You wake up. CBS Sunday Morning is on as you pour yourself a cup of Starbucks Blonde Roast. You sit down on the couch and prepare yourself for a slow Sunday by mentally scheduling out your day. But first, you open Instagram and see it: a photograph of a neatly organized newspaper next to a cup of coffee on a table, presumably with a pair of sunglasses or an intricately printed tablecloth. It happens without fail.
Questions arise. Who still buys newspapers? How many pours did it take you to get the perfect amount of steam coming out of your mug? Did you filter and sharpen this photo after reading the paper and drinking your coffee, or did you handle that prior to?
Honestly, the answers to those questions don’t matter because the gig is up. Just admit it: you went to the store, spent your hard-earned $6 on The New York Times Sunday edition, and went home explicitly to photograph it and collect your fifty likes — didn’t you?
Be honest with yourself. Two months ago when you took that photo on the perfectly foggy beach ninety minutes north of where you live, you only took that drive because you knew it’d get the attention of your Instagram followers. That hike you took through the woods back in July? You didn’t want to sweat on that buggy trail. You just wanted to reap the benefits of looking like an outdoorsman. You’ve never chopped wood with your axe in last week’s post. You bought it because of a sponsored post from some lumbersexual hipster store like Best Made. And the only reason you went to that coffee shop was because of their new sign — it’s rusted, covered in moss, and pairs perfectly with the F2 filter on VSCOcam.
Sure, if anyone calls you out for stopping roadside to take a picture of a cabin that’s not yours (and furthermore, have never been inside), you’ll scoff. “I just thought it was a cool photo,” you’ll say. They won’t fault you for that reasoning, but, you and I both know what’s happening here: you’re doing it all for the Instagram.
Your brunch that costs more than you make in a day’s work? You did it for the Instagram. The empty white-washed barn you’re weirdly hanging out in on a Saturday night during the golden hour? You did it for the Instagram. The oysters and champagne you ordered even though they’re out of season? You did it for the Instagram. The beach you’re hanging out on despite it being a bitterly cold, rainy, and outright miserable November afternoon? You did it for the Instagram.
It’s not that we’re not enjoying your photographs, either. We are. They’re great. But we’re starting to see right through you. We know you live paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford the Eames chair you posted 14 weeks ago. We know you saved those faded jeans and new blouse for your Sunday outfit so you could be photographed by your artsy friend in front that graffitied wall downtown. We know you didn’t actually eat any of that perfectly-stacked oversized burger from that top-rated Yelp restaurant that you just geotagged.
All I ask is that the next time you take an above shot of the Bloody Mary you just made with all of the ingredients perfectly strewn about around your mason jar, just know. Just know that we all see this photograph and fully understand the intent behind it. Just know that even though I like it, that doesn’t mean I’m okay with it. Just know that I see your second comment with twenty hashtags ranging from #sunday to #vsco to #ootd. Just know that we’re all as aware as you are of what you’re doing.
But most of all? Just know that I know that you’re doing it all for the Instagram. .