Instagram is probably my favorite corner of the internet. Facebook is often lovely, but just as often feels like a room full of people shouting about their opinions, arguing with friends of friends about hot button issues, and a never-ending string of memes and click-bait stories from aggregation sites. Twitter is like carrying all of my funniest, wittiest friends around in my pocket all day long, but it often contains a disconcerting number of people who like to run up to me at random and yell at me that that thing I said three days ago was VERY WRONG, and also, what’s my problem with Rand Paul anyway?
Instagram, however, is a happy place. I follow a lot of lovely folks there, and for the most part, they share interesting little pieces of beauty that they see as they go about their daily lives. Just scrolling through my feed, I see breathtaking landscapes from National Geographic, smiling babies, delicious and beautiful food, cute pets, yummy cocktails, friends loving their lovely #selfies, cute shoes, fun outfits, lovely interiors, and exciting travels. It’s impossible to thumb through without smiling and giving out a smattering of hearts. What’s not to like?
Apparently, people have decided they don’t like that it’s “fake.” That we’re not photographing our shitty moments, the ones where we’ve burned dinner, or it rained on our picnic, or the pile of clutter just outside the frame. We’re rarely shooting selfies of our bad-hair-days, or showing that in fact yoga pants are most frequently our #ootd (outfit of the day). Somehow our beaches are always empty and serene, our dinners expertly plated, and obviously our children are going to eat all of that and wear that outfit, and not get their knees muddy or their hair mussed or haul off and slug their best friend. I even saw a piece today about an account dedicated to showing the “Truth Behind Instagram Photos” that reveals all that’s not shown inside each little square of loveliness.
This irks me. Isn’t the beauty in the frame just as true as the mess that may be lurking outside it? Isn’t beauty ALWAYS found in the midst of clutter, chaos, and just plain life? To me, being able to notice it, to focus on it, to at least momentarily crop out the other stuff is in a way a mindfulness practice. A way of reminding myself of a bigger truth: that there’s a lot of beauty and love in the midst of my messy, imperfect life, and the more I notice it, the more I find waiting to be noticed. Does it make us feel better or worse to point out the rings on the coffee table just outside the perfectly cropped picture of a mason jar full of pickles? Is the beauty of a post-bedtime cocktail less important than the pile of mail I moved to the side to take a picture of the glasses on the kitchen table?
Everyone knows that the things they see on Instagram are literally filtered by photo tweaks inside the program, by the way it crops things into neat little squares, and by the way we curate what we choose to share. Isn’t there something refreshing and radical about a space that invites us to notice and share the things that we find beautiful, the things we love, the things that delight us? There are plenty of places for us to share OTHER aspects of our reality, but I think we, or at least I, need the reminder that the beauty is there and very real, too, especially when the mess, chaos, and ugliness seem oh-so-overwhelming.