Living Authentically in a Made-for-Instagram World

When I was in my Pennsylvania hometown for Christmas, I stopped by a favorite local restaurant, Canteen 900, for breakfast with my brother and sister. Canteen 900 is located in a refurbished warehouse-style building. Think high ceilings, exposed brick, funky industrial décor—that’s this place.

My whole family and I love Canteen 900. It’s our first-choice, go-to spot whenever we’re “home for the holidays” together. So I was there recently, for the first time in a while.

Upon arriving, I saw a holiday-themed display outside the building. Like the restaurant and its artistic-vibe surroundings, the display was quirky, eye-catching and cool.

It would be helpful here if I had a picture to show you, right, friends?

The thing is—ironically—I had thought about taking a picture. The display was so cool, so picture-worthy, it seemed to be begging folks to snap a shot.

Then I thought… “I wonder,” I said to Jared and Jenna, “if that display was designed so that people would take their picture with it, and then share it on their social media.”

Jenna thought so; Jared was already jogging to the front door, eager to order his beloved French toast and coffee. We didn’t talk much more about the “made-for-social-media-ness” of that display, of that moment.

It’s been on my mind, though, off and on these past few weeks: how we may find ourselves, at times, living in a made-for-Instagram world.

The display was so cool, so picture-worthy, it seemed to be begging folks to snap a shot.

Did you happen to try Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino when it came out last year? I didn’t, but I remember reading about the supercharged-sugar-rush’s suspected main purpose: not as a beverage, but as “Instagram bait.” Even the Washington Post covered the limited-edition drink’s debut.

Making the news more recently (just a few days ago in Smithsonian magazine) is the Museum of Ice Cream, a pop-up art exhibit that’s “taking over your Instagram feed.” A Wired journalist wrote that this museum was “made for Instagram” in an earlier, fall 2017 article. I’ve never been, but from what I’ve read, the interactive, whimsically designed Museum of Ice Cream lends itself to staged photo shoots.

The Museum of Ice Cream, the Unicorn Frappuccino, the holiday-themed display in front of Canteen 900—these are things that sales and marketing professionals have put into our lives, perhaps, so that we can engage with them for their companies’ publicity and profit.

I’ve been wondering, then—how do we know when we’re experiencing something real?

Something we’re encountering purely by chance? And…purely? Not for publicity or profit?

On the flip side of that question… How do we keep our own lives real, when sharing on social media is part of everyday life?

How do we live authentically in our made-for-Instagram world?

…how do we know when we’re experiencing something real?

The other morning, my older daughter called for me. “Mom, come here!” Grace was sitting at the front bay window, looking out.

I joined her, and she pointed outside. “Look,” Grace said.

The sun was rising in the distance. Beyond our neighbor’s house across the street, through the tree branches, we watched the morning sky light up with orange. It…was…beautiful.

And it was a beautiful moment for me, friends. I put my hand on Grace’s back and stood there an extra minute. I was heartened that my 6-year-old daughter recognized something special in that sunrise—in nature. I was heartened that nature moved her, and that she wanted me to experience it too.

For sure, nature is real. We can trust in the earth, and what the earth gives us.

Sunrise 1-16-18

You know, I took a picture of that moment. Of the sunrise, of my daughter there. I wanted to remember it. And you know what else? I almost shared it on Facebook—almost.

I reconsidered, friends. And I changed my mind.

Everyone uses their social media in the way that makes the best sense for them. There’s no “one size fits all”—and I don’t mean to seem “holier than thou.” I do what I do simply because it feels right to me—on my Facebook, which I check in with fairly regularly; and Instagram, which I don’t; and LinkedIn and Twitter, which I update every now and then, mainly for my writing.

(By the way, has anyone ever used Google+? What is Google+?) 😉

The reason I didn’t share that picture? It was too real, friends. It was too real.

My daughter had something she wanted to show me. That moment was just for us. The earth offered it up, and we were lucky enough to be there, to take it in together.

We know we’re experiencing something real when we have to catch our breath. When we are so moved by the emotion of the moment. The joy, the gratitude, the feeling that life is beautiful.

Real life, I mean.

The life that is happening right before your eyes. Your children reaching for you. The wind on your face. Someone you love knowing what to say.

What makes sense for me with living authentically in our made-for-Instagram world is sharing here and there. Others may keep it real through more wholehearted documentation. Still others may choose to stay off the grid completely. (We’ve gotta love the Ron Swansons among us. 😉 ) And of course, what feels right for us may evolve as we move from one season of life to another.

There’s so much to appreciate about social media. I love seeing pictures of college friends’ kiddos, some of whom I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet. I’d be wildly lost and uninformed if not for some local parent groups. And I’m so encouraged when someone reads something I wrote and lets me know it helped them somehow.

Yet…there may be some things to take care with. For example, I’d rather not partake in a for-profit’s stealth marketing (Museum of Ice Cream, are we talking about you?).

But that’s just me, in this season of my life.

How do you do you? How did you figure out what works for you?

Peace, friends.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

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