Five months ago, I deleted the Instagram app from my phone. After seven hundred-odd pictures, I had decided that the negative aspects of social media far outweighed any positive features they might have and that I was going to have no further engagement.
My decision would not have registered with Facebook, the owners of Instagram. The one hundred and eighty people who followed my posts would have constituted a mere one-thousandth of a number they would have considered significant.
Walking beside the River Severn at Worcester on a blustery Sunday afternoon, the effects of Storm Dennis were evident. The river threatened to surpass its highest ever recorded levels and tranquil spots along the river bank now lay metres out into the massive flow of brown flood water that was making its way southward. The entire racecourse was a lake, its buildings like boats anchored in a bay. On the west bank of the river, flood defences had been closed across a main road with the intention of penning back the water; diesel-fuelled pumps laboured to draw water from the road surface and return it to the river.
Taking out my phone, I took one picture and then another. There was a beauty in the trees and the water and the rapidly changing light of the stormy skies. Downloading the Instagram app, I posted ten of the pictures I had taken. Responses came from my sisters and my cousins and a couple of old friends in Ireland. I think there were ten or a dozen “likes,” (a number that is one-ten thousandth of the sort of total sought by the sales people known as “influencers”), but what significance had such numbers?
There was a Year 10 student last week who commented that “anti-social behaviour” should include those who would spend their half-term holiday shut in their rooms playing computer games or messaging people on their phones, his logic was that social media were in fact anti-social media. There was a logic in his idea that sociability required real interactions with real people.
Perhaps social media should be divided into positive media and negative media, those which turn people outward to engage with the society and the world outside, and those which turn people inward to engage with an imaginary world where they must constantly edit selfies and enlarge stories in order to attain significance.
Apart from the constant appearance of advertisements for things I do not want, Instagram seems a benign platform with which to share pictures.