Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself using Instagram in a new way. I always thought of it as a place to just see what my friends were up to, so I don’t really follow anyone outside of who I know already in-person. Last year, I tried to follow more influential people on Instagram (wait, there’s a word for that—influencer), but found that they posted too often.
My feed turned from a healthy mix of selfies, travel, and home cooked food to a sleek, curated gallery of product placement and extremely long legs. I missed my friends’ posts so I unfollowed the influencers one by one until my feed was back at it’s no-makeup and sweatpants state.
Recently, though, I’ve been reading artsy blogs or articles that would feature an individual and link to their Instagram, so I would look them up. If I saw something I liked, I refrained from following them to avoid having them show up in my feed and instead began saving images. Soon, I had a whole collection of images under the “Saved” section.
The first thing I notice when I see these images is that they all go together. It’s like the same person curated them (me!) but with a very specific image in mind (maybe someone in their 20’s who wears muted clothes and enjoys spending time in the city and the desert).
But what if I’m not that into muted colors all the time? What if I need pops of neon or lots of denim to feel aesthetically fulfilled? That was the problem I found with Instagram. It’s a great place if you want to go down the rabbit-hole of a particular visual style. However, what I realized is that the algorithm doesn’t do much beyond suggesting things that you know you already like.
What I really would like is the ability to discover new things, maybe even unexpected things that you might not know you would have found unless you were at that one Flea Market on Sunday with your friend who pointed out the upside down statue of the Greek god murdering his two sons. Maybe that then sparked your interest in Greek mythology and you got your Masters degree in the subject and spent five years in Greece eating feta cheese and restoring the great art of the past.
When exploring in the digital world, your past behavior defines where you are directed towards, and the links, both figurative and literal, are more methodically planned out (i.e. there’s an algorithm). To get to the Greek statue, you’d have to somehow find your way to a related topic, such as Greek mythology.
Are we better off concentrating on our current interests in muted colors or pushing ourselves to new heights in Greece? I think everything is about balance. It’s fun to indulge in a familiar topic, but I want my chance at eating feta cheese for five years too.