Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Church of Instagram

Last night, I was sitting around with two friends of mine. It was cold and rainy, early late evening, like 9 or 10. We had opted to stay in drinking slowly, watching snowboarding movies, and eating Chinese food. I had worked all day, and taken the bus downtown in actual snow, so I was wet and cold and huddled in a blanket. I know I looked bedraggled because when I had stopped to get cigarettes on my way over to his house, the clerk at the Village Market asked me if I was okay. I felt beat up, and happy to not be at work or doing homework. Both of them are smart and interesting, it's really nice to just sit around with smart, interesting people, it's one of the most important parts of my life.

So my one friend recently went on a date with a girl to a mega church. When I expressed my absolutely amazement, because I would never in a million fucking years go to church with a boy as a date, he got wild about it. "It was great, it was amazing, it was so unbelievable, even more so than what we thought it was," he said. "But I don't need to go to church. The sermon was this thing about how if a whore comes to your door, and she's like, struggling, then you have to take her in. I don't need someone to tell me to be a decent person. But, you know, they do."

We all sat around for a moment, gape-mouthed and considering. "That's terrifying," I finally said, "to think that they do, like we actually need religion as a society in order to tamp down the psychopaths who have just never learned what decent is."

"Think how many more murders there would be..." my other friend said.

But also I think it's terrifying we haven't progressed enough as a species to be beyond these primitive forms of crowd control.

And so, with this in mind, I want to talk about the phenomenon of selfies on Instagram.

The other day I asked my coworker if he thought my Instagram feed was too vain.
He replied he thought I had one of the lesser vain feeds. Out of my last 25 photos, six of them were selfies. I think that's pretty vain. It disturbs me that I'm no good at Instagram,  because it takes so long to come up on my phone, and so I can't just like, snap it out. So I take a lot of photos of buildings, and some of trees, and some of myself making stupid faces. My mother gives me shit over it, because they ARE stupid looking, I can see how dumb my expressions are, thank you. But I don't think she realizes how much of our culture IS looking at ourselves now. I think older people write it off as selfishness, but that's just a side of it, a facet of an entire shift in perspective. A perspective that also includes self-awareness, and an evolution of empathy from understanding your own emotions to being aware of other people's emotions. I'm not saying it's better than the last perspective, which was much more nationalistic, and had good parts too, like New Deal parts. There is no right or wrong, when it comes to how societies grow up, it's impossible to pass complete and fair judgement on all people all at once. That's why God doesn't exist.

And so I guess what I'm saying is taking pictures of yourself on Instagram is like going to church, in the most child-like way.

In the spirit of confession, I thought it might be a good exercise to show you a few of them and tell you exactly what I was thinking and doing in that instant I decided to take a photo of myself. This might just be another excuse to be vain, I can't tell , I think that might be one of the first sacraments in this new world order, developing the ability, the wisdom to know when you're being too vain, and I'm not there yet. That might be the demarcation of taste here too, taste in what you like about yourself and therefore other people. Isn't there something about how babies are supposed to look at themselves a lot in a mirror, to develop their concept of self? That their body is a controllable unit? Isn't Instagram just looking at ourselves in the mirror and studying ourselves harshly? I just can't get behind that being a bad thing.

Unfortunately Instagram only tells you vague times of when you posted a photo, so even though it would be really interesting to know what time or day it was, all you get is an annoying "1 wk" label. I had worked all day, and I had been wearing the same makeup for 48 hours. I had a bunch of homework due the next morning, it was after 9pm and I had to do this paper and then get up at 6am to catch the bus to school. I had gotten compliments on my nail polish all day. I have also been trying to cut gluten out from my diet and this was only a few days in. A co-worker had given me a Sammy's Millet and Flax pizza crust that was expired, and I bought some mozzarella and prosciutto, mushrooms and garlic. My roommate and I devoured that pizza, and I was feeling extremely grateful to find such a good pizza crust. For some reason, the light of my computer screen always makes my eyes looks extremely blue, and because I didn't want to do my homework, I was taking photos with my phone of my face instead, idly, flipping through the entire Marina and the Diamonds catalog. And...I just liked this one a lot. I just think it's a good photo. I have pretty eyes. I have the worst hands though, it's impossible to make them look good. And that color blue? I wear blue like every day now guys. Bright bright blues. I live in that hoodie.

This was two days later, on my way out, but I don't remember where I was going. I was feeling pretty good body-wise, but I couldn't quite bring myself to take a full length shot of myself, I spent ten minutes in the mirror, trying to decide if I was brave enough. I was listening to Marina's Teen Idle on repeat that day. I remember adjusting my bra straps over and over again, to decide how I liked them best. In the end I wussed out, and posted this with some lame caption about this being my expression while I tried to decide if I liked my body. It's interesting to note I didn't.

On Thursday night I stayed up too late and wasted at the comedy club. At 2am, I ate an English muffin. I woke up actually feeling fine, but looking terrible and feeling even guiltier. I didn't have the money to spend on drinking, and I know I did a bad set because of how drunk I was, and I was mad about the gluten. So I went from almost liking my body to using it to publicly shame myself, glasses and all. But it felt really good to have a bad photo of myself out there, because I feel sometimes like every single photo anyone online ever sees of me are these close up face shots, almost all from the same two head tilts, the same two half smiles. It feels like a lie, especially because I know lots of people online that I never see in person. I think this entry is starting to make me come off as a masochistic. 

Sometimes when I wake up, I take a photo of myself just to see how I look that morning, but I never post those. I'm pretty much just using the phone as a mirror, it would be exactly like keeping a compact next to my bed. I keep meaning to go find some mirror app, cause there has to be one right? Someone must have thought of that right away, right?
I just like this picture. I like that it looks like the eye against the pillow is all swollen, like I've got a black eye, when really it's just me getting old and not always looking good in the morning. In the morning when I wake up, I have to sit in bed for at least twenty minutes, putting my thoughts in order. If I don't get that time, then I am scattered all day, I never get it right.
I think sometimes another reason I am looking at my face all the time is because I am getting noticeably older, things are changing, and I'm obsessed with that. Maybe babies just feel the same way. If every day you are supposed to wake up and be prepared to be a completely different person by the end of the day, if you're going to let the universe make it's impressions however it chooses, then maybe it's not so different from the people who take the same shot of themselves every day at the exact same in the exact same way. Just the lazy version of that, not so dedicated.

On Valentines Day I went with a co-worker Bethany to see The Birdland Orchestra, they were playing at school, and I forgot that the benefit of being a student is now I get student rates on all the concerts and lectures that come to Keenan. So these thirty dollar tickets were like 5 bucks, it was awesome. I'm totally going to see an astronaut speak next month. Afterwards we ran into this saxophonist I've seen before, and all three of us went to the most anti-Valentines day bar we could think of, which is a place called Barbary Coast. I hadn't been in there yet, it was on the list, but I'm so glad the first time was that evening. Within five minutes of being there, someone had put Love Stinks by J.Geils Band on, and it WASN'T ME. Anyway, I was wearing all blue again, and I felt pretty good about the way the holiday had played out this year, so there you go. 

I wanted a new facebook profile picture, I had looked at the other one too long, and I had started to hate it, with it's dumb cross eyed expression, and goofy weird pose against my pillow. So instead I took another goofy weird pose against my pillow, and made a dumb looking away expression instead. There is nothing to justify about this photo, my nose looks awesome and I like my hair, and I like the curve of my cheek, and in the end is there really something that terrible about an entire society of people learning to like how their faces look and think that they are pretty? 

Isn't that all vanity is, thinking we are pretty looking? The problem is not us, but all the people who don't think they're pretty. We need to figure out a way to work that into church without making it a superiority thing. God, guys, you make everything a superiority thing, don't you?

Finally, the most interesting side effect of constantly having these photos of yourself around and accessible and out there being commented on is that after a while of seeing them side by side, you realize that every single image up there is of an entirely different girl. And not a single one of them is really me. That's something you can't capture. Silly aborigines, you had nothing to worry about, and now we're going to forget what you looked like eventually. 


  1. You are freaking brilliant. ...just sayin'

  2. I am getting noticeably older, things are changing, and I'm obsessed with that. Maybe babies just feel the same way. If every day you are supposed to wake up and be prepared to be a completely different person by the end of the day, if you're going to let the universe make it's impressions however it chooses.


Who wants to fuck the Editors?