I was a late-comer to Facebook. It was only because almost all of my friends started posting their photos on the site rather than sending them through email that I begrudgingly signed on or in, as the case may be. Of course I’m as happy as a pig in mud now, having re-connected with friends I made on my travels in my 20s from South Africa and Denmark and being able to keep up with the happenings of other friends, both international and local. I’ve even come to love all the – hmmm – how do I put this delicately – crap – that is posted because it just adds a touch of riotous randomness to this glorious, diverse, weird and wonderful world that we share. For a celebration of this or if you just feel like a bit of a cackle, read my tongue-firmly-in-cheek “Ode to Facebook.”.
But I digress. We are not here to discuss Mr Zuckerberg’s creation. We are here to discuss Misters Kevin Systrom’s and Mike Krieger’s creation – better known as # Instragram #. (See, you’ve learned something already. How clever will you sound when you nonchalantly mention their names in your next conversation…) Of course my teenage son was on Instagram ages ago and let me tell you, seeing what teenagers post is no great incentive to try the application yourself. Since I didn’t photograph my food or myself or what I wore or what I bought and wasn’t particularly interested in anyone else’s food, frocks or faces, I didn’t see the point.
Could I have been more wrong? That’s what you get for basing judgements on very little information and someone else’s information at that! First, some statistics that will, in the words of Bob Dylan, “blow your mind”. (I made that up.) As at December, 2013, there were 300 million active monthly users; 40 million photos posted daily to the service and its users managed to stab their fingers at the screen to rack up 8,500 likes and 1,000 comments per second. P-e-r…. s-e-c-o-n-d!! So, if you’re unhappy with the numbers on your Instagram account, marvel at the fact that people find you at all! I finally understand why so many users (myself included), use so many hashtags. Your Followers will automatically see your photos but for the rest of the universe trawling through those 40 million images, hashtags are the equivalent to signposts.
So, having had the opportunity to travel the world, I am using Instagram as a travelogue, past and present with a smattering of pics from daily life that still don’t include food, frocks or faces! Thus, with about a month of sharing under my belt, I give you my personal yin and yang of Instagram:
. Glorious images and magnificent photography of the world and all it holds – landscapes, animals, cities, oceans, cultures, people.
. Pictures that range from the grand to the miniscule, from the mighty to the meek.
. Quirky and imaginative perspectives that make you look at things differently.
. The fact that if it exists, someone has probably taken a photo of it and with any luck, a simple hashtag will lead you to it.
. People supporting each other by leaving comments and lots of thumbs up, smiley faces, hands clapping, sun shining, hearts and flowers emojis.
. Conversations that can be had across miles or oceans. I posted a photo of an Eastern Water Dragon which led to a delightful t0-and-fro with a gentleman in Holland who keeps Bearded Dragons as pets and who is very excited because they have just produced their first clutch of eggs.
. The nostalgia that comes from seeing a place from your own travels. Someone posted the most beautiful picture of the steps leading up to Sacre Coeur in Paris and I could almost feel them beneath my feet.
. The tools and filters that allow you to play with your images, ranging from sprucing them up a little to turning them into a work of art. (May be an exaggeration…)
. All the constant offers to buy Followers and the profile picture on these sites which always seems to be of a woman’s bum with sand on it. Perhaps all your new Followers will only be women with sand on their butts.
. People who Follow you in the hope you’ll Follow them back then Unfollow you if you don’t.
. People who Unfollow you once you have Followed them and hope you don’t notice.
. Not really loathing but dumbfounded at how many accounts are purely full of selfies or variations thereof. Do you not have a life? And they have thousands of Followers. All legitimate, I’m sure. Whenever I see these galleries, all I can think of is that 19 year old teen in England who was so obsessed with taking the perfect selfie, he would take 200 photos of himself a day and tried to commit suicide because he was never happy with the result.
All in all, more positives than negatives and I really, really love the idea that millions and millions of people are sharing their time and place on this, our most wondrous planet.