Most of your favorite Instagrammers have sold out. That’s not the worst thing in the world, and I don’t really blame any of them for it, but it’s time we called it what it is.
Several years ago it felt like there was something in the air. People talked a lot about the big problems with global capitalism and consumerism. Movements were happening to boycott fast-fashion chains, to buy locally-made products - not because it was trendy, but because it was good.
In these years, Instagram was the up-and-coming social network for creative types. Photographers and designers shared their work, and a lot of them shared this message: spend less, enjoy more. Friendships are more rewarding than things.
There were a lot of conversations in those days about how poorly a small square image represented the fullness of life. (Do we still remember this?) Social media created a dramatic temptation to be selective with what we show; to only display our proudest moments. This concerned us. Perhaps those conversations are still happening. But I haven’t overheard any lately.
Back then we talked about community as a priority, not a cliche. That was when being authentic meant being honest and genuine, not just a synonym for an insufferably rustic, woodsy setting.
And yes, in the past several years, certain other topics have moved to the forefront, and that’s a good thing. I don't think I'm just looking at the past through rose-colored glasses. In the last several years we started actively affirming transgendered people. We started being honest about our country’s racial divide. (Yes, black lives matter.)
But it seems like people also stopped talking about the fact that more things do not lead to happiness. Most of the people on Instagram with the largest platforms are using that platform to sell someone else’s product. Do we realize this?
Maybe it’s hard to talk about consumerism as a bad thing in the post after you just talked about your new favorite backpack/camera gear/makeup/etc.
But I don’t blame them. I would probably do it too.
I guess, it’s not a bad thing, but it’s not a great thing either.
All I know is that I now see so much talk about how if you’re a creative person, you simply must pursue your dreams, and when you can shop at the same store as your heroes, then you’ve made it. And anything is possible - you can create your own success by hustling and staying motivated, and then you can afford those ridiculously overpriced sneakers. And yes, you should be a citizen of the world, travel! But only if you can afford to stay at the resorts that are being endorsed to you.
I’m not trying to demonize people who are working hard and using social media to make a living - I just want you to realize that no matter how genuine a person’s endorsement of a product may be… That product, and the hundreds of others things that people are trying to sell to us on a daily basis cannot be the goal of our creativity and energy.
The creative life, the hustle… Right now these things just feel like consumerism in a fancy package.
It doesn’t seem like anyone is talking about that either.
Am I wrong?
Believe it or not, I didn't write this post with anyone specific or mine. The point is less about people using their platforms to profit (Nothing wrong with that), and more about our rampant love of stuff, and our inadvertent acceptance of a culture of consumerism.
EVERYONE can tell you that consumerism is probably a bad thing - and it's certainly not as simple as saying that the less things you own the better - but I feel like the collective conversation on the subject has been muted recently. I think it's a subject always worth discussing.
photo by Mario Calvo - @thecreativeshot