Today people find it harder and harder to “unplug.” We spend our days constantly connected to other people, to public happenings, to the world. There is a constant need to connect and to share. This need results in a growing desire to “prove” presence at a specific event and document every day experiences. Not only do we post to prove, but we also scroll to witness other’s experiences and get a better look inside their lives.
We witness real-time public happenings through social media postings, most notably through Instagram. We monitor and relate to the lives of people we know and even people we do not know, trying to get a better and closer look into their every day lives.
Instagram Or It Didn’t Happen
There is an increased demand now more than ever to post our experiences to Instagram or any social media site for that matter. If you don’t post it, did it really happen? Today, people seem to question the validity of a story if they didn’t see it online first. We have been conditioned to capture and share within a moments notice, and if we don’t have some sort of digital proof, whether it be a tweet or an overly-filtered Instagram photo, then the value of that experience is lost. We need affirmation to determine whether an experience was one of value or not. We no longer keep things to ourselves; we share constantly and lack a personal collection of “secret” stories to tell. In some ways, it is as if we feel bad for our “audience” if we don’t share everything that happens, as if it has become an obligation. How other people react to a particular event that we invite them to witness shapes how we feel about that particular experience.
In the same sense, we offer our views, opinions and affirmations to others when they invite us to witness their activities. We feel an obligation to comment and react, as if we are part of the experience. Instagram is used to generate a mutual experience for all users. At this point, is it a full experience if we don’t share, relate and comment?
One of the most documented events as of recently is the music festival Coachella. For the first time ever, Coachella was extended to include two weekends, and you know what that means: more selfies! We were (and are) all welcomed to witness the festival through outlets including Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter, Google+, and Reddit (to name a few).
Celebrities have been posting copious amounts of Instagram photos, inviting their fans and audiences to experience Coachella, interactions with each other, and all of the festival’s high-waisted-bohemian-goodness. Interestingly enough, the styles depicted through Instagram create trends for those who aren’t even attending the festivities.
We are invited to witness all the activities, from lunch, to performers, to surprise guests, to other celebrity appearances, to fashions and trends. We are able to mutually experience the entirety of Coachella without actually frolicking in the desert (flower crowns and all).
Coachella offers many ways through which to experience and “follow” the different events. A prime example of real-time witnessing is Coachella’s YouTube channel which features a livestream of festival happenings, so that people who don’t necessarily have the funds or the desire to travel to Indio, Calif. can also experience the performances and events.
The selfie postings from Coachella are so infamous that when Instagram crashed on Saturday, April 12, the main suspects of the crash were the festivalgoers.
Just Describe Your Lunch To Me
When the site reached its breakdown on Saturday morning, chaos erupted on Twitter. According to numerous sites, many users suggested that the sheer amount of Coachella postings and selfies were to blame for the breakdown. Instagram released a statement:
“We’re working to fix a feed delivery issue. Thank you for your patience.” –Instagram (@instagram)
Panic ensued, and people took to Twitter to express their frustration over the social media app and website crashing. Some even voiced their lack of motivation to eat, specifically because they couldn’t share images of their meals! DailyMail explained that people took to their Twitter accounts to
“lament their undocumented meals, facial expressions and carefully curated outfits.”
These particular users prove the point of experiencing the world (namely the outdoors) through Instagram:
Cue the food sharing panic:
…and the barista frustration:
Including this Vine…
The users’ humorous reactions to Instagram’s breakdown are an illustration of society’s need for validation and affirmation. Although depicted in a comical nature, the reality of the situation is that many users have fallen into the cultural vortex that is social media and the strong need to witness and be witnessed.
I Forgot My Phone
This short video does a great job in illustrating our inability to unplug and power down to enjoy our experiences and our surroundings. The short film touches on many aspects of our lives that are devalued today based on our need to share, capture and witness. Something as sacred and special as a marriage proposal loses its significance as one person (depicted in the film) is more concerned with capturing the proposal and reaction, making it impossible to have their full attention on the events that are unfolding. Though this video is short, it does depict the harsh reality that people of every age are constantly plugged in, and truly missing out on life and all its little wonders.