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Fear and Loathing in Socal Media

I have a passionate love/hate relationship with social media, I like the interconnections and sharing of knowledge and being part of a community, I enjoy sharing photographic knowledge and connecting with sex workers, academics and those who are passionate about photography but I loath the surveillant nature and the expectations that exist about free entertainment and access to free content. I am stuck in this Generation X hell of a pre and the existence of the post-internet world where I remember what it was like pre-internet and I am hankering for a nostalgic world of not being connected. I know better though than to believe the world was a better place without the internet. I thoroughly enjoy interviewing 20-year-old research subjects who know no other world than a web-based one. Who for them there is no offline and online self, it's all the same self. I have endless arguments in my head about what is it that I am doing on social media, I find the gaze of men unsettling and I have given twitter and Instagram the arse on more than one occasion. It's the first thing I ditch when I'm pissed off at the world. I have had more than one man tell me my twitter feed is not as entertaining as it was three years ago when I was tweeting about the practice of sex work, or men lamenting that I don't post erotic content or I talk about photography too much or men telling me they'd never want to meet me or I am too outspoken, too sarcastic, too something that does not fit the norm of how a woman is supposed to act online.

So, I locked my account before I jumped ship to Paris and did some webs soul searching. I don't want to give up my social media accounts, but nor can I use it the way I have been, so I have decided to turn my feeds into a nirvana of photography knowledge, after all, it's not like I do not know what I am talking about, I hold a Masters Degree in Photography and I am a second-year PhD student in photography. So, from today, this morning actually at about 7.30am my twitter feed is now solely about la vie photographique and everything photography related. Just making the decision makes me feel so much better, I feel like I am reclaiming my little bit on the webs. I also need to fund my photographic research, so I kindly ask that anyone wishing to access my social media accounts then please donate £25, you can use the button below and I'll add you to my social media network.

I look forward to flooding the interwebs with photography knowledge. I understand that this may not suit everyone's idea of the way we are meant to use social media but regrettably, I need to fund my research and I cannot do that unless I monetise my time online.

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Could not sleep so I ranted about Instagram at 2 am ...

I am not a fan of Instagram. Of all the social media platforms I find this visual based platform a cesspit of bad photography (digital technology has done nothing to improve peoples understanding of basic photographic principles whether this matters or not is an entirely different conversation), faux happiness, constructed falsehoods and visual bollocks. Instagram is designed to suck you in with the nostalgic pull of the Polaroid and the square format image, dazzle you with soft hues and film inspired grain and get you to stay as a pervert voyeur with a never abating desire to see more. I hate it. I use it because I must. My feeds always seem directionless to me as I am sure it does to you, and my Instagrams certainly don’t feel like me. Hash tagging images with key words from the wedding industry is a key marketing tool for not starving as a photographer and I have muttered before that I could post a photo of a used condom nailed to a wall, hashtag it with wedding industry tags and I’d get likes. I’m willing to accept that challenge. It’s all bollocks of course, Instagram is all about socially acceptable voyeurism, it’s the digital equivalent of giving us a peak into what people would have you believe, is life as they know it, or slices of the life the want you to think they have. Instagram has become reverential, we are all praying to the false visual gods

It was Princess Dianna who once quipped that "Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded” That’s they way it is for him and I. It’s me, him and his wife’s Instagram account. I can’t remember the exact moment that I realised she was following my Instagram account, but it was about the time I decided to perv on my followers’ feeds, I scrolled through hers and there he was. I must admit, I was instantly more smitten. There are many reasons as to why she may be following me; we all loiter about Nappy Valley, go to the same pubs and restaurants, at one point I lived at the bottom end of typically South West London street and he lived at the top end of the same street. When I moved to Clapham Old Town, he’d pop in weekly because I was close to work. She may follow me because she likes my photographs, our world is inter-connective and networked these days. Him, even by stealth looking at my various feeds may have prompted her Instagram to suggest me, although my two Instagram accounts are somewhat different in tone and purpose. I suspect its because our devices cross paths for a few hours a week.

So now I have become the voyeur, the pervert with a surveillant gaze and I am transfixed. It goes beyond the fact that I like him, and I enjoy his body. He is one of these rare men who know how to fuck. He has all the qualities that makes a man perfectly fuckable. He’d make an ideal husband. He is someone’s ideal husband. I can see that now whereas before, I just assumed. Do I want to see what I am looking at? Not really. Is it healthy to look? No bloody way, but there we have it. Snippets of their life for all to see. On a public account. This got me to thinking about how we see what we want to see in other people’s Instagram feeds, that’s their Instagram account is a mirror that reflects our own insecurities and desires. Am I viewing it with envy or pity? Is her Instagram feed really slices of her life, or the life I imagine she has or the life she wants? Of course, I view her feed through the jaded lens of her husband’s infidelity and the woefully naïve misguided assumption that I make, and that is that he cheats because he is unhappily married or we fuck well because he likes me. We view other people’s photographs through our own biased lens of experience, moral decay, needs, wants and unfilled desires. A photograph is not to be used to authenticate truth nor is a photograph reality. Instagram is popular because it feeds a visual neurosis that we all have – to seek validation through the photographs of others. To be perverts, to look unseen. To insert yourselves into the visual narrative of others.

This insertion in the visual narratives of others explains why I don’t really like Instagram. I part take in it because its now an evil I must use to make money. I don’t like looking at myself, I have so many versions of myself that are at times I feel like they are all unworthy of being seen. Every day I wake up and struggle with this research doctorate, even though I was exemplary in my capabilities to be accepted in the first place, in fact my research was labelled exemplary intellectually and conceptual. To post my life via photographs on Instagram, Facebook or even Twitter would be allowing others to look at a life I hide from myself even though photographs and photography are my life. I also sloth around with remnants of a complex and deep-rooted eating disorder that saw me flux from anorexic to bulimic to obese. The chore of choosing a photo would be to much of a head fuck, academically speaking. I am grateful I am Generation X and the evolution of my distorted eating happened prior to the digitally networked world of the photograph. Sure, we had magazines, but you’d have to wait for those magazines to come out monthly.

My eating disorder evolved in an age where if you wanted to learn about being an anorexic then you need to buy books. There were no visual cues on hand, no Instagram with a billion and one photos to gaze at from a computer screen, there were no computers and there was no scapegoat either. No blaming Photoshop or Instagram for me having an eating disorder, that’s too much of a piss weak middle-class feminist sell out. There were no pointless and privileged actresses trying to win faux social media popularity contests about who is the most feminist angry at Photoshop and seeking it to be criminalised and punished with the death penalty (sarcasm). Eating disorders are more complex and at the same time, impossibly simple. My father died with I was two, you join the dots, I felt abandoned and robbed, and it my two-year-old mind I rationalised it must have been me, why was I not good enough to have a father. Going completely off topic, my first memories are of his funeral and there is the reason why I did so much coke, to erase the memory. I have photos of his funeral, I look at the photos of the car crash that killed him. I wish I could erase the funeral memories as easily as hitting the delete button on my Nikon DF. Nonetheless, photos of death are not to be feared, hidden away or treated with pity or shame (another blog post, perhaps), why don't we post photographs of death on Instagram?

Feminists cannot shame photographs nor the women who use photoshop, nor can they criminalise photo-shopped images and at the same time post photos on platforms like Instagram with filters and borders, have you heard of anything more ridiculous than the seeking criminalization of airbrushing? I'll wait for them to ban lighting, posing and the wearing of make up in photographs. Photographs do not cause eating disorders; however, the real problem is me spending way too much time looking at this woman’s Instagram feed. The absence of her husband on her feed could be because he hates having his photo taken or because their marriage is shit, or he hates Instagram as much as I do. He has said this to me before. He has said many things to me that he says he hates, like pompous middle-classness that comes with living in Nappy Valley and the need for endless red sole shoes, the very Louboutin’s that I can see on her Instagram feed. I see many photos of their child on her feed and I ask myself is she setting this kid up to be a future influencer ? Why else would she pimp out photos of her child on a public feed hash-tagged with all the right tags but there I go again, looking through my own moralistic lens because I don’t post photos of my child because those photos do not belong to me, they are my child’s childhood photo-moir and there is another advantage of being Generation X ( and another blog post) my mother not releasing private intimate family photos because she wanted to feel some odd connection with strangers through likes and comments. I don’t understand the sharing of photographs of children online but then again, I managed a sex offender register.

My critique of Instagram is not that it’s vain, vacuous and narcissistic. They are labels too easily lobbed at millennial women for the daring audacity of constructing visual identities online, it’s lazy, slightly misogynistic and bowing down to the patriarchal notions of the ideal image of a woman and nothing more than a cowardly way to silence women online. My critique of Instagram is the way that we view it, at best all our pathological fears and self-loathing are reflected back to us through a lens of our own experiences, belief structure and morals regardless how flexible your moral fiber may be and at worst it feed a visual neuroses that lurks in all of us, the overwhelming desire to perv into the lives of others.

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