In the sometimes bizarre world of social media, unwritten rules and invisible boundaries of the online cultural milieu have seemingly become formed, ratified and signed by all of us social media users without us ever admitting we did.  As we know, The First Rule About Instagram is that We Don’t Talk About The Rules of Instagram.

From girlfriend lunches, office water cooler talk, to morning talk shows and viral Facebook articles, we are all inundated with the discussion about how social media can be negative and create platforms for judging.  And yet, ironically, the judging has still somehow shifted to also include not just judging others for what they post and share online, but HOW they post and share it online.

One of my favorite articles I’ve ever read on social media was the hilarious Vogue article on “Instagram Rules”.

Some of my favorite rules listed were guidelines regarding use of filters, frequency in posting, allowable number of hashtags and appropriate use of selfies. A favorite excerpt:

“Pictures of cheesy quotes are absolutely forbidden (e.g., “You Have as Many Hours in the Day As Beyoncé” or any quote that instructs someone to “Keep Calm and _______”). Pictures of yourself that were published on a website with a watermark are never acceptable. Try pinning the picture to Pinterest instead, or just get over yourself.

Do not post the “circle of feet” (or hands) picture. It isn’t a good ’gram. Unless everyone has on spectacularly unique shoes, people will just assume you wanted to tag people but your friends are ugly. (Note: Pictures that include faces get 38 percent more likes than those without.)”

Social Media can be weird.  Comparison is common and probably a natural response at times.  Most of the time social media users post the best and prettiest parts of their lives and leave a lot of the daily grind and challenges out.  So yeah, when you see the blogger who gets paid to travel to Paris and you’re defrosting your freezer, it might easily seem like the blogger’s life is pretty charmed and yours isn’t so awesome by comparison.

But here’s the thing – we all know this already. And yet the social media world sometimes just Keeps Calm and JudgeGrams On.  With social media, its possible that one can never win.  If you write a sincere post on Facebook or Instagram about challenges in your life, some will judge you for being negative or ungrateful.  If you only post positive things, you can get accused of bragging or rubbing your awesome good fortune in everyone’s faces.  Authenticity seems to be claimed as a highly desirable goal for online sharing and yet the concept in itself has warped into a bizarre, unique measuring stick of judgment used against those whose posts are deemed “unauthentic” (whatever that means).

Socaility Barbie

 The über viral and popular satirical Instagram account, Socality Barbie, was created to poke fun at that very concept.  The creator, Darby Cisnerso, consciously stopped posting in the Fall of 2015 stating that “SB’s work here is done.”

From predictable shots of feet in leaves, hands holding ice cream in front of walls (guilty) to a transparently staged “I just woke up like this” type scene obviously meant to highlight the subject’s beauty, to endless arty photos of coffee, Socality Barbie touches on almost every Instagram cliche.

Anaalisa Merelli summed it up perfectly in her article on the topic in The Atlantic:

“…if you’ve ever ordered an iced agave-sweetened almond milk flat white, or arranged organic, sustainable wildflowers in a mason jar, this parody account will likely hit uncomfortably close to home.”

And yet, even from the lens of a parody Instagram account, here we are again judging the way some post.

I joined Instagram right in the beginning.  I loved it right away.  I loved connecting, I loved the accounts and the presentation of the photos.  But soon I noticed when I went through my feed I was starting to feel stressed and maybe even a little down and I didn’t know why.  I soon figured out that by following dozens of accounts of famous fashion photographers, glamorous bloggers and celebrities, I felt enormous pressure to buy things, be things and compete.  I deleted my account, took a break and rejoined with a fresh perspective.  I decided to only follow family, friends and accounts of substance.  I avoided any accounts that tempted me to compare or were negative.  Since then, Instagram has been nothing but a positive influence in my life and a treasured way to stay in touch!

I really liked what bloggers Naomi and Josh Davis spoke about at the recent (and very cool and modern) RootsTech conference. They spoke about the power of modern tools for storytelling, preserving memories and sharing positively.

“You do have something worthwhile to share. And that sharing invites opportunities to uplift and be uplifted.” They were very inspiring in speaking about how sharing online can be scary at times as it does make you vulnerable to a degree, but the positive outcomes, positive sharing and reaching out can be even more rewarding than we expected. I also loved their example of how priceless it would be to you if your “Grandpa Joe” had Instagram in the 1950’s and posted photos of his polka band.

Storytelling and journaling have always been so important to me and so I am grateful for modern technology and platforms that provide such ease and efficiency in doing so.  With these, sharing on social media becomes a powerful tool in capturing family history.

In conclusion, I determined a long time ago that I will post what I want, when I want and how I want.

I guess you can always just unfollow me.

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In the sometimes bizarre world of social media, unwritten rules and invisible boundaries of the online cultural milieu have seemingly become formed, ratified and signed by all of us social media users without us ever admitting we did.  As we know, The First Rule About Instagram is that We Don't Talk...