“There are enough Instagram photos of the beach”

instagramThe Huffington Post recently published an article headlined, ‘Why You Shouldn’t Bother Instagramming At The Beach‘.

It revealed there were more than 19 million uses of the #beach hashtag on Instragram.

Apparently this was “significant” for two reasons.

One, “the beach is unanimously loved” (the context of sharing presumably deemed implicit). And two, “the high count of hashtags reveals that you are not doing anything new. There are enough Instagram photos of the beach“.

The piece was really just a plug for an energy bar’s campaign to encourage people “to be truly present at the beach” by “surrendering our cell-phones” (and presumably eat their food instead).

Or, in Nathan Jurgenson’s words, to make the case for “pass[ing] off an irrational and unsubstantiated fetishization of what you deem ‘real’ as instead a simple, nostalgic appreciation for retro, vintage, slow, and disconnected”. (Being able to opt out of certain technologies is also a by-product of the privilege of wealth).

The concept of digital detox has always struck me as faintly ridiculous. Of course, when we take a break from work, we should also take a break from checking our work emails. If you really struggle to turn your BlackBerry off for any length of time, or simply can’t ignore that flashing red light, by all means leave it at home.

However, the notion the technology itself is at fault is really just an excuse for your own lack of self-control. To subsequently declare any use of technology impedes on our enjoyment of the ‘real’, and that everyone needs to indulge in a detoxification from everything digital, is a rather preposterous extension of that logic.

What I find particularly interesting here, though, is how the number of times a hashtag has been shared is deployed to make the case for ending its usage.

As though there should be a point at which it’s finished. A quantifiable instance in which sharing is complete.

Prosumption-based capitalism demands our social media use creates value for someone else. If not, it compels us to move onto sharing something new. Nothing can remain static.

However, social media use doesn’t always have to be a tool for broadcasting our opinion or images. It doesn’t even need to be a conversation. It can just be an enjoyable thing to do for ourselves. Our writing doesn’t always require an audience and our photos don’t always need to be original.

So, I’d encourage those teenagers who enjoy Instagramming their day at the beach to keep doing so.

In the same way Twitter eventually understood that it was wrong to prevent Justin Bieber from trending by tweaking its algorithms, we need to accept we can’t control what teens want to share; particularly if it’s something they enjoy (and, if we really want to try, we should concentrate on the important stuff that could have damaging consequences, not the stuff we consider inane).

Who are we to judge what constitutes a ‘real’ experience anyway?