This week I went to a fall festival here in Chicago that had a long list of features, including calling itself an “instagrammable experience”.
I naively assumed that was one of many aspects of the event; that there would be tons of activities and a few picturesque locations around the grounds for photo-ops.
Turns out, being “instagrammable” was the whole point. Every square inch of the property was covered in autumn-themed set-ups, ready for the “perfect” photo. Wannabe influencers were everywhere we looked, phones at the ready, in search of more likes and more engagement. The whole goal of the place was to create content for their social media feeds. It was depressing.
There was no “experience”. Sure, there were drinks and games and a small corn maze, but even those activities were designed for the gram. The entire event was built on the illusion of fun.
“Step right up! Step right up! For the small price of $20 you can take these photos here and film this animatronic skeleton here! Show your friends how much fun you’re having!”
To me, a truly “instagrammable experience” wouldn’t have to advertise as such. It would just be so memorable that you couldn’t help but feel the desire to share it with others. But these new “museums” and “exhibits” built for the very purpose of sharing are incredibly dumb.
I know I sound like an old man screaming at the neighbor kids to get off my lawn, but I don’t care. I guess I’m in the minority here, but I don’t want to share everything I do with the whole world. In fact, it’s more fun to go to something and not tell anyone. Whenever someone says to me “It was incredible…you had to be there!” it makes me way more envious than a photo in your grid ever could.
The truly depressing part of these events is the absolute misery that the viewer can’t see just out of frame. Before or after any beautiful photo you see on Instagram is a shouting match between boyfriend and girlfriend to make sure the pose and composition for the photo is just right. Or, the long line of people impatiently waiting for their turn to get the exact same pose. These people aren’t living in the moment, they’re just in search of the next photo. Then another, and another.
The people on your phone that look like they’re living their best life are not. They’re on their phone more than you are. It’s pitiful.
Over the summer I did a Q&A after my show with VIP members of the audiences. It was always full of interesting questions but one of my favorites was “What do you hope to be doing in five or ten years?”
If you had asked me that a decade ago I might have climbed onto the nearest table and loudly proclaimed my mission to change the world with my art, my ambition for fame, and my goals for success. But not any more.
Sure, I’m still ambitious and working hard on my career. But I’m also really content where I am right now. So I’m not looking ten or even five years ahead at the moment. I’m just…here.
I’m perfectly content with my early run and morning cup of coffee. I’m happy to be writing this post next to my wife and two cats. There’s a breeze coming in the window and I can hear the low roar of the city traffic down below. It’s exactly where I want to be and I wouldn’t change a thing.
I don’t need to snap a photo to remember this moment because I’m fully here living it right now. Try as hard as they might, an “instagrammable experience” will never compare with being fully present and doing something you enjoy with the people you love the most.
Now get off my lawn, I have more work to do.
While working on this week’s post I came across this article about similar “experiences” in NYC.
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For now, here’s this week’s video: