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I Suck at Instagram

I’ve been told that Instagram is the place to be for writers. So a year ago, I buckled down and made an account. So far, the promises about Instagram’s book culture have proven true: I’ve gotten excellent reading recommendations from bookstagrammers, and seen enough drool-worthy photos of overstuffed bookstores and palatial private libraries to understand why Belle decided to stay with a monster who kidnapped her just because he had a nice reading room.

But I’ve also noticed the creeping pressure to perform that can come with any social media platform. I don’t even use Instagram that actively, yet when I experience an Instagrammable moment in real life, I feel obligated to capture it, and guilty when I don’t. So when I went to the beach the other day, I realized it was more than an opportunity to get the year’s first sunburn.

Actual photo of the back half of me after my literally half-assed sunscreen application.
via @thesickrosevamp

My forthcoming book, The Plus One, is a beach read. I’m supposed to use Instagram to promote my writing, so why not do it at the beach? My plan was impeccable! So modern and savvy of me! I packed a galley in my beach bag and headed out, ready to collect photographic evidence of my picture-perfect life.

The Miami shore was overcast when I arrived, the sea not exactly the clear aqua color it is in postcards. More like if that color had been laundered with a pair of new, dark-wash blue jeans. Brown scrubby seaweed blanketed the shore and filled the water. It also produced a smell that I can only assume was the ocean’s revenge for climate change. A plane flew back and forth overhead trailing a banner advertising Trojan condoms. I thought about melanoma.

A flock of birds remaining stoically unimpressed by my nonsense.

I pulled out the book and started taking some shots, feeling self-conscious as I did. I want people to look at my pictures, but please do not ever look at me while I’m taking them. I pointed and shot blindly, unable to see anything on my phone’s screen in the sun. Increasingly, I became aware of how everything I had was wrong for the photo. My beach towel was just a bath towel, because I’m too cheap to buy towels specifically for the beach. My beach bag was actually a tote bag from a library. My beach body was the same one I’d been wearing all winter. Looking at life through Instagram’s filter cast everything in a critical light.

I present to you here the fruits of my efforts:

Yes, I am available to photograph your wedding.
My fee is inordinate.

Hey, at least I got the book in the frame.

I’ll probably never be a master Instagrammer, and that’s okay. Social media can be a blessing, but when its pressures and stresses detract from offline life, it’s time to turn it off. A gray day at the beach is prettier in person than a sunny one viewed through your phone.

3 Responses to “I Suck at Instagram”

  1. Chris Wiley says:

    Hi Sara. As usual when reading something you’ve written I was quite amused. Yours is a dry humor, very dry, like the best wine. So dry, in fact, that I often become dehydrated when reading and must be temporarily hospitalized. That was a humorous thing to say also, particularly so because, as it happens, I stole it from one of your tweets. Have a wonderful day!

  2. Sarah says:

    Thank you for reading, Chris, and I wish you a speedy recovery from your comedy dehydration. I hear that fluids and watching a humorless 1940s melodrama are good for that.

  3. Sarah, you are very funny, not to mention quite the beach novel Instagram photographer. My experience in reading the post was similar to Chris Wiley’s, except that i’d never encountered that particular tweet and i STILL became dangerously dehydrated. Action Step: Include a dehydration warning on your writing in future.

    No time to move on and read the next blog post. Places to go, people to see, absurdities to perpetrate. This means i’ve something to look forward to!

    dkb

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