By Michal Shvimer, editorial volunteer for MEDIAGIRLS, is a rising junior at Boston University studying Journalism with a minor in International Relations.
At Boston Calling, a summer music festival, I saw three girls standing quietly off to the side while a big crowd was enjoying the music. They were about 15 years old and wearing expensive, colorful outfits with makeup done to match. They looked glamorous but uncomfortable. After some time of keeping to themselves, they moved to better lighting and posed for a picture. The photo captured three girls smiling brightly, one hand in the air and another around their friends; they looked like they were having the time of their lives. And that’s all their followers would see when they post the picture later. Not three girls who were unfamiliar with the artist, or three girls who looked uncomfortable in the festival space, but three girls who attended a fun event and looked beautiful doing it.
As I was leaving the festival, I heard a woman nearby confess something to her friends.
“I just came here for the Instagram,” she said laughing.
“Me too!” her friends responded, happy that someone else spent $120 on a music festival ticket to show off their look. And she’s not alone. Nor is this trend exclusive to the music festival culture. Our summers are frequently structured around what looks fun, not is fun; what looks beautiful, not what feels beautiful.
To be clear, taking pictures to capture memories is completely normal — and completely encouraged. But taking pictures for the aesthetic rather than the experience takes away from the moment.
It’s officially summer, a time to recharge from the academic and/or work year, spend time with loved ones, and explore the spaces around you. This combination of seemingly liberating and exciting changes that come with everyone’s favorite season can lead to an influx in Instagram posts, and hence, a major drop of being present.
And here’s why:
Posting in the summer keeps followers updated
Your teen’s social-circle likely changes in the summer. Whether they’re hanging out with their close circle of friends, going to camp, or traveling, it becomes a priority to keep their friends updated on their summer adventures.
Beautiful weather = beautiful lighting
Summer becomes an opportunity to capture that ever-illusive perfect photo. It’s a reason Instagram influencers travel to warmer destinations so frequently. The summer leaves us sun-kissed and glowy, and everyone wants to show it off.
The summer makes for more adventures, and adventures make teens feel cool
Instagram can always feel a little competitive, but especially so in the summer. Who traveled to the coolest place? Who hung out with the most friends? Who looked the best at the beach? Even if someone isn’t actually living out the summer of their dreams, many feel like they need to make people believe they are.
But here’s the thing. Sometimes proving that we’re having the most exciting summer keeps us from actually enjoying the summer. When we are so focused on “capturing the moment” for Instagram or any other platform, we miss the experience. We lose the opportunity to be awed, inspired, or moved. We can look at photos as many times as we like but we can only have the actual experience at one particular time, sometimes even for just a precious moment.
3 tips to have a genuinely joyful experience, not just a post-worthy one.
Let go of anticipating Instagram posts.
Anytime a cool experience, even just a function with friends, prompts an immediate photo opportunity, can you try to just… feel the joy? It’s exciting to experience the summer with your friends and experience new things together. But planning to present it to the world will only structure that experience around the post, not around the experience itself.
Form the memory first, then capture in a photo.
The best pictures are inspired by our experiences, not the other way around. An experience does not become memorable or noteworthy if we spend it trying to capture the perfect shot. Don’t schedule experiences around cool photo ops. A great picture will come if you’re surrounded by beauty, fun, and love.
You won’t remember your summer if you spend it looking through a screen. When you see something beautiful, take a mental screenshot before pulling out your camera. If you’re making your friends laugh, take the time to finish the joke rather tan recreating for a social media story.
This piece was originally published on MEDIAGIRLS.ORG as Help! My girl(s) is So Obsessed with Capturing Moments on Instagram, She Misses Experiences! and is republished with permission. Michelle Cove is the Executive Director of MEDIAGIRLS®, a nonprofit organization that teaches girls how to critique the way girls and women are portrayed in pop culture with an emphasis on creating empowering content.
She is also an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and author whose projects have been featured on numerous national platforms including “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Katie Couric’s talk show “Katie,” “The Today Show,” The Washington Post, and The New York Times.
Visit www.mediagirls.org to learn more.