Your Instagram Travel Pictures Are Making Your Friends Miserable
In case you thought that sharing on Instagram that #picoftheday of your #amazing picture from your #incredible #vacation from that exotic location that you happen to find yourself in is something your friends want to see, well you’re wrong. It’s actually making them miserable, and there’s science to prove it.
As Slate recently detailed, scientists who have done research in the — what I can only assume to be — nascent subject of social media in the sociological realm, have found that your friends’ “passive consumption” of your Facebook feed “correlate with feelings of loneliness and even depression.” And even worse, “‘passive following” on Facebook triggers states of envy and resentment in many users, with vacation photos standing out as a prime trigger.” My guess is those pictures of you frolicking on the beach or dining al fresco with the Eiffel Tower in the background tend to trigger these feeling more than, say, those pictures of you stranded at the terminal eating from a bag of Fritos because your flight was delayed for the third time, but I digress.
As the article points out, the problem is that Instagram, with its focus solely on images and basic “liking,” highlights the three aspects of Facebook that are most likely to trigger people to want to head to their unventilated garage with a bottle of aspirin and a garden hose: “loitering around others’ photos, perfunctory like-ing, and ‘broadcasting’ to a relatively amorphous group.” This can lead people to an “envy spiral” (the need to try to outdo others’ photos), and a desire to spend more and more time “self-promoting,” rather than living their own lives, as a need to compensate for that envy.
And by the way, did I mention I just recently started getting back into posting travel photos on Instagram (shameless plug here). Which begs the question: why bother? Am I trying to outdo others who populate my Instagram feed (which to be honest, is essentially a bunch of people posting their very own travel pictures all day long), or am I truly looking to share my own fond memories?
And how do I feel after I look at all those other photos in my feed? Better, worse, inspired, envious, dyspeptic? Maybe a combination of all of the above, but it hasn’t made me want to stop using it. I also get little envious of the guy I see outside my building every day who plays drums with plastic buckets for money (seriously, does it get much better than that?), but I’m not about to drop everything and go out to the nearest hardware store and buy supplies to hang my own sidewalk shingle.
I think that it’s a matter of balance. Yes, I have recently been posting pictures from my recent trip to India (I did take over 800 of them in a span of 17 days), but I figure I may as well put them to use rather than allowing them to gather dust on my hard drive as they’re doing now. But I also attempt to refrain from posting on Instagram — as well as on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Vine, Flickr and Youtube, to name just a few of my social networks — every single, slightly interesting, social or scenic experience of my life.
I’ve seen far more sunsets than I’ve taken pictures of, and I’ve had plenty of great drinks with friends throughout the years without feeling it necessary to announce online that I’m doing so. I spend many a night sitting at my home computer typing or watching documentaries on Netflix from the comfort of my bed to pretend that my social network feeds are an accurate portrayal of my everyday life.
Maybe some people care what I’m doing throughout my day, and most likely they don’t, but the fact remains, I’d rather it was someone else, rather than me, who may be invoking those negative feelings with their “friends.” For me, I hope that those experiences that I do take the effort to share are unique, inspiring, funny or interesting enough to warrant recording them electronically. And I also hope that others realize they represent my “Greatest Hits,” not my normal Tuesday, and I hope they know I know the same about them. And what will I miss out by not actively sharing every experience? Not much in the long run. I’ve got a one-man social network sitting on top of my shoulders that is a plenty-good-enough place to record those memories.
By Matt Stabile
About the Author
Matt Stabile is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Expeditioner. The Expeditioner was founded in 2008 and is headquartered in New York City. You can read his writings, watch his travel videos or contact him at any time at TheExpeditioner.com. (@TheExpeditioner)