The allure — and falsity — of Instagram


all images: Caitlin Kelly


By Caitlin Kelly

Are you a big Instagram user?

I only started posting — usually three to four images a day — about a month or so ago. My long-term goal, possibly, is to sell my images to interior designers and stagers, people who furnish and decorate homes for sale. I began my career as a shooter, and have sold my work to The New York Times, Time and the Washington Post,ย  so we’ll see.


My work: @caitlinkellynyc.


I’m enjoying it for a few reasons, which are very different from my frequent use of Twitter and (sigh) Facebook, whose behavior has proven so deceptive and appalling it’s difficult to use it now in any good conscience.




What I like about Instagram:


Non-political. It’s not filled with people ranting endlessly, let alone arguing with others, about their specific causes.

Global. I’ve been stunned (and delighted) by literally instant responses to my images, from a 13-year-old fellow baker in Britain to an auto body shop in Brazil to an Istanbul photographer.

— Not just photos, but photos of some of my favorite passions: pilots and their airplanes (especially women!), vintage clothing, jewelry and flowers.

Creative inspiration. Photos of places I long to visit; interior design; terrific art and ceramics, like the guy from Australia who hand-painted exquisite blue-on-white tall vases. I found a young British art student, Kat Thomas, (katt_artt)ย  whose work is spectacular.

— Playful connection. I snapped a pair of studded black leather boots on a red carpet at the Met Opera in Manhattan, then spotted an almost identical image, by an Italian man, of his cool studded black boots on a red carpet. I suggested he check out my picture, and he did. Silly? But fun!

It’s sharpened my own gaze. Thanks to the camera in my cellphone, an IPhone 7, I’m forever seeing, appreciating and capturing beauty around me, night or day, rain or shine. On a recent foggy, rainy morning I hastened to get out to our local reservoir to snap some images. I’m so glad I did because by afternoon, skies were clear and the mood was gone.



What I dislike:

Selfies. Just stop. Seriously. I don’t get why people keep posting image after image after image of themselves! When someone follows me, and I see nothing but selfies, I’ll never follow back.

Endless self-promotion. Yes, Insta is a great place to promote your product or brand. But enough!

Too much photo manipulation. I’m old school! I began my career shooting film, so when I see images that have been heavily manipulated and filtered, I often flip away fast.

Too much lifestyle content, posed and perfect. Many of the most popular sites are perfectly posed and lit, whether of people carousing (usually white, thin, young people) in trendy/cool places or of food or tourist-y moments. Insta is a place for people to escape into fantasy, but it’s also feeding some tremendous envy and resentment.

Why can’t I ditch my messy life today and live on a Greek island, too?




Do you use and enjoy Instagram?


36 thoughts on “The allure — and falsity — of Instagram

  1. No, I don’t use Instagram and also won’t now because it’s owned by Facebook. I have a lot of concerns about what they have been doing and I believe we (in Canada) should regulate them in much the same way as they have been regulated in the EU. However, I also understand why you (and many others) need to use it. Your photos here are captivating, btw. Beautifully done. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I’m not on Instagram, though it’s a possibility. The issue I have with it is the same as for all social media – time. Just now (and for some months gone) the elephant in my time management has been a book I am trying to finish – for which I’ve already renegotiated a deadline – on a topic where discussion often gains much the same socio-cultural intensity for NZ as the gun debate in the US (our Treaty of Waitangi). A blog post I wrote on it in February led to my being stalked and abused for weeks afterwards, luckily mostly on social media, by a small but viciously hate-filled group of lobbyists here in New Zealand, and everybody I’ve spoken to about the book has said ‘that’ll be trouble’. The care needed in the wording and argument is significant, with all that this implies for hours. But if it wasn’t this there’d be something else. It’s a kind of cleft stick because on the one hand, social media in all its evolving forms is a fantastic way of making contact with people around the world. On the other, I have to balance that with ‘life’ in its various forms. That said, as you point out, Instagram has its allure as a less polemic form of social media than some of the others.

  3. i’ve dabbled a bit, and my teaching partner is trying to convince me to get more involved. it’s an interesting platform and i may get more into it in the future, but feel like i’m already committing too much of my time to other social media platforms. it’s a matter of finding balance in that area. your post has shown me that instagram has a lot of potential for me –

  4. I have never tried Instagram but it appeals to me. It seems like a much more creative social network than Twitter and Facebook.

    I’m trying to inject more creativity into my life, so maybe I should give it a try. ๐Ÿ™‚ I think I’d need to buy a phone with a better camera though. My ancient Motorola isn’t much good!

  5. I use Instagram a lot, though i’ll admit the number of selfies has gone down dramatically. It’s a lot of fun, posting photos and the occasional video. At one point, I was even a little addicted to posting stuff, if you can believe it.

  6. I’m quite active on Instagram (randyfmcdonald there). I find it an excellent place for social photography, more so than a Flickr that strikes me as more serious. It’s a great place to share images taken in a moment.

    As for selfies, I have a few. I think that the selfie can be an interesting genre. Agreed with you about all-selfie Instagram accounts being offputting. One’s self is great, I’m sure, but there is so much to see outside!

      1. My own Instagram presence is intended to be a chronicle of some of the things I see around me in my life. Have seen, in some cases–I will be posting my photos of the Michaelangelo exhibit at the Met today.

        Compared to Flickr, Instagram feels more social, more effervescent. It’s less suited for serious photography and more suited for photographic exchanges.

  7. I am on Instagram and have been forever … and it is pretty much the normal mix of family, kids, life, dogs, places we go, snowfall in April – and running selfies.

    Yeah, as a runner I have loads of runner friends and end up telling little stories about what is going on, accompanied by some picture – myself, the hills I am running, snow, sunrises, and so on.

    But as a middle-aged guy, I am really not out to impress anyone or put up some sort of front. What I see is too often is fakeness and unhealthiness: the overly curated ‘reality’, filters, photoshop, and ‘humblebrag’. Also, too many runners (especially young women) tend toward unhealthy eating.

    And the hole FB thing. It is all troubling.

    1. Interesting.

      For me, as someone who needs to keep making freelance income and hopes to expand that, my Insta images are carefully chosen — and I will create a 2nd account, when ready, with only those images I hope will be sale-able to others, and at a premium price.

      I find the extremely curated images tedious and sterile, although clearly millions disagree with us. ๐Ÿ™‚

      FB….what a disaster!

  8. Pingback: [PHOTO] Five photo links: Flickr, Instagram, cities, Tom Saint CLair, Peter Hujar | A Bit More Detail

  9. I use Facebook but more for the personal and following interesting groups. I use Instagram for my art but I do feel like it becomes competitive and you need to focus on getting more followers instead of just enjoying sharing your art or whatever creative stuff you can make. I also do hate the polished profiles and agree that we should all stop worrying about looking perfect and making comparisons, it’s very damaging. I do enjoy Instragram for it’s art accounts and following vintage clothing enthusiasts or other creative ventures.

  10. I use Instagram to tell stories through sarees. In the bargain, I discovered many likeminded folks. It’s been about listening to the memories and responses to my musings that has been very gratifying.

  11. What’s kind of really awkward about the staged photos – is the photographer taking the intimate images of daily life. Who is this person? Are they a family member, are they paid? Is this all just a huge slice of advertising (probably) ? And I wonder how exhausting it must be to try and keep that standard each day. If you want to have a laugh follow Celeste Barber. She’s Australian – and a regular woman emulating supermodels or famous people – she is a riot and shows what the average woman looks like in stark contrast to advertising standards. It’s so good. Her husband also occasionally feature which I think shows how they share sense of humour. I’ve read that constant selfies – speak huge volumes on a lack of self esteem (really!) that is a huge way to have an audience tell you you’re hot, sexy, worthy of love and adoration. Which is actually really sad. We’re worth more than beauty… it’s the heart and soul that really matter most.

    1. Yes to all of this!

      I can only assume that people whose Insta accounts are “perfect” have a need to project perfection, either for financial gain (and I get that) or personal…something.

      Barber sounds like a hoot!

      “Weโ€™re worth more than beautyโ€ฆ itโ€™s the heart and soul that really matter most.”


  12. I initially started my Insta, funnily enough, to escape the endless drama on FB, however once I introduced my hubby to it, rather than creating his own profile, I soon found my Insta inadvertantly taken over by Tribal Tattooโ€™s, Bulldogs, Gym workouts & the occasional Bible Verse to keep me happy lol! Needless to say, I no longer use this platform as much but it was easy enough to let go of when I started a social media fast in Jan, I have thoroughly enjoyed the drama-free calm since then.

    I hear you and raise you over-muscled gym buffs and apple bottom girls with tiny tiny waists on the selfie notion sista! Hear hear! ๐Ÿ‘

  13. I do use Istagram and twitter. Originally just to keep in touch with family and friends, then I heard it was a good tool to promote your business. Ive been trying that out, not a whole lot of success right now, but I am new to it.

  14. thesilentperspective

    I have a strong following on Instagram of about 30K but I want to delete it. There is a pressure to please your following and a temptation to act out of alignment with yourself. I certainly agree there is often a facade to the whole thing. Glad to hear other people feel the same and don’t just follow people based on the staged, posed, over manipulated pictures.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s