Pursuing Instagram: Our Culture and the Vain Pursuit of an Illusion

Something occurred to me during one of my self analytical sessions when I actually take the time to consider who I am, what motivates me and what I want. People are obsessed with popularity, comparison and being “happy”. Most people do not know what any of these actually mean, especially not the happy thing. So they engage in an activity which I had always been aware of to some degree but never was able to pin down and define it conclusively.

Now after much thought and analysis, I finally did just that. I coined the term, “following Instagram”. This is not necessarily the actual app, but rather a metaphor for a way of life and thinking which the majority of us people in modern Western cultures are captured by. As a matter of fact capitalism runs on this phenomenon, and it is used by marketers to the nth degree.

What I mean by following Instagram is most people are unsure of their level of happiness in life and in desperate pursuit of making the most of their “one life” or capturing the spirit of YOLO, they seek to imitate, copy and follow those in our society who have managed to present to the world the best possible and most attractive looking Instagram profile. The people who talk about how perfectly amazing their job is, how much of a perfect model their wife or husband is, how fun their vacations are which they always go on and how they wouldn’t trade their life for anybody’s. They have pictures and stories which include so many awesome people having fun, they “work hard and play hard”, they certainly aren’t nice guys or girls who finish last, but not to worry, because they volunteer for great causes, are respected as community and peer leaders, are loved and respected for donating time and money and it’s all a win-win because both they benefit by getting the rewards of prestige and honor and the poor, pitied people they help, well, get help.

These people are experts at presenting the image of the perfect life to the public — the perfect Instagram profile. The vast majority of people in society look at how amazingly perfect their life is and race breathlessly to capture even a shadow of it. Of course most people will never even glimpse the shadow.

That is because it is all an illusion.

Nobody is “perfectly happy”. The people who look like they have the perfect life have only managed to use marketing and human psychology to present the best possible image of themselves. The average person experiences just as much happiness as those “uber happy” people. An honest thought experiment of imaging oneself in the shoes of the “happiest” person but with the same nature, mindset and way of thinking, would lead the typical person to be no more happy, perhaps less.

The fun, social, extroverted person is not the happiest person, I realized after much consideration. They are following their nature. Another person will follow their nature. And each person will be objectively as happy as they can be, which is rare moments in life preceded and followed by vast spaces of hard work, aggravation and disappointment, sprinkled with some depression.

As King Solomon said, there is a time for happiness and a time for sadness under the sun. Life is short and try to enjoy the brief moments of happiness which are given to you. Stop chasing illusions that lead nowhere, work hard and be happy with who you are.