Is Your Instagram for You, or Your Followers?

Everyone take a moment to stop and look at your Instagram accounts. Look at your profile image, your handle, and then all of the photos you have posted — not just in the past few days but your whole history of ‘gramming and amateur photo taking and adding Valencia and Brannan. And look at your captions, your hashtags, your “@s” and your #TBTs.

Now hold that in your head for a moment.

A recent article in The Atlantic Cities reported on a study about how camera phones modify our memories. The gist is that because we’re spending all of our time focusing on the actual picture taking itself, we’re failing to store those events as clearly in our brains. (Similar to the way one father did in this video during his baby’s birthday — missing the cuteness right in front of him so that he could post a photo about it to Facebook IMMEDIATELY.)

But this isn’t entirely news, is it? All of us have experienced the post-fact realization that we weren’t actually in the moment because we spent all of our energy focusing on capturing it.

However, the study points out that reviewing our own photos, much like studying notes after a class (which, as you wrote them down, weren’t you more concerned with capturing each word and also wondering, “Is going to be on the test?”) has a much greater impacting effect on our memory.

“Which raises the question,” writes the author, “when was the last time you actually looked at your own Instagram feed? Or did you simply create it for the benefit of others?”

So now go back up to the top. Remember what I asked you to do? Did you actually do it? (Did you take notes?) Do it quickly so we can carry on.

To answer the author’s question, the last time I looked at my own Instagram feed was just now. I’m always looking at it. But I suppose I have two purposes while looking at it depending on my mood. The first, as the article’s ending query suggests, is on behalf of others. Just as a contributor once wrote for MR, pretending to be someone else looking at my Facebook page is one of my favorite past times: “…look at that—she’s fun, she’s smart. That’s a hilarious photo of her as a baby.”

However, I also use it as a visual diary. I look at it to remind myself of perfect beach days during the summer, relaxing weekends, and time spent with family. When I’m in a bad mood I’ll often scroll through photos of me and my friends, or the screen shots of our stupid text conversations. When it comes to fashion my phone acts as a catalogue of images for the sole purpose of remembering — shows, appointments, new designers, (things to buy); my personal Instagram feed is a photographic reminder of what I’ve seen and what I’ve loved. Every once in a while I’ll come across something or someone I completely forgot about and it brings me back to that exact moment in time.

Being present, or conversely, not being present, is a constant conversation these days thanks to technology at the forefront of interactions. Should we put down our phones more often and stop to smell the roses? Absolutely. But if we can learn to enjoy the flowers in real time, and then have access to them later, maybe our Instagram accounts aren’t so bad for our memory after all.

Now what about you?

Image via Stockholm Street Style

  • I never thought about this Leandra. I have a little bit of everything in my feed, from the food I eat to what I wear. My sons hate to be in my feeds, they say it’s for the girls world and they don’t belong there…lol. I guess, because they see more fashion related stuff, they don’t want to be confused as fashionistas…lol. Hey, btw..I am curious about Obamas instagram…lol. Now we all know he likes to do selfies.


    “A Blue Navy look with a pop of color” New post on:

  • Quinn Halman

    Obviously I choose what I do or don’t Instagram but I feel it’s more about what I don’t post as opposed to what I do post. Sometimes teenagers can be mean and I remember one night where a friend posted something that was a hobby of hers, but the next day at school, all she heard about was said post. The post was far from rude or risqué but people just felt the need to comment on it. There have been many times where I’ve wanted to Instagram an outfit but I’m too scared of what ever ridicule I could receive. So, I do check my feed to make sure that it’s “safe” and posting a picture is a very meticulous process. It’s also similar to the profile picture argument I made a few weeks ago, I’ve seen people take down a picture because it didn’t get “enough” hearts.
    Social media, man…..

    • CDJ

      You just need to get into your mid-twenties then you won’t give a flying fuck. always instagram what you wanna. if someone has a problem, tell them there’s an unfollow button for a reason and block their ass.

      • Quinn Halman

        who are you and can we be friends?

  • Rebeka Osborne

    I look at my Instagram feed all the time, so many good memories in there. But I can definitely say I’ve been guilty of not being “in” the moment because of FOMD. It’s a double edged sword, really. But I heart modern technology and social media and I couldn’t imagine a world without it.

  • Joshua Michael

    I would say that mine is 90% for me. I’m forgetful regardless of how technology is alternating my memories. But i’ve been trying to be better lately at WATCHING/LISTENING/OBSERVING instead of always with the camera. I know I’m guilty of it too every once in a while, but as an example going to a show and seeing hundreds of people with their arms/phones in the air obstructing my view of the actual show really pisses me off. I’ve been reminding myself when I go to things like this to really take the time to let the experience run over me and not get picture/vid happy and shows are definitely more enjoyable when you’re not watching it through the screen when you’re ACTUALLY THERE!

  • pero

    ………er, ………hello, innovation is basic, whipping is of the age, forgeting how useful computing and user of pre-generations and generation now! how they were, are we to believe and to argue .gif’s instead meme’s instead of cyphering phases through.doc’s. what age am i, i was born well before i saw. i was born after walhol died, i am real, but i say unto readings not advertisements at the rate that allows me to question this……….accepting this et al. capture complancy, and deeper litigation
    btw. i said thank you!

  • Mrs Trendy

    Great article ! I’ll have to admit that I think a lot of what does my instagram look like for others. But of course looking back at old picture is a sweet reminder.

    Mrs Trendy from

  • Cátia

    I’ve thought about it before and I totally agree 🙂

  • CDJ

    i created a hashtag #TASWYDT. (take a selfie with your dog thursday) its a great mixup to the classic #TBT. those, i would like to believe, are a gift to my followers.

  • SJP

    I think Instagram is almost entirely for me – I love looking through it though I am conscious not to post too frequently and miss the moments in front of me.

    • CDJ

      sarah jessica parker… is that you??

  • Alicia Arkell

    I only have 22 followers, nuf said. #amithatboring

  • For me i got instagram to help photograph things for my blog. It wasnt always convenient carrying a huge SLR to photograph things. And by things, its actually mostly food! So going for a nice romantic film, then getting out a huge camera with an annoying huge flash that disrupted others really wasnt working out! So i thought id get instagram as it would then be easier to document certain things and then i could pop them on my blog later, which i do. Im not really bothered if people even like what i post, or if it gets alot of “likes” it really does help me capture certain things.

    Hayley xx

  • nesha

    I love the way you write thing… like, seriously.