The Instagram is not the territory


I’ll bet you’ve done this at some point recently. Possibly even today.

You’re scrolling through your social media platforms and you stumble upon some pretty incredible picture. Maybe something like this:


And you think to yourself: “Wow. That’s beautiful. I wish I did something like that today.”

It’s a succulent encapsulation of a picture-perfect (pardon the pun … just let it wash over you a second … okay then, thanks for indulging me) autumn afternoon. I took that photo in October of 2010. It was just a regular old Saturday that involved a road trip to a sculpture park with 12 of my closest friends. And then we stormed a legendary Oktoberfest celebration where we drank microbrews and ate pig on a spit and hung out by a bonfire. Nbd.

I told you that to tell you this: I find my jealousy-meter is irrationally manipulated by the quality of photos I see my friends post on their social media feeds. I can’t possibly be the only one. Right?*

I’ll give you an example. This is another picture I took, with a different camera, exactly one year prior:

sculpture_park2Same trees. Same leaves. Except this doesn’t inspire any kind of awe in me at all. It doesn’t move my needle. I don’t look at this photo and think, “Damn. How come I’m not there?” I mostly just think, “Hey, Edward Shakeyhands, nice photo of your backyard.”

And so, the quality of the photo goes a long way toward determining into how much of a jealous rage I find myself after perusing through the day’s top “stories.”

There’s plenty of data and hard-core shutterbug analytics we could use to bolster this point. I’ll link to it here: In an impeccably titled, “Don’t be ugly by accident!” post from that haven for true love, OKCupid, they deduce a few things when it comes to photography and how great people look:

1. The camera make and class goes a long way toward determining how attractive you’re perceived to be.

2. A camera’s flash adds roughly seven years.

3. A shallow depth of field increases the quality of your photo dramatically.

Is it also popular that we can extrapolate this data to deduce that, perhaps, the quality of photography can manipulate the quality of your social media “highlight reel?”

Can better photos give off the illusion of a better life? Should they?

*You might be thinking, “But, dude, why don’t you just learn ways to quell your jealousy?” And I would to say you, “Because that would be too damn convenient, and I’d rather deduce if it’s being caused by a camera than my own neuroses.”**

**It’s caused by my own neuroses. Let’s be real right now.


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