Sign up for the newsletter:

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.

2 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.

Leave a Reply