On Facebook, it is perfectly acceptable – nay, even encouraged – to be “friends” with an account’s (likely) human, but block everything that account’s human may have to say and “share” with you. Send a friend request, receive a notification of accepted friend request, and promptly “un-follow.” Boom.
The experience is clean, sterile, and entirely deceptive.
With Facebook, you can have social “connection” without the burden of said social-connection’s dull musings, mediocre photos, painfully baroque prose/what-have-you, etc.
But Instagram. Ah, Instagram, the sleek and confined social platform of choice! Two hundred million active users and counting! Wanton and lascivious in the way it shows such strict adhesion to true patterns of social engagement. Vide infra:
- Does he follow me? Hey, well, I guess you better go and scroll through a chronologically ordered list of said “he’s’” followed accounts to check. Ha.
- Does she regularly like those posts of homemade drunken noodles my ex-boyfriend used to post on his now private (from me) account? Who knows? Not you!
In contrast to Facebook’s highly customizable and polarizing News Feed (i.e. answering the question of, “Are my ‘friends’ people that I like, or are they not?”), Instagram cuts to the chase. “Hello, dear, sir,” says the platform, “today we are presenting – no holds barred – the very base facts on who and what it is you have chosen to consume. Of course, you are most welcome to explore the contents of that deceiving compass icon (we assure you, results are based 100% on your observed behavior: accounts followed, highest rates of engagement, “Like’s,” etc.), but – ultimately – you will see the things that you have asked to see, nothing more, nothing less. Sweet relief! – Unless, that is, you disdain your own taste, but have not the wherewithal to UNFOLLOW/FOLLOW accordingly.
For a guy who just wants to feel his feelings without all of the superimposed existential questions and other social/emotional complexities which are brought to bear on aforementioned matters at hand, this is all just, well, too dang complex and more than a little frustrating. On the one hand, Guy-In-Question feels more than a little overwhelmed by social pressures brought forth by push notifications like, “Your Facebook FRIEND Walter Polaski just joined Instagram as wackywalter377,” (emphasis added). If said FRIEND is ‘friend,’ then clicking-through on the subtly implied CTA and “follow[-ing]” is the natural response. Of course, this is so not the way of the Tao, if you know what I mean. Walter Polaski/wackywalter377 is a friend from high school whose post-matriculation life choices and general dasein (to stick with the PHI-1000 phrases of speech) is absolutely nowhere near anywhere you might consider your general “aura” to be.
But this is the beauty. With Instagram, you can allow wackywalter377 to “follow” you, while simultaneously and non-confrontationally telling him to go take a long walk on a short pier. And, let’s be honest, how often is anyone, wackywalter377 – of all people – here included, going to cross-reference his list of “followers” and “following” to confirm your acceptance of both roles? What’s he going to do – pull out graph paper and a .07 mechanical pencil and chart it all out? (It’s important here to note Walter is most assuredly the sort of guy to create an account posthaste, rapidly accepting the entirety of the platform’s would-you-like-to?’s, and, yes, FOLLOW ALL, including your sorry, overly-analytical ion-strengthened-glass-tappin’ thumbs.
That right there. The nature of Instagram. As we say in the South, “bless ‘im, [wackywalter377].” On Facebook, he wouldn’t stand a chance with you.
For a guy who’s just trying to take a step back, get truly analytical, [man,] and get a grasp on the basic social relations Silicon Valley expects of him, the way all of this is shaking out is…well, it’s demoralizing.
“Are we really that shallow?” asks Guy-In-Question. “Always were,” answers guy who narrates Guy-In-Question’s lackadaisical musings. Facebook awakened the übermensch in us all. Instagram brought us back down to earth. And this is why Guy-In-Question will choose Instagram all day, every day. In a nutshell, it’s the polite way to [not] socially engage with those that you [do not] want to socially engage with. One-way streets, all the way, if you’re a sad man or just most people, in general.