Instagram – Under-sharing, Identity, and the marriage of Tech & Society

Arguably one of the most actively used forms of social media in today’s society , Instagram has become a culture in its own right. According to Mike Byrne of Conde Nast’s GQ, this culture comes with some unspoken rules about how to present oneself in a way in which translates in a positive manner. In his June 2013 article entitles Warning: You Might Be an Insta-Dick, Byrne sheds a hysterically witty light on the concept of self-prentation, or as he refers to it as misrepresentation on Instagram.

Byrne details the common practice of over-glamourizing one’s lifestyle via Instagram to come off as more appealing or cool to the masses. Summing up his stance perfectly, Bryne suggests that “there are two yous: The Real You and the Insta You. And there’s like six income brackets between these people.”

Byrne labels the curation of carefully selected social media content, most specially on Instagram, as under-sharing. Often times under-sharing can falsely label someone as pretentious or leading a lifestyle that does not accurately  portray said instagramer’s reality. A large group of instagram users  are guilty of under-sharing, but fear not, Byrne believes we can be saved. Referencing a seesaw, he explains the insta-balance is key, i.e. if you are going to instagram a picture of your friends Bentley followed by a shot of lunch at the country club, perhaps you should mix in a more humanizing shot of you cooking breakfast or going out with a friend for a run.

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*** Back to Back Bentley and A Birkin instagrams, perhaps it’s time to bring it back down to a real world reailty.

On a side note, when I personally read this article, I began to become fearful if I myself had become an insta-dick. Upon scrolling back through my insta-feed however, I’ve come to realize that I do keep things fairly balanced.

Exhibit A:  An instagram of a painting I did with fellow classmates during one of my Gallatin Arts seminars. Light, carefree, and not pretentious in the slightest:

Exhibit B: Posted two day’s later, an instagram of two $18 cocktails at Crosby Street Hotel that I was indulging in with a friend. More exclusive, curated, and sceney.

By Byrne’s standards, the juxtaposition between the two shots shows a more evened, realistic representation of the my real self.

Further examining Byrne’s ideas through a more scholarly lens, Nancy Baym would perhaps suggest that it is the discourse of social shaping that allows for under-sharing to affect the way in which online identities are formed. The technologic affordances of instagram being able to capture a pre-selected moment in time and share it with a widespread group of followers as well as open doors to new communities via both hash-tagging and geo-tagging works in a cyclical way with social settings an individual is afforded to find themselves in. Both technology and society work hand in hand to allow for new ways to advertise social ideologies.

I can’t help but to laugh a little and wonder if social shaping is bringing to life our very own versions of the “Idealized-I” that psychoanalytic theory so often explores. In famed Youtube Video, the Anthropological Introduction to Youtube , Michael Wesch touches on the idea that YouTube, and social media for that matter allows for people to be creative with their identity and create a voice that may not have previously been heard. This ability has proven to be a positive for many social media users across the globe.

In Don Slaters article, Social Relationships and Identity Online and Offline Slater speaks of the concepts of disembodiment and identity – the body being separate from the content. Questions of authenticity begin to swirl and question the value and meaning behind one’s online identity. Is this a truly accurate portrayal of oneself of is this simply the heightened, curated version who appears to make six-figures more than one’s true self as Byrne calls to attention. Through the lens of Slater, Byrne’s discussion becomes a question of authenticity and the lack their of that disembodiment allows for. One can simply perform an identity more easily in the world of cyberspace.

Interestingly enough, when adding the concepts of disembodiment, self creation, and social shaping into the Byrne’s dialogue, I don’t necessarily believe that has a real issue with the new affordances we are presented with. Byrne’s article I see as more of an acknowledgment of the ability to over-fetishsize one’s reality and the social implications of looking like a”dick” to use his less than PC term when doing do. Byrne is simply saying, construct away, but recognize that over-construction of one identity can lead to destruction of another. The question I raise now is which identity is more important in today’s digital age?


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