Instagram, Instafriends....this topic has come up a lot lately in some IG LIVE shows and in quite a few other discussions that I've had with people in real life. Since last week was more or less @Pretty.city's one year anniversary on Instagram (I had an account for 4 years and I only posted a little more than a handful of photos and my name and focus was not the same as pretty.city), I figured it was the perfect time to visit this thesis.
As I have shared in some of my recent Instagram posts, this past year has been challenging for me on a personal level, but not only that, it has also been a year of self discovery. When I decided to start utilizing my Instagram account for my photos taken from my walks and hikes last year, I had no idea what it would develop into. As soon as I started posting IG worthy photos and learning how to use hashtags, I started making connections. I started following people I was interested in and some people started following me. Among these followers and followees I found some genuine people that I really started engaging in conversation with. I've formed bonds and deep connections with people all over the world, near and far, male and female, some photographers, some artists, some musicians, and some writers. I feel like the Instagram community as a whole is different than other social media apps/sites in that the majority of the people there are artists or have a creative personality. I find myself making most friendships on Instagram because of common backgrounds or interests.
Lately, I have been trying to explain to some of my friends and family in real life what Instagram has developed into for me, or rather the direction that I foresee it going into and more often than not, people don't really seem to understand my vision. While I do want my Instagram to grow into something bigger, it is more than just having a million followers. I truly love making connections with people and engaging with users from all over the world, learning things about cultures I never even knew anything about. When I share this with people, most find it very strange that I have made actual friends from IG.
It's funny to me how still, even in this day and age, when we use technology for everything, that people are still shocked when I tell them how many friends I have made via social media. I have been making friends on the internet for years....heck I was doing it way back when I used to sit and talk about music and bands on ICQ and in Yahoo chat rooms (I realize this totally dates me here, when some of you have probably never heard of those things lol). I know many people think that you can't make real friends or meet people using social media, but I have made some great friends this way...real life, lifelong friends. As a matter of fact, some of my very best friends that I talk to everyday I've met this way. There are some that I have actually met in person, and some that I have not yet, although I feel like I have. The funny thing is, is that the people that I know that do not utilize social media in this aspect or who are apprehensive to make friends this way, tend to feel that this method is impersonal and not real life. Like making friends this way still has a "virtual" stigma to it. I actually have a totally different opinion though, I feel that meeting people online, whether it be friendship oriented, or for dating, or even for business, allows people to be more open about themselves and therefore you learn more about a person in a shorter time period. Let me explain in more detail. I am naturally a shy person, most people think I am an extrovert, but that is a forced behavior and the more uncomfortable I feel, the more I talk and ramble. This is certainly a coping mechanism to deal with how awkward I feel. When communicating with people online first, I feel like I am more apt to feel a little more outgoing and share things that might otherwise make me feel uncomfortable to talk about. I feel like I can be honest and talk about things that I wouldn't necessarily be able to face to face. I don't have to sit there and worry about how the other person is not really listening to me and how they are focusing on and staring at all of my flaws (I realize that this might not be true, but it is what my anxiety makes me feel). I also then don't have to see their expressions on their faces when they read something that might make me a little vulnerable and insecure. If they don't like what they read they can just not DM, message, or text anymore and it won't be as uncomfortable as it is in person.
Aside from the personal barriers and walls that are more easily and rapidly broken down in online friendships, making these connections via text (rather than through voice or in person) actually might allow you to connect in a deeper way. I know this might sound crazy but just think about it. When someone tells you a story over the phone, chances are you are going to forget parts of it or even most of it. However, when you read something with your eyes, you have a better chance of remembering it because our visual memory is much stronger than our audio one. Our eyes send these words that we read to our long term memory (not to mention you can save the messages and refer back to them later, which I so often do lol). When you read something, it is natural to connect more to it, especially if it is something that you are interested in. For instance, how often do you hear about people connecting more to a movie version of a story rather than the book version? Exactly. Because when we read text, we are processing it in our brain in a very different way, a deeper way. On the writer's side of it, some people are very great communicators in a written format because they feel less inhibitions that way and it allows themselves to open up in a very different way. When people write in a true and honest way, it then allows us to connect even more to them as well.
I am friends with people that I have met online that I probably would have never met in person due to many reasons. Writing to people is far less intimidating than approaching people in person and due to their content and the hashtags, you already know that you have things in common or know that you are interested in what they are sharing with the community. When you see a person in a cafe or a bar or on the street, you see only them, as they are at that moment. On Instagram or Facebook in particular, you see a snapshot of people's lives. You see things that they like or are interested in, content that they have written or curated, or photos and visions that are seen from their eyes. As a matter of fact, it is really quite personal and not impersonal at all when you think about it.
Don't get me wrong, I am not saying to stop making friendships in person, but both ways can be just as intimate and personal and equally as rewarding, Social media and even the internet are still relatively new and they will be a very important part of our future and how we connect with others. I have made great friendships, connected with, and worked with people all around the world because of social media, something that our parents and grandparents weren't able to do. How awesome is that? The world is quite literally at our fingertips, let's take advantage!