I heard Joey Harrington, the famed college quarterback who floundered in the NFL, talk recently about failure and not living up to expectations. He mentioned the challenges of having “Instagram life” and trying to keep up with the virtual Joneses. To illustrate his point, he showed the mocking social handle @SocialityBarbie, where the Mattel doll was placed in “typical”, white-washed posts online to mock how people aren’t authentic online. If you haven’t seen it, it’s definitely worth a look and a laugh.
But a more serious thought occurred to me. I was struck by the interesting phrase, “Instagram life.” Instagram is a platform, sure. It’s a social technology, sure. But it’s also a brand. What other technology brand gives you “life”? I’ve never heard someone refer to their “Whirlpool life,” or their “Arco life” or their “TiVO life.” No, it’s an Instagram life. Or a Facebook life. Or perhaps even a LinkedIn life. The platform where a corporate brand and a person’s identity combine into something resembling…well, neither.
As I reflect on this, I think any “life” that is so one-sided as to only show the good, is no life at all. We all know heartache and the lessons that disappointment have taught. Any “life” that can be seemingly controlled, curated, and “hashtagged” (is that a verb yet?), isn’t a life. Real life is famously (and infuriatingly) uncontrolled, filled with surprises (both good and bad), and defies simple labels. Unlike an “Instagram life,” real life is neither “instant” nor just a “gram” (ie, a communication). It is an experience of sorrow and triumph and better lived together. Not socially (as in social media), but socially (as in human connection).