I Finally Figured Out Why You Like Instagram So Much

03/31/2011 By Shawn Burns

You’ve seen the Instagr.am photos, yes? They’re everywhere. It’s some stupid iPhone app that lets you ruin your pictures. You can take a perfectly good photo and turn it into something that was left sitting out in the sun for a week. Yay.

People love this stupid thing. People I like love this stupid thing. People I respect love this stupid thing. Professional photographers, enthusiastic amateurs, drive-by snappers, they all love having the ability to wash out their pictures with one of the many filters Instagr.am offers. At first I just didn’t get it. Then I thought “Maybe it’s just the hipsters.” Why the hipsters? Why not. Hipsters suck.

But it’s not just the hipsters. It’s everyone. And the reason it’s everyone is that everyone has a very, very mistaken idea about the look they are obtaining.

Instagr.am photo filters let you turn excellent representations of the world around you into things that resemble the pictures that were in the photo albums you had when you were a kid, or the iconic images of  a revolutionary world. You associate the look of those old photos with family, love, and history. The old Polaroids speak to 5 year old you and say “The world used to be nothing but Christmas mornings and summer evenings, playing on the grass.” They speak to your 20 year old pomposity and say “People used to be so much more intellectual in the 60’s and 70’s. Remember ‘Blow Up’? Now that was film-making. Where are all the turtlenecks now?” So now, when you filter with the Instagr.am app you shortcut your way to all of those feelings. Instagr.am counts on it. They count on your willingness to actually modify your current presentation of the world so that it seems imbued with all of the family, love, and history that came with taking a picture with a really shitty camera and leaving it to rot for a while because your parents were busy making dinner and couldn’t always move the photos from the box-o’-photos into actual albums. They count on your willingness to actually reject the world around you in favour of the past, because you remember that in the past you had no cares, and the adults who had all the cares seemed to do so much more with their time and energy, walking on the moon and protesting segregation.

I know, I know. Photos are all lies, in a way. Nothing captures the world as it is, everything is filtered, blah blah blah. Instagr.am is worse than choosing where to focus. Suck it, hipster.

This is an easy world to want to reject: it’s full of weirdness and violence and boredom and responsibility. But it’s also genuine. It’s as genuine to you as the world was to the people taking pictures of it thirty years ago, when you were little and the center of it. Why don’t we all just drink it in a little? Take a picture with some god damned colour in it. Roses are red, violets are blue, I hate Instagr.am and you should too.