The Instagram lobster trap

We’re all just a bunch of apes lekking around the water hole, aren’t we? “Facebook,” it’s been said, “is basically designed like a lobster trap with your friends as bait,” and the same holds for Instagram. You know it’s empty, often stressful calories—but you can’t get away.

I’m reminded of this hearing teenage girls tell This American Life about their Instagram habits. Points that stuck out for me:

  • Time is a big factor. Reactions are expected within minutes. (You can hear relief in the girls’ voices as the first likes roll in.)
  • Getting 150 likes on a selfie is normal. Nighttime is when you get the most.
  • Each person posts just a few times per week.
  • They reflexively like nearly everything in their feeds.
  • Commenting is more intimate than liking & carries more expectation of reciprocation.
  • Language choice is super important. There’s tons of repetition of “Gorgeous, Pretty, OMG, etc.,” though never “Sexy.”
  • Comments are a way to map & judge others’ relationships (who’s commenting, who isn’t).
  • “If I didn’t have it, I’d feel like I’m missing so much.” It’s a diagram of where people stand socially. Parsing this is where the most time goes.
  • The girls will preflight photos (sending them to close friends for review) before posting.
  • They know it’s shallow, but “It’s like free candy, so why not?”
  • “I’m a brand… Relevance is a big term right now. In middle school we were so relevant!”

Don’t get me wrong—I’ve enjoyed Instagram for 5+ years & would miss it deeply, even if I’m guiltier than I’d like of these pathologies. And still my mind turns endlessly to thinking about ways to foster more genuine, personal, enriching communications. Nobody said would be easy, but the desire is there.

3 thoughts on “The Instagram lobster trap

  1. I had listened to this story when it first aired. And was so disturbed by it. Mostly because I saw a lot of similarities in my own behavior. I’m with you, there has to be a better way.

  2. I hear tell that when they invented laser around the 1960s they had invented a tool for which there was no real purpose. It was an interesting scientific curiosity. Where would we be without laser nowadays? I can’t help thinking that social media (Facebook, Instagram et al) are a little bit the same. They are clever and I have used them (although I have just backed away from Facebook) but I have to question how much real purpose they have in my life. Do they truly enrich my life? Well, for the most part the answer is no. I used to belong to the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP has become Kelby 1). I found the NAPP forum so very useful when I was learning how to use Photoshop and other programs. The NAPP forum had real purpose for me. The NAPP forum withered on the vine and might even have gone by now; pity. My main tool is these days. I learn so much from that site. As for social media sites…..I’m weening myself off them. I found I was wasting so much of my day looking at stuff which was just about interesting but mostly not. It is 2016 and I am spring cleaning my life and being very selective about the sites I visit. The John Nack site is on my green list. Sorry Facebook, Instagram, Uncle Tom Cobbley and all – red list for you lot!

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