Instagram

I’m not very social on social media. That doesn’t imply any disrespect for or lack of interest in my social media friends and followers, but only that I find it impossible to regularly post birthday greetings and duly like photos and reports from their private lives, and even the truly important things they share. For I just don’t spend that much time online. I don’t like sitting by the screen too long. For this reason, I simply cannot follow regularly everything in my various feeds.

My virtual socializing, to the limited extent I did it when I first started using social media, therefore inevitably became irregular and indeed unfair, in the sense that I arbitrarily responded to some and happened to miss others of equal importance. To some extent I do follow everyone, however, and I mostly appreciate what I see. I hope all will understand why I’m so passive.

On Facebook I now post mainly articles by others, primarily on politics. I used to share much more philosophy, spirituality, art and music links, but the last few years I’ve found it increasingly difficult to prioritize that. Hence my timeline now gives a very limited and onesided view of what I do and what I’m about. Politics is not as important to me as it looks there. On Twitter, I now share almost exclusively my own publications. But they’re at least comparatively varied with regard to their content.

But on Instagram I at least share photos. They’re not “social” either, really, and there’s nothing instant about my gramming them. Rather, they are, for the most part, photography as art; they transmit a way of seeing, a world, a truth. I may develop this further in terms of professional photography, and some of the motifs are such that I would have executed as, for instance, oil paintings, had I prioritized painting (I could opt to do that some day). There’s nothing pretentious about this. The reason it may seem somewhat strange is only the Instagram format, and the new possbibility to take these pictures with just a camera phone, without setting aside the time (and space, when travelling) for more advanced technology. In the latter sense, it could, I think, be seen as comparable to not, at present, prioritizing the canvas, although photography in general was clearly a main reason for the decline – and modernist transformation – of painting with motifs that could be photographed. And today’s camera phones are more advanced than the early cameras.

It’s true that using only Instagram for my present photography purposes is not a good idea, just like using Facebook only, let alone Twitter, for one’s writing. I do plan to use the photographs elsewhere too – indeed, some of them already appear here, in the architecture category. But for now, most of them can be seen only on Instagram. There are other internet media for photography, like Flickr, which is better, and it’s possible that I’ll start using Flickr instead in the future. But that’s not a difference in kind, only degree. Both Instagram and Flickr have some of the advantages which I argued in the early years of this modest WordPress blog that it had in comparison with print publication, despite the fact that it’s probably difficult, at least for a writer of my kind, to reach a large readership with it, or even the readership that can be expected for my kind of writing, and which I did indeed reach when my work was published by conventional publishers. When I discovered the blog technology, I found it far superior at least as such, in itself, as it were. And in many different ways, not least through the comments sections and the possibility of precise, extensive debate that they made possible. That specific advantage Instagram has too, in fact – whereas Twitter does not.

But I also insisted blogs should be supplemented by print publication. I never read long texts on the screen, for the reason mentioned above. I think it damages our eyes, our minds, our brains, that it causes some kind of dementia (and it seems much in the state of our society after computers took over would confirm that). This is one reason why I don’t write so much, and in fact constantly consider going back to the typewriter and handwriting. I don’t even use ebooks and e-readers. Long texts that are available only on the internet I always print and bring back to my armchair and cup of tea, where there are also ever-attractive piles of old-fashioned books. The situation could be different with images though. The optimal use of the screen might be for photography (for images of painting, it’s good too, but comparable only to printed art books).

I want to add here that I find it absolutely necessary to express this kind of conservative reservations and indeed general awkwardness with regard to the use of all of these new technical facilities. Not even for substantial contributions in the form of texts or images – or talk or music on YouTube – must one use these new technologies without feeling uncomfortable about what they replace. If we regard technological advancement in a larger, traditionalist perspective, we see the full extent of this, of what is in reality lost.

I find the compulsively felt need of some older people of learning all about computers and the internet absurd. The disruption it causes in their established habits is often a greater loss than the new advantages of internet communication. Had I been around when radio and TV invaded our homes, I would without a doubt have objected to the sudden lifestyle changes their use implied, and then constantly to their overuse, as I do today. Indeed, I would have objected to the overuse of newspapers when they appeared. Even of printing itself when it was invented: it clearly had an adverse effect on memorization and the oral tradition, and in that respect on intelligence. The extent to which we sit – or indeed lie, stand, walk – looking at screens today, often simply for the cheap availability, for distraction, for instant ego gratification, implies an enormous loss, indeed a destruction, of older and often better patterns of life.

Some of my Instagram photos, however, are more ordinary, “social” ones, with glimpses of places, conferences and other events, people. To some, comments of varying length are added; again, discussion is possible, even extensive discussion, although this function is, as far as I can see, rarely used. In fine, on Instagram it’s possible to find major parts of what I wish to communicate, and communicated in a manner that cannot be found elsewhere. Follow me at janolofbengtsson for a visual understanding of what I’m saying in other ways elsewhere. Right now, Instagram is the social medium where I am by far the most active. The activity is not particularly social there either, I suppose, but at least I put out my own stuff.

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