Instagram Is For The People

Is your Thursday  calm and cool and peaceful? Do you want something to feel briefly mad about and then set aside? Do you take pleasure in reading terribly written satire? Then Hayley Bloomingdale’s wobbly attempt at tongue-in-cheekiness in this Instagram instructional missive in Vogue is just the thing for you.

According to Bloomingdale, “Instagram is not for everyone.” This appears to be our first sign that this is satire, but there’s something uncomfortable about Vogue, a publication that has a general history of being for the elite, telling readers that the free app they — and literally everyone else, from Beyonce to Kim Kardashian, to people who work the graveyard shifts in hospitals and warehouses — are using might not really be for them. Instagram is egalitarian. It’s a tool of self-expression packaged however you see fit.

Not so, Bloomingdale attempts to joke. “Just as it is often applicable in the fashion-sphere, the classic proverb ‘the rules are made to be broken’ holds up in the case of the Instagram as well,” she notes. Oh, okay. Thanks. Glad we have your permission.

The “rules” are common complaints that people have about Instagram — food pictures are a NO, clogging the feed with more than a prescribed three pictures a day is against the rules, filters are for rubes, hashtags are tacky and to be used ironically, and never, ever post a picture of your cat. There’s a throwaway section about the rise of the selfie stick, a tool that some pearl-clutchers view as the downfall of modern society. “It is the personal opinion of the author of this guide that the selfie stick is the single most embarrassing invention of our generation,” Bloomingdale writes, “but also perhaps the most elucidatory.” Every selfie stick I have seen in the wild has been in the clutches of a group of tourists, a pack of teens, and, for about three days in Miami, in my hand as I wrangled my sisters into a group shot on the beach. We were maybe a little embarrassed, but not really. It was fine. Whatever.

If all of Bloomingdale’s rules are followed, you’ll end up with the kind of Instagram feed that looks like every other lifestyle and fashion blogger out there. Here’s a beach. Here’s a colorful door I saw in Paris. Here’s my outfit, snapped in the mirror of the bathroom behind the scenes at Fashion Week. Here’s my Sunday morning breakfast, with chia smoothie and succulents in terracotta pots as set dressing. Populate your feed with the long-haired, shiny-skinned women who seem to have no discernible job and tons of free time to make an unwitting husband take pictures of them posed against weathered garage doors while sucking in their stomach, and you’ll have an experience that’s anodyne and devoid of personality. No one wants that.

Instagram is aspirational at its worst. At it’s best, it’s a quick view into what each user thinks is interesting, appealling, funny, beautiful or real. It’s for public consumption – there’s no arguing that Instagram, like Twitter, isn’t public property — but it’s also for whatever you want to make known. Instagram your truth, even if that truth is a poorly-lit photo of a bowl of dumplings or a badly composed picture of your dog, your feet on the coffee table and the blurry outline of a reality television program you happen to be enjoying on television. Know that your truth is important and follow whatever rules you set for yourself. To use Instagram like a “My Best Home Life” Pinterest board is boring. The messiness, the tatters, that stupid picture you posted of something that only YOU really find funny, with pity-LIKEs from your best friend and one of your siblings — that’s what’s interesting. Keep that up and you’re doing Instagram exactly right.