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A picture speaks a thousand words

Four Mac students reflect on the benefits and the drawbacks of harnessing the power of Instagram

Photo used with permission from Weatherly Giblin.

Julie Robertson and Anna Compton, A. N. McCallum

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A picture speaks a thousand words. These words can say, “talented photographer,” “look at how much fun I’m having on vacation,” “feeling myself” or just about anything in between. For this generation, rolling over to look at your phone first thing in the morning is an all-to-common habit. Pressing the home button triggers the countless notifications that were delivered to your device while you were sleeping. So-and-so liked your Instagram post and so-and-so snapchatted you. Increasingly in today’s smartphone society, social media has become the way to show your face, your talents and even your insecurities. But more than anything, photography has become a primary way we communicate. For four McCallum students, this journey with experimenting with Instagram started years ago.

Senior Christine Hurd created her Instagram in middle school to have fun with her friends. Something that was just created for fun, has turned into something greater.

“I think I’ve had it since sixth grade,” Hurd said. “I got it because my friends all had it, and we just posted like bad memes and stuff, and that was all we did.”

Hurd feels that although Instagram can be fun and mostly harmless, she does have mixed feelings about it.

“I like that it’s a way to express yourself,” Hurd said. “But I also think that it becomes like a life in and of itself that can consume you and just overtake your priorities and stuff and encourage you to compare yourself to other people.”

In August 2017, Hurd used her Instagram to become public about her transition of gender.

“The main reason I did that was just because I wanted it out there, and I wanted everyone to know without having me to continuously come out to different people individually,” Hurd said. “And I just mainly did it so I could get the word out and so that I could sort of be done.”

Although Hurd felt that this was something she needed to do, she felt hesitant about making it public to all of her followers.

“I think I definitely feel that it was what I needed to do,” Hurd said. “But I also feel like somethings, especially that stuff, is like private in a way, and I kind wondered if it really necessarily mattered. But then I thought I don’t want to run into people that I haven’t seen in like a year and have that be a problem.”

Hurd feels as though there’s an expectation of how you’re supposed to be and act after posting something like that on social media.

“The reaction of that, even though it was all positive, has definitely put me in this place of like not even wanting to share any other pictures now,” Hurd said. “I feel like people tend to expect you to be at this like perfect happy state once you go through something like that, and I’m not necessarily there, and I think it’s just like pressure to uphold a certain image or a certain attitude.”

Although it made Hurd not want to post for a while, she is gaining confidence and comfort with herself and is started to become more comfortable with the idea.

Senior Sophia Bastidas first started Instagram in middle school with the intent to connect with friends and have fun posting what other middle school girls did at the time.

“I created it just to kind of reconnect with my friends,” Bastidas said. “I thought of it kind of like Facebook but for younger people, so I used it kind of like to express myself to my friends.”

Bastidas states she has mixed feelings about Instagram. Sometimes after spending so much time on it, she believes she needs to take a break from all of it, but other times she just enjoys using it to post whatever she wants.

“It can be really time-consuming and pointless, and I just need to take a break from it,” Bastidas said. “But at the same time, I’m just here to express myself.”

Bastidas’ once pink-themed Instagram, is something she likes to look back on as artistic. Now she uses her Instagram as a start to her hopeful makeup career.

“I’m definitely really into makeup and one day I hope to be a makeup artist,” Bastidas said. “I feel like you gotta start somewhere, and so like building up your Instagram feed is a good start. I also use it to promote stuff, like events. If the fashion show is happening, I’ll advertise it on my Instagram, or like if I got my hair done I’d be like ‘This is who did my hair.’”

Bastidas has witnessed some of her friends feel the bad effects of Instagram. She says her friends and others tend to compare themselves to people on Instagram, but the people who they are comparing themselves to are fake and not real. Bastidas tries to ignore what she believes to be fake, and just be herself.

“I don’t really care what people think about me,” Bastidas said. “I’m not afraid to post something because it makes me look stupid or ugly, edgy, weird, or different. I enjoy being different.”

Senior Joshua Tsang created an Instagram in middle school, mostly because it was a family affair.

“I created it mainly because my parents were on Instagram,” Tsang said. “It was just a thing for my family to do. I just kinda liked taking pictures. It was how I started photography.”

His Instagram photography caught the attention of many people. Tsang now has more than 1,100 followers and gets compliments on his photos often.

“It’s just happened on it’s own,” Tsang said. “People see my work and are like, ‘Oh, you’re a really good photographer.’ I’ve never really put much work into trying to get my name out there; it has kind of just comes with posting a lot of photos. I try to post at least once a day, but it varies. The most I’ll post is three photos a day.”

Tsang shies away from changing his photos from their original state to what is seen on an Instagram feed.

“I try to style away from the hyper-edited, surreal photos,” Tsang said. “But there are photos that I put a lot of work into when I edit them.”

Instagram has become a platform for Tsang to showcase his passion, and has since taken numerous photography classes in high school and expanded his talents.

“When I really started getting into photography in high school, it was kind of a platform for me to put my art on and also get inspiration,” Tsang said. “It was a place for me to dip my feet into the world of photography.”

When it comes to the pressures of Instagram and what to post, Tsang never lets it get to him.

“I feel like it’s just for fun,” Tsang said. “I could still post like once a week and be OK with it. I don’t usually think of my followers when deciding what and when to post.”

Sophomore Weatherly Giblin has had a presence on Instagram since fifth grade when she started her Instagram just for fun. Ever since then, her Instagram has grown into something she is much more passionate about.

“Definitely when I first made it, it was just for fun,” Giblin said. “I definitely wouldn’t call myself a photographer, but I love taking cool photos and sharing them and taking cool photos of my friends and sharing those.”

Giblin has more than 2,000 Instagram followers at this point, she says her following can be attributed to her creative photographs and the lack of structure in her account.

“I feel like I did at one point but I feel like the whole, ‘Don’t post more than one time a day,’ is stupid,” Giblin said. “I just post whatever we want, and I don’t have a specific set of rules that I feel like I have to follow.”

Giblin sees Instagram as a place to get photography inspiration too, and find new places to explore.

“It’s cool to see other people’s photography ideas and see what other people are sharing,” Giblin said. “I also like to find cool places to go in Austin because there are some Instagram accounts that post cool places to go and cool things to do. I like to use it for that.”

Some teens, however, still feel a pressure to post sometimes, or get caught up in the perfect lives portrayed in Instagram. Giblin says that can be an easy hole to fall into.

“When I’m at home by myself and a bunch of people are out, I just have to take a step back and be like, ‘Wait, Instagram isn’t my life, I am having fun right now I don’t need to worry that much about what other people are doing,’” Giblin said. “I definitely feel like it is easy to spiral into the fear-of-missing-out mentality, but I feel like you just have to realize that the world around you is what is happening in that moment, and it isn’t social media. Just taking that step back is something that everybody should do once and awhile.”

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