My latest essay, on documentation and created realities through Instagram and why that is okay.
“As I See It”
by Britt Julious
Documentation is reality. I’ve always had a desire to document the things in my life. Not everything, but many of the events that felt like moments of learning and understanding. I did not document every night out, every party, every vacation, but I recorded the things that felt more significant than just the everyday. Not documenting meant forgetting, and moments seem to come less readily to the mind days, weeks, and years later as I get older.
I was hesitant toward using Instagram because the recreation of reality felt like a disingenuous method of documentation. But what is the difference between Instagram and a diary entry? In the end, Instagram is a way of shaping reality in the same way that a diary shapes reality through the written word. Documentation is not as clean cut and precise as one would like to imagine. Events happen and then we recall them based not only on what we remember, but also on how we felt then and how we feel now.
In the New Yorker, writer Ian Crouch wrote:Much of Instagram’s appeal, however, comes from something more simple: it makes everything in our lives, including and especially ourselves, look better.
But is this such a terrible thing? I often write down memories from events days, weeks, or years in the past. The immediate moment was not right to recall the events and emotions of a certain period of time. Time offers perspective, distance, and reflection. Life is not always a series of narrative moments, but Instagram, like the diary, allows one to create framed memories. There is not always a beginning, a middle, and an end, but there is a plot that runs through it that shapes the way we understand the situation as it has happened.
For many, Instagram creates inauthentic images of age and nostalgia. From a technical standpoint, many of the filters don’t create that effect at all. Some things just look “cool” or “weird” and don’t feel anymore like the past than a regular photograph on Facebook. From a personal standpoint, the ideas of age and nostalgia have served little purpose for me. Using Instagram right now is an act of memory and memory is critical to where I am right now. As a 25-year-old woman in a moment of growth and learning, Instagram serves as documentation of the changes of stability, friendships, and love.
But also, Instagram is a powerful cure for loneliness, a validation for the activity of an individual’s life. Unlike a photograph on Facebook, Instagram allows the user to instantly shape the narrative of their life, creating or manipulating the image to reflect the situation as it truly happened (in their mind). This is how I saw my life, and how I want you to see it too. This is not escape from stark reality so much as it is piecing together the things we do and see and taste and understand in a way that gives them purpose where purpose was missing. Little things are given value, weight. The everyday has heft. A single memory is more than just a moment.
Britt always know how to say it better than anyone else could.