Monday, December 16, 2013

"Instagram Envy" a Virtual Psych Disorder? Give Me An Effin' Break!

According to a Sunday New York Times piece, 'The Agony of Instagram'  (p1, 3ST) millions of followers are melting down, getting depressed and having to reach for the Prozac because .....well...they can't keep up with their 'Instagram' buds who are just going all over the world and sending back these inflated pics such as:

- A holiday table in Paris complete with burning candles, an open champagne bottle, and an illuminated Eiffel tower in the background

- Paddling in the surf at Positano under a fiery Italian sunset

- An instagrammer taking a "selfie" in Lufthansa Business class en route to Franfurt

- Hobnobbing with some celebs under the stars while on a yacht in Miami

What's the big deal? According to one forlorn soul quoted in the piece, whose feed is deluged by hotshot "friends" daily pouring envious instagrams to her:  "You're searching through your feed and suddenly a picture will hit you like that dining table in Paris. It's just so perfect! You just think, 'I WANT that! I want that life!'"

BWAAHHAHHAAA!  Woe is me! I ain't as grand as the grandie on the other end! But don't laugh! Instagram - now under Facebook control - boasts 150 million users and like Facebook, shows no sign of slowing growth. Seems people just can't get enough "selfies" - maybe they or their friends forget what they look like- and sending the latest hot shots of places seen, experiences had or whatever..... But the consequences are setting up depression in the people receiving them who are reminded of the hotsy-totsy life they don't have and may never have.

As one whiner put it who follows 1,009 people on Instagram (Sheesh, babe, you have that much time to waste?) : "It's incredibly hurtful to find out via social media that your friends or colleagues are gathering for something you've been left out of. And of course,  these things always flood your feed simultaneously - with everyone sharing photos and hashtags at once!"

Hmmmmm......ever think of getting off it, and going cold turkey? You might feel a lot better! As I noted before, this sort of pseudo competition is one big reason I don't do Instagram, or Twitter. Too much time-wasting under the milieu of "social connections". (You aren't really interacting with anyone, as face to face.)

The situation with the under-experienced followers has evidently gotten so bad that the syndrome is being dubbed "instagram envy".  Look for it to soon become integrated into the Diagnostic and Statstics Manual as a full-fledged psych malady. One Oxford University psychologist quoted in the piece warned that a derivative malady is FOMO ('Fear of missing out') - based on assorted eggheads actually quantifying the dismay and on learning that "Instagram is the biggest culprit among social media."

But really, the dissatisfaction brewed isn't just on Instagram, though it's now getting most of the blame. As I noted in an earlier post some months ago, since so many ordinary folks in the U.S. are fucked - economically - then other markers are sought to try to establish status and one of these is based on experiences....who can have the best, and show them off to the most followers on Instagram or Facebook.

It appears that the more one perceives he or she is "exceptional" in terms of experiences or a given field of endeavor or achievement (or material acquisitions), the "happier" one seems to feel. This is difficult to manage, however, given a techno world of wonders which gives even idiots, twits and blabbermouths the tools to compete. So yes, if you're on Facebook there are also 1.1 billion others, who can also mainline their good times and show them off. You're not so special.

If you're on Instagram and receive a feed from 1,000 or more, most are bound to be show -off, wannabe "elites" determined to make you feel like shit when you see them floating down the Nile on a 150' sail boat, being served a Magnum of Champagne with the Pyramids in the background.  In this case, it's evidently so bad that the psychologists are warning people what to include and what not to in their Instagrams. Some of the no-no's cited:

- Avoid all trophies

- NO bottles of Bordeaux

- NO French hotel suites

- Absolutely nothing from Business class!

All of these are proffered with the view to minimize "friend torture".

All of which, let's face it, is part and parcel of the same American syndrome to confect a pseudo-happiness then to parade it in front of whoever will watch.  The problem is that even if one could have all those experiences (and not go bankrupt) there will always be others who can put up more. In the same way, half a billion people can all "tweet" at the same time so that the quality of tweets is debased by the sheer numbers of them.  Keeping "score" of followers or page views (for blogs) is also another introduction of conceivable angst over being one-upped. Does 500 followers or 500,000 make one's blog better than one with 20? That depends! What is the content of the mass blogs? Is it showing a kitty on a stool punching out doggies? Is it a lizard fight one day then wrestling babies the next? The point is that a mass-followed blog is not necessarily a quality content blog.

I may, as it turns out, get only 22 or 30 reads on a given day for a blog post, but it doesn't bother me. I write what I find of interest and trust others might as well. If they don't, that's ok.  Nor do I envy blogs with one million followers. The reason is that this blog was never set up with the purpose of mass consumption in mind. I started it way back in 2007 to offer something that inevitably would be an acquired taste: Brane Space would be eclectic while most other blogs are "one trick ponies" attending to only one issue or category, e.g. religion, economics, home recipes etc.

In the end, Instagram-ites can make themselves happier by taking a break or going cold turkey. It isn't 'life or death' if you're not getting a photo feed each day.  In the end, all forms of status -seeking happiness are doomed to fail because they're predicated on one ironic truth: there will always be someone, somewhere who is superior in some way or form to you! Somebody with more money, a bigger home, a better blog, more Facebook friends, superior Instagrams,  a seemingly superior academic pedigree , a better job .....or whatever.

Rather than cry and pout at that, the realistic option is to pursue your own well being in terms of fulfilling your own particular potential, whatever that may be. Indeed, a favorite Buddhist saying is that: "Happiness is being able to use one's abilities to the maximum".

Another corollary of that, once related by a Buddhist friend is:

"To achieve happiness reduce your material needs, desires to zero."

Something to think about whenever you're struck by "Instagram envy"!

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