I have a love-hate relationship with social media. In many ways I think it’s training society to accept hearsay as fact, lowering an entire generation’s self-esteem, making it harder to connect and communicate in person, and leading us to dwindle away our time. But that is a rant for another blog and another day. Instead, today I want share some happy thoughts about Instagram and how it led me to view my surroundings in a whole new way.
Think for a moment about the kinds of things people share on Instagram. Looking through my feed right now, the first five things I see are:
- The Birth of Venus, a famous painting displayed in Galleria Uffizi in Florence, Italy (@vasiliki_m11)
- Witch Hazel with a fresh powdering of snow at the Washington Park Arboretum (@gerald_lisi)
- Salted caramel tarts with pink sea salt for Valentine’s Day (@lauramarbakes)
- A picnic blanket with pizza (@taramilktea)
- An outdoor booth selling books in Madrid, Spain (@cntraveler)
So, aside from showing off how eclectic my Instagram feed is, what do all of those have in common? It proves that we run into special things and happy moments everyday if we will allow ourselves to take enough time to slow down and enjoy them. It’s the 21st century version of “stop and smell the roses.” Each of those things spoke to someone enough that they took the time to document it, to bookmark it in their mind as exceptional, and to share it with others.
California’s Central Valley is finally getting the rain it’s needed so badly over the last few years, which has turned our pasture into a glorified mud pit. So you can imagine I was not too thrilled when I looked out the window today and saw that several of the goats had managed to escape. But once I had suited up and sloshed through the standing water to coax the escapees back into the pasture, I looked down at my rubber boots in the inch deep water and noticed a mushroom. (For context, I get absurdly excited about mushrooms. I have pictures of funny looking mushrooms growing on gravestones in Oxford and stumps covered in mushrooms and all other kinds of obscure mushroom infested things.) So what do I do? I take a picture.
And by doing so, by physically stopping myself and taking the time to consciously acknowledge what I was seeing, I was able to appreciate it all the more. Sure, I didn’t want to be out ankles deep in mud, but the inconvenience was worth it because was what led me to discover something that made me smile.
To me that’s what Instagram is. You look for an excuse to share something and you share things that make you happy. Instagram is encouraging you to seek out things that make you happy.
That’s a good thing.
Some people don’t see it like this. They think that Instagram is for people who are shallow or just want to brag about how amazing their life is. And if you’re on Instagram to feel validated and liked and collect followers, maybe that’s true. But you’re missing out on a form of social media that can really be harnessed to help you view your own life differently.
I see Instagram as a tool that helps us to slow down and appreciate the little things in life that we too often take for granted. We take pride in our accomplishments (even if that is only successfully not burning dinner) and we savor the special moments or places or people we’re with. We celebrate feeling special or pretty or getting a new lipstick (yes, I might be justifying selfies here).
I follow my friends and am able to see what they value. I follow travel accounts to broaden my horizons and keep my bucket list growing. And some accounts I follow because they teach me about new things like Witch Hazel or different cultures.
When I post something to Instagram, I’m showing my appreciation that that moment was a part of my day.
If you want to see more of what makes me happy, follow me on Instagram!