Millennials and Instagram: Opting for Self-Indulgence

Every time I see a friend request on Instagram from my older relatives, I can’t help but to laugh and feel a sense of confusion. For millennials, we migrated from Facebook towards Instagram in 2012, when the app first became popular. In doing this, we left our old relatives behind. Now, when I see that the older folk are catching wind of Instagram, I’m skeptical on their intrusion. Are they spying on us?—is often my first thought. Do they know what Instagram is all about?—is my second. Let’s be clear then. Instagram has changed tremendously since it’s inception, and for the older demographic who are looking to create a profile on the platform, it’s about time a millennial lets you know what Instagram means to us.

When I first began Instagramming, I posted pictures of my dog and sushi dinners with “Nashville” filtering (one of their older filters that hides amongst the more ‘cool’ filters). For me, it was less about the likes and more about posting a picture of something I valued. Then, as the years went on, aesthetic became prioritized and we all tried to become professional photographers. It became competitive—more likes was indicative of popularity and attractiveness. So we kept taking more pictures, edited them until they were the most perfect version of ourselves we could muster up and we relinquished them into the treacherous abyss we call social media. We chased the person we wanted to be - the person we were able to be.

The new Instagram update that happened June of this year, gave us the ability to archive photos. My guess is that Instagram noticed a trend amongst its users that we liked to delete photos we felt no longer suited us. Our Instas were aesthetic extensions of ourselves that could be reinvented time to time. We could delete while also saving our victories, like our photo that received 100+ likes.  Once stored away, our Instagram profile could be a new version of ourselves.

There’s a reason why Carmen’s sultry bikini pics from her vacation in Ibiza are on her Insta and apple-picking with grandma is on Facebook. There’s a different mood and openness to Instagram’s platform that makes us feel more free to express who we really are. It could be Instagram’s particular features and it could also be that we migrated silently with a newfound freedom.

 This is why it pains me when I get a friend request on Instagram from people of an older generation. Instagram is not just another photo-sharing platform. It is so much more. Photograph styles like the “selfie” and other self-indulgent photos are part of the reason why the younger demographic enjoys the app. And this is not a judgement, but a mere realization of the facts. For all that Instagram does and doesn’t do, it does understand the need of its user base to celebrate and acknowledge themselves and others. Often this celebration is criticized for being   “entitled” and “narcissistic.” I believe this self-indulgence is misunderstood. Millennials adopted new forms of socialization that didn’t exist in our parents time and like most things are the cause of something deeper.

Personally, after adding moms and aunts access to my Instagram profile, I’ve already felt more self-conscious with my posts thinking: Is this conservative enough? Am I showing too much? It’s really started to damper my experience of the platform. My advice: If you are over  the age of 45 and looking to create an account on Instagram, do not friend your younger relatives. They will often feel uncomfortable or obligated to press ‘approve.’ When and if you do get access to their account, acknowledge that Instagram is a different platform than Facebook and it will be used accordingly. If the Billy you knew and loved turns out to be gay, just go with it.

[Feature Image by Pexels]