When Facebook launched in the mid-noughties it was just a way for friends to keep in touch. As the platform grew it became a way to plan parties without having to send an invitation, a handy tool that helped you remember your mates’ birthdays, and a way of remembering the nights out that would have otherwise gone forgotten.
When Instagram came to the fore in 2010 it took social media to a whole new place. Suddenly it became the norm to take photographs of your dinner, editing images of pie and mash in a vintage-inspired sepia hue.
The mundane became worthy of a social media update. It became necessary to inform your pals if you’d cooked a nice meal or baked a cake. Trips to the gym were documented by a snap of a pair of trainers, or a couple of dumbbells carefully positioned on the floor.
And then it evolved further. In August 2016, the social media company announced it was launching live Insta-stories. Inspired by rival company Snapchat, the stories feature allows users to post images and videos to their timeline for just 24 hours. It lets people inform their followers of where they are and what they are doing without the images staying on their profile.
The stories element took off immediately. Suddenly users were posting upwards of 20 updates a day. Instead of the one obligatory photo of a meal at a restaurant, people could share every course without clogging up their timelines.
It wasn’t long before Instagram’s evolution was reflected in real life. Flower walls were erected in restaurants. People stood in front of them and posed. The aesthetics of food and drink became more important. Establishments became aware that everything they sold was potentially being uploaded onto social media.
In trendy bars people took photographs of cocktails. At airports people sat in the departure lounge taking pictures of their cappuccinos. People became less present.
A couple of years ago I watched Beyoncé through the phones of hundreds of people who had managed to get to the Etihad stadium a few hours before me. The need to film any performer at a gig is lost on me. All you have to do is type the word Beyoncé into YouTube to access a myriad of good quality footage filmed over more than 15 years. If you get the opportunity to watch the real thing, why not just enjoy it?
Then the word “Instagrammable” happened. Lifestyle publications started compiling lists of the most Instagrammable places to go. It’s handy, I guess, because I now use these lists to determine the places I don’t want to go. If places are marketing themselves and their products as Instagrammable, it means people go there to take photos. It doesn’t make for a good atmosphere.
I don’t want to see the Beyoncé effect happening everywhere I go, where people are too busy taking pictures of what’s in front of them to properly enjoy it.
Social media has shaped the world in ways none of us could have ever imagined. Mostly in a good way. Instagram is great for documenting some of life’s best moments. Often when I can’t sleep I scroll through my own timeline, looking back at pictures of holidays and days out.
But there’s a limit. When it comes to sharing photos of pints, avocados, gigs and burgers, you can count me out. I’d rather just be in the moment.