Overthinking Undersharing

March 6, 2014

Not quite JOMO, but close enough

jil-sandershotbygarance

I recently wrote a story for Vanity Fair that questioned the presence of social media at fashion week. Citing Marc Jacobs’ recent show, which displayed a six-aisle runway and only front row seats (and obviously resulted in an avalanche of blurry images shared to Instagram from the manifold but unobstructed vantage points of show-goers), I thought about the widespread access that Mr. Jacobs shrewdly provided.

Content consumers were given the opportunity to sift through thousands of images, which were over shared by the content creators, but was that a good thing?

When I got to Paris two weeks ago, the first show that I attended was Balmain. Seated just across the runway from me, I found the Vogue Paris team situated, cross-legged with not a smartphone in sight. Just one block of bleachers to their left, a front row chock full of celebrities, fashion personalities and Instagram stars flourished, phones ready to capture the articles of clothing that would walk.

When the show started, I oscillated between observing the leopard print pony hair panels on Olivier Rousteing’s A-line mini skirts, the gaze that Emmanuelle Alt emitted, and the fifteen iPhones, propped up like ducks in a row, ready to capture just about anything on bleacher block #2.

It made me realize that I don’t want to be at shows because I have a dense social following. I want to be there because I have an opinion that is worth being fleshed out on the platform that informs my Instagram account. And so I resolved that I would stop taking pictures at shows unless I really believed, like in the case of Christian Dior or Chloé or Saint Laurent, that my purview was one worth sharing.

Most of the images I was posting were coming up cloudy and frankly, there are more portals than there are grains of sand on a beach providing clarion, hi-res images anyway, so why were my amateur shots (the unoriginal ones, at least) worth being shared to begin with?

The problem is, I’m aware of the fact that my phone-taken runway photos aren’t particularly strong. I’ve been aware of that since I first started using Instagram. And while there is certainly value is granting access to he or she who cannot attend a show, recently, I have been wondering (chiefly because I don’t want to share images — or experiences — that anyone else can or will) if my uploading tendencies have been moonlighting as a testament to my a) eliciting second-party FOMO (but why! Why would I want to do such a thing?), b) wanting to prove that I was there, too, or c) giving in to, as Man Repeller contributor Sophie Milrom puts it, Instagram’s popularity contest to prove that “my life is better than yours.”

On the quest to share-cleanse, all three conjectures were boxed together and proven correct with one recurring thought I had every time I sat down at another show: will people know I’m here even though I’m not posting?

But why does that even matter? I’d indubitably review the show shortly thereafter, thus sharing the experience in a decidedly longer form and further detailed recap.

It used to be that fashion shows functioned similarly to the way a book jacket does, providing a summary that would either push you to purchase what lives between the front and back covers or leave it dejected where you found it. But when that book jacket stopped summarizing and instead began laying out all its content for you to digest, sans enticement, in one quick glance, what happened? What were you left with if not mindless, void-filling precision? What are you left with if not mindless, void-filling precision?

Photograph shot by Garance Doré

  • http://thegirlwiththepaintedpout.blogspot.com/ Lavinia E

    social media is all very strange. its addictive, confusing and a bit odd if you think about it long enough. Going online to read others opinions? Sure, its part of blogging but some truly take everything to heart and forget they have their own minds. I wonder how trends would be these days without it. Would people even know? How did they know in the past? By being at those shows and witnessing it first hand. I like the idea of it being more exclusive. It gives you something to work harder for. On the other hand, i love social media. its entertainment.

    great post! really something to think about.

    http://thegirlwiththepaintedpout.blogspot.com/

  • http://mafaldadotzero.blogspot.fr/ Mafalda

    I would probably just enjoy the show, I don’t own a smartphone, they just kill your social life. And there are official pictures of the show anyway… People are just crazy with their phones.
    Mafalda ❤http://mafaldadotzero.blogspot.fr

  • L.A. Lady

    I think part (not all) of it is the Paris Vogue crew are accomplished fashion professionals with seasoned careers. The occupants of Bleacher Row #2 are fighting tooth-and-nail to become relevant. I’m also assuming the former has access to whatever image they want while the latter’s request would be ignored.

    Taking smartphone pictures is a misguided way of showing credibility. A more tasteful way of showing an “I was there” moment would be to snap a picture of the pass, the name tag on the chair, etc. and instead use official imagery from the show. Row #2 could use a lesson in the value of image quality and art direction, too.

    By making official images widely available to whomever wants them, the brand can at least try to maintain some control over their content. Otherwise, it’s blurry Instagram photos and smartphones forever.

  • http://alcessa.wordpress.com/ alcessa

    Once upon a time, there was a famous polar bear cub named Knut at the Berlin zoo …

    OK, to cut the non-sartorial story short: when we got home and had a look at the video I had made, I realized I hadn’t seen the bear. At all, like ever. I had just filmed it. :-(

    Ever since, I’ve been trying hard to takes pictures of details that seem interesting and just watch the larger picture, to really see it. Should I need bigger scenes, I am going to find them on the internet, that is a fact. And my philosophy.

  • Sarah Patrick

    Completely agree. I’m a social media specialist, and even I think the amount of posts from fashion week takes away from what fashion week is all about: the fashion… not the people who got to go. Plus, why look at blurry Insta-fashion when you can just go to Style.com and see clear, perfect pictures and actually appreciate the designers artistry. As someone who would do pretty much anything to go to fashion week, I think I would want to be present and really experience the moment through my own eyes… not my iPhone screen.

    xoxo

  • Eve Lewis

    I’m probably the only person in the world who doesn’t have an iPhone or other smart phone. And, to be honest, although it’s annoying at times, I also feel fortunate that I’m not addicted to my cellular device. I would definitely just enjoy the show.

    • http://alcessa.wordpress.com/ alcessa

      Nope. Me too :-)

    • Celeste

      rocking the same boat here.

  • Manuela

    Well said, totally agree with you on this one: it’s all about the “I was there” pic. I’ve stopped instagramming unless really compelling, as well. Thanks for this post!

  • Morgan

    Great post. I am curious to see, in 10 plus years, research on what social media is doing to our mental development, ie social skills, self-actualization, empathy, etc.
    Something that bothers me about the age of Facebook and Twitter is the fact that others will pronounce you dead if you don’t take part in it. When I deleted my Facebook several years ago, people who were old friends just suddenly lost contact (probably for the better), and if they wanted to know how I was they would ask my closest friends by saying things like, “whatever happened to Morgan?” as if I had suddenly vanished. Deleting a social media account is not deleting your personhood!

    The only account I have is Instagram, and now even that is taking a toll on me. I want to rebel and delete it and go back into false obscurity. Then when people ask, “where did she go?!”, I will say, “I’m here, living life. I’ve been here. If you want to talk to me you can call, text, or email me using the same phone number I’ve had since I was fifteen.”
    But, alas, I have not the strength!!!

  • Johanna

    I usually look at the runway shots on Style.com, but look forward to reading your comments on the shows and thoughts in general. No need to jump on the device-craze bandwagon….

  • Dafne Ortiz

    Let me tell you what happened to a music concert I just went: It was in a big arena and I was sitting on the first row, the singer Spanish Alejandro Sanz was starting the show, of course everybody was taking pictures of him ( and selfies with him on the back, so everybody will know that they were actually there) and sharing via social media. On the third song he had to stopped singing and asked the audience ( mostly speaking to the front rows) to actually BE in the concert, to sing WITH him, and be part of the moment, to stop using the smartphones! He said “I can only see little lights from your smartphones cameras and you are texting, you are not in the concert!” It made me realize that social media has change not only the quality of family time, but every aspect of life, called music, fashion, sports…. I think is time to pay attention to what we are doing and enjoy the moment! ( it doesn’t happen twice!)

  • Aubrey Green

    I think that you would also possibly miss out on something if you were so concerned with snapping an image, no?

    Also, if it’s a point of who was there and wanting people to know you were there, the only people who may, or may not really care are the other people sitting next to you, sitting across the runway from you and/or walking by you on the street, so it’s kind of a win-win, or a lose-lose, cause all of you are there, who want to be there, who should be there, who want to know if so and so is there. I don’t mean that in a rude way, I love that you are there, I want you to be there, I’m not there and I like your point of view and pictures – what I mean, if it didn’t make sense, is that no picture is needed to prove your validity.

  • http://www.ediot.se/ www.ediot.se

    What i feel is when I go to a runway show, i experience more and remember more of the feel when I don’t take photos than when I do. I’m more in the moment therefore more able to take in all the expressions that are given.. But at the same time I want to capture my point of view. Which more or less can only be done by my photos.. so it’s a conflict.. Wish there were two shows for each designers. one to take in all the emotions, and later another where you can focus on getting the best shots.. that would be ideal.. but unlikely..

    Thanks for having such an inspiring blog.

    • Nicky Odujirin

      I guess that’s what re-sees are for?

  • Johanna

    Thats some interesting thoughts. And I kind of agree with you.

    http://www.unt.se/johannasmode

  • Élora

    One of innumerable questions raised by social media: are you doing something because you want to or because you want people to know you did? I have a friend who, as soon as she sets foot inside the restaurant/mall/Starbucks, “checks” herself in, i.e. she puts on Facebook that she is “at the restaurant/mall/Starbucks with [insert friend name here].” I hate it. Are you having coffee with me because you enjoy my company or because you want your Facebook friends to think that your life is soooooo fun/better than theirs?

    And how is it that the first thing you think about when you’re doing something with me is your phone/social media? I’m either awfully boring or there’s something wrong here.

  • Celina B

    Loved this. You’ve got such a good hold on culture, and this was the best thing I have read all week.

  • http://maxmayo.com/ Max Law

    I feel you. That’s why I’ve resolved to just sit there and enjoy the show and leave the job to the official photographers.

  • http://www.looksharpsconnie.com/ Look Sharp Sconnie

    Fully appreciate your frankness about the lingering middle school popularity urges,
    but I also find the put-the-editor-on-a-pedestal thing kind of irritating.

    I think there’s something to be said for the immediacy and personal touch of an Instagram snap (with a super-witty-yet-analytically-pensive-with-a-touch-of-irony caption, of course) – I mean, it is a show after all, right? We don’t expect anything but shitty social media blurs from a jonas concert.

    I also think it’s kind of counterproductive to long for the good ol’ days of pure in-person spectatorship. It would be cool to think about how we can additively (nice, Lavinia) affect the impulses we have in a positive way to enhance the status quo rather than berate it.

    I mean, editors are cool, yea – but they’re also probably negating their own iPhone urges every minute of the show just to look like cool editors. Let’s think a step ahead.

    • Leandra Medine

      Fair and smart point BUT is an avalanche of the same, brightly lit and blurry shot that doesn’t even really allow you to make out what you’re looking at forward thinking? I mentioned in the piece that if I really found something worth sharing (and worth sharing in a capacity that only belonged to me — e.g. “Is big bird at this show?” as opposed to “nice plaid”) I absolutely would act on that impulse but the photos that go up just for the sake of going up too grotesquely abide by the “pics or it didn’t happen” tenet of humble bragging. My point should really be that things are okay and cool to happen if there are no pictures. It in fact creates a sense of sacricity that lives between you and the experience

      • pinkschmink

        I absolutely agree with you here, and I don’t think that you’re necessarily putting the editors on a pedestal by observing that they didn’t snap away throughout the show – I think you’re highlighting the difference between the fashion professionals and the fashion celebrities. They’re both there to work, but their jobs are different – the editors are determining the direction of their editorial for the next six months, the celebrities are keeping their army of always-on fans happy by sharing their lives as they happen.

        I personally don’t think that either way is wrong. It’s up to the individual to decide which side of the fence they want to be on, or to straddle it perilously (it is very, very hard to do both). Social media is an incredibly important tool, but it’s easy to inadvertently sideline yourself by snapping away at the same things everybody else is – when I see six near-identical shots on my Instagram feed one after the other, I just keep scrolling, regardless of who took them.

        I am an editor myself, and you will see me with my phone out at the shows – not because I’m trying to Instagram every single look, but because I have a busy schedule during fashion week and after the first day of shows I start to forget who sent what out. I take pictures of key looks to remind me.

        But one cannot be all things to all men, though God knows we try.

      • Élora

        Completely agree. I personally don’t see the point of a blurry Instagram shot of a look. (Is this a model in a yellow Spongebob dress or a giraffe? Or Big Bird?) And I think seeing all those looks over and over on your feed because ten people are posting from the same show kinda ruins it. I prefer waiting to see those looks in much better, professional pictures on the glossy pages of a magazine. But if I’ve seen them all on Instagram before, then the whole thing feels old already. Fun ruined.

  • http://www.amusedblog.com/ Amber

    Social media can often feel like a popularity contest, full of trompe l’oeils; visions of carefully arranged tables of food that I cannot imagine the photographer consuming, etc. It’s become a bit of a peacocking contest, hasn’t it? I have no quick answer, but I think I understand where you are coming from. It’s exhausting.

  • CouldaShouldaWoulda

    Truth be told I can’t bear fashion week photos anymore. The first amateur ones were fun and visually “new” but now it’s as bad and quite frankly reminds me of amateur porn to be blunt. I don’t want to see a blurred pic of a dress swishing by unless I see a bandaid holding it together. I so miss the days when Elsa klench and the collections mag was the way yo see the collections. Call me a curmudgeon but it’s true.

  • Sarka

    The Vogue Paris team are there because they are professional editors and journalists. It is their job and like other people in the fashion industry who work like all journalists everywhere do, they need to have an intelligent opinion that adds substance to all the vapid fashion crap out there.

    I only look at high resolution, well shot runway photos and I only read journalists/bloggers who have something intelligent and interesting to say. Otherwise, why waste my time?

  • girlinmenswear

    From a brand perspective its hype. They’re not selling to buyers on the catwalk, its a PR exercise, and those blurry images are catalysts for conversation about their shows by a far wider audience than was ever previously possible (although perhaps not the most relevant one). Leandra, you write and review the shows you attend, but many bloggers (and celebrities) share their stories exclusively on social media rather than reviewing them on their blogs. Those instagram followers are why they are there in the first place.

    I like the fly on the wall affect of watching the finale of a show as it happens, I then go to style.com or Vogue for better quality images later.

    I am also a culprit of taking those blurry videos and photos myself, and yes a lot of it is to “show off”, but when you’re a “new” blogger that’s how you get followers and market yourself too. Not having to post a video is the luxury of being established. If you’re putting official images up and not documenting your attendance, who’s to say you’re even there? Petty I know, but its true!

    http://www.girlinmenswear.com

  • Sadie Murphee

    I think this is a symptom of the blogging phenomena to a degree. Vogue Paris don’t do it because they know they deserve to be there so have nothing to prove. Bloggers on the other hand have sort of gatecrashed the fashion industry and are there ENTIRELY because of their popularity on social platforms. It’s quite simple – no followers, no show invites. Bloggers aren’t at the shows because of their hitherto undiscovered writing talent or keen observational skills, they are there because they have a social following. Abandon that social interaction and they immediately stop being true to why they are there in the first place. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, as they say.

    • Leandra Medine

      This doesn’t seem entirely fair to say — the sub-industry of blogging is one brimming with talent and a lot of people have taken the route in order to eschew the conventional, hierarchical “make it in fashion” process. The ultimate problem is that on the flip side of the blogger coin, there is also a lot of junk to sift through but the reason the junk continues to prevail is because our process of elimination is one far less regimented than in other professions. we don’t get “fired” so to speak, and the only gauge of success or failure is reflected in our analytics which even now is becoming highly manipulated by this whole buying instagram/twitter followers and rigging SEO phenomenon. Sighz.

  • therealdp

    good one. so smart!

  • http://adeliberateimagination.wordpress.com/ CJKEYS2

    I think the ultimate humble brag is not posting that you were there, but talking to someone after an any event, and being like “oh yeah I was there! I did that yesterday!” and the other person is all “omg I had no idea! you’re so chill and cool that you can do those things and its not a big deal to you! SO LAID BACK!!” I think that happened with me and an Elton John concert once. I also went bowling last Sunday and didn’t post anything about it, and will now feel cooler when I tell people and they’ll have no idea. I’M SO MYSTERIOUS! I think Fashion Week is a tad different, though, especially if you have a following of people wanting to experience what you experience. I don’t really mind the blurry pictures. More times than not I’m happy for the person that gets to attend the show, because in some cases, it means they are fulfilling all their career dreamzzz.

  • Kelsey Paine

    I try to always remember a very wise Drake lyric: “I’m living inside the moment, not taking pictures to save it.”

  • Marc

    Love this post particularly because it answered the question I had in mind over the last few weeks: “Wait…Is Leandra even at LFW, MFW, PFW? If so, why isn’t she updating?”

    As to whether one should cleanse from posting fashion show pics, first ask: why was I invited to X fashion show in the first place? That is, understand your position and act accordingly. Critics are invited to shows particularly because a designer/brand wants the critic to publicly comment and review the collection. Arguably, a fashion blogger is invited because of the blogger’s social media value. Therefore, why it might be lovely to sit back and enjoy the show, is that really what was asked of you as a guest of the show or was more expected from you? Once you have that answered, act accordingly.

  • marinacasapu

    THANK YOU!!! I don’t check instagram during fashion weeks because of the abundance of bad quality runway pictures that drive me crazy!
    http://www.live-love-fashion.com

  • Avra Goldenblatt

    Bravo Leandra! Blurry shots with no “opinions” are for the wanna-be bloggers with no thoughts of their own other than “I was there”. Instagramitis is the easy way out. No words necessary. Keep up the great work!

  • sarah

    i just went to the most beautiful farmers market by a river, so picturesque. upon arriving a chalk board sign warned me… ‘no wifi, talk to someone’…..and i instantly felt that even pulling out my ‘stupid phone’ would make me look like an asshole, for whatever reason. i frequently see couples at cafes, each looking at their phones, not each other. my daughter complained the other day that her new friend only came over to play on her laptop ‘together’….it’s beyond madness. the french are often a step ahead, or two, when it comes to cool shit….who knew it would be disconnecting!

  • ANONYJOURNO

    Hmmm…I don’t think it’s that big a deal. Let people snap away if they want to. I personally instagram runway models mainly to prove to my boss that I was there. I don’t think it takes anything away from a show, its value does not change; it’s the problem of people who look at blurry instagram photos if they want to do so.
    I choose very carefully whom to follow on instagram –and have deleted over a dozen boring or (worse) redundant instagrammers. And it’s usually just luck when I instagram famous people (and thus prove to my boss I was at the event actually doing something besides what I usually do, which is stand by the bar).

    I’ll happen to be standing outside a museum and suddenly you’re there (and just the day before i’d said to a friend, “I want to instagram The Man Repeller this fashion week”–I’m not kidding), or I’m walking along St Germain and an actor I’m a fan off is sitting close by at a café (and I have no qualms asking for a photo if I really want to and I’m in the mood). If I’m in the mood at a big show I’ll walk around and happen to pass by a famous person who I think is worth taking a (sometimes blurry) snap of, I’ll do it.

    I don’t have a lot of instagram followers (they’re mostly friends) and I take snapshots not for them but (again) for my boss, or at the end, for myself. It helps the mood when I’m writing an article. If my iPad dies at an important show (and it happens often as I always forget to charge it), it pisses me off but there’s no real FOMO because, well, I was there. (Unless it happens to be the most anticipated show of the season. Then I’ll take a ton of pics in the re-see.) I also think that the fact that I use an iPad mini, because it’s so big, makes me less attached to having to document everything. (When I was using my iPhone I took a LOT more photos.)

    I also think the whole thing might be a bigger deal to people whose occupation (i.e. job) is in online work rather than offline work. (But maybe not, judging from your readers’ comments.) I don’t post a lot on Facebook and am not into Twitter at all, so maybe it’s just me. I haven’t thought much about it (and thanks for making me think about it now).

    And lastly, leave it to Vogue Paris to act blasé when the world around them is craning their neck or angling their iPhone just so. SO bloody PARISIAN.

    • ANONYJOURNO

      Having said that, I took a shitload of Instagram photos in the Chanel show because it was just impossible not to. All those Chanel-labelled products. It was fucking amazing! !!! And the clothes were even better than the set!!

  • ClothesHorse

    It seems overly simplistic to brush it off and say, Vogue Paris didn’t have their phones out because they’re seasoned journalists/professionals, and bloggers are only there to take instagrams for popularity (even though some bloggers are the “I wore this. I bought this today”-type blogger, there are certainly some exceptions to this (Hi Leandra!). But surely, this has got to do with the VP girls knowing they will be going to a lot more of these shows…and bloggers? Who knows how long they will stay around for – a show probably seems like a huge deal which needs to be documented play by play. i don’t think there can be one simple explanation to this except, with that said, if I ever got to go to one of these huge fashion shows, I’d put my phone away and enjoy the fucking show! i love fashion too much to experience the show through my little screen.

  • http://www.fancyalterego.wordpress.com/ Heather P.

    I think it goes along with the idea that you should be at the show to enjoy the show, and feeling pressure to snap photos and post before everyone else leaves your eyes stuck to your phone, and not where they should be.

    And you’re right – there are real photographers who will take far better photos for those of us who can’t be there. Hell, I noticed some designers were allowing us to see video (or even live streaming) of shows over the past few years.

    On the one hand, I’m glad there are people out there who want to share their experience with those of us who don’t get to be there. On the other hand, I also don’t find it worthwhile to see Fashion Week through the eyes of Instagram filters or blurry photos of what might be the handbag of the year…but also might be a dick pic. ;-)

  • Sheyda

    Oddly, I just had a conversation about this today. Now that “The Circle” is a book people are paying attention to, there has been a greater since to question why we use social media.

    It’s almost like fantasy role-playing (follow me), and as consumers we want to gain access into the once ultra-exclusive world of fashion. Are tickets to fashion week any easier to come by since social media came about? Definitely not. So, we continue to like those blurry photos because we feel part of the experience.

    There’s a reason why we are commenting on this post, and it’s a reflection of the fact that we actually took the time to read it. So many bloggers today rely solely on those blurry photos to keep their momentum going. They haven’t built readership because often there isn’t anything to read…just pretty photos to look at.

    Regardless, I’m thankful for posts like this, & writers that poke at what keeps culture buzzing.

  • bruna

    Thank you Leandra Medine!I was hoping someone to write about it!!! I think cellphones should be banned on fashion shows!!! nobody is actually seeing and enjoying the show! the beauty of the clothes, it’s seems a competition of who’s is taking more pictures!!

  • Sisi

    Great post!! I personally don’t enjoy looking at most non-professional runway pictures…there are just so many and they all kind of look the same. Plus the blurriness. Your insight is much appreciated.