appear.
The “Museum” features a room with walls covered in bubble gum colored tiles surrounding a swimming pool filled with 11,000 pounds of sprinkles. Other areas have giant popsicles poking out of the walls and up through floor, an ice cream scooper see-saw and a large ice cream sandwich swing. Theringer.com dubbed it an “Instagram playground”
Here is how they describe themselves:
After finding out about this place, I needed to close my computer and then my eyes, rub my temples counterclockwise over and over again, and for good measure, go for a walk around the block.
Remember those kiosks at theme parks where you can take a family picture that looks like it’s out of the old west or record a video of you lip-syncing to the Pina Colada song? Those are fun, quirky ways of capturing memories while showing people you went somewhere and had a nice time. It could also be the precursor to what we have today. Taking a picture is becoming less and less about framing a moment and more and more about framing yourself.
Here’s a line is from an article in TheRinger.com who quoted the creator of the Museum, Maryellis Bunn:
“We’re all looking to create content and kind of build our own personal brands, if you will, on social media and have places that are conducive to kind of elevate and show who we are as individuals,” she told NPR in May. “And the museum serves, I think, to do that quite well.”
Build our own personal brands…sure, every interaction, presentation, and accomplishment help us build a hopefully successful public image, but I think the advent of these environments is different. It’s not branding, it’s what I call self-celebritizing. I Give Bunn credit though, he noticed a market and found a great way to monetize it.
A city skyline, the upper deck at a stadium overlooking the field, a landmark, the sun setting over the Grand Canyon have all become fodder for the perfect selfie to show everyone your life is a party. Now, tents, booths and businesses are popping up in cities, music festivals and formal events where you can step into the reality that suits your personal brand. These surreal, exaggerated spaces are inviting us to unleash the monster of our inner narcissism. We can broadcast how interesting, spontaneous, crazy, off the wall, and fun-loving we are. Fading fast are days where we communicate ourselves by sharing thoughts, feelings, and ambitions with one person at a time.
You don’t even need to have a legitimate experience to showcase, just step right up and point your phone: “Hey look at me! I’m sitting in a stroller pushed by a ten-foot tall translucent baby over a floor of lava..isn’t my life just one funny, funny riddle?”
Alyssa Bereznak in her article Can Real Life Compete With an Instagram Playground? -the main source for this post- summed it up thus:
“… everyone who stumbled into the room had the innate instinct to lift their smartphone in front of their face and experience every object they encountered through the perspective of their screen. If anything, they had proved an entirely separate truth: If you try hard and believe in your selfies, any surface can be the backdrop for the Instagram feed that is your life. The whole world is an Instagram playground…”
I’m not covering new ground here, I’m actually just benchmarking a new all-time low.
Last night, we took the kids out to a nice little concert under the stars at a nearby park. We layed our blanket out on the ground, cracked our glow sticks and enjoyed the music. We took pictures mostly of our youngest, a three-year-old who could not stop dancing…the smile on his face was a magical, pure joy. We took about six pictures in all and two minutes of video for the 3 hours we were there just to have the memory-otherwise the phone was off (and I forgot mine at home). I looked around to see so many moms and dads on their phone, faces aglow, feebly squinting at the screen and prodding an index finger here and there like an orangutan discovering fire.
At around 10 pm, one last performer entered the park gazebo that doubled (poorly) as a stage. Our older son, keen on this entertainer, arose from gazing up at the stars and asked to go on my shoulders to see over the small mob enclosing the singer. We got closer and closer but our view was obstructed by outstretched phones, recording the show. They were at the show, but they were not really present.
This happens at the Thanksgiving table, during a street performance, at a kindergartner’s play. They are either physically present but miles away formulating the ultimate snarky but pithy text message or too worried about missing the moment that they choose to watch it all on a 5.5-inch screen rather than with their own eyes.
I’m tired of being on a train stuffed with people who are all watching Game of Thrones.
Leave your phone at home. Try it for one day. Start a conversation with people face to face. Start a blog. Be yourself. Look around and notice the world again for the first time.
Turn off the camera and use your eyes instead.
To be continued…
PS: That picture up at the top of the crumbly space ice cream is my little metaphor for the Ice Cream Museum/the way people trademark themselves on Instagram and social media: The whole thing is fake; It’s not ice cream, it’s not filling, it’s unhealthy and there is actually no such thing as space ice cream-they made the whole thing up.