Social media is one the biggest, shiniest and sharpest double-edged swords of our generation. While this is not by any means news to any of us, I’ve recently found myself pondering what happens when one of the positives – giving people a voice – takes a negative turn?

Love it as I do, I have one very major issue with Instagram.

In traditional print, broadcast and radio news, stories have to pass a fundamental test before they should ever be released to the general public. Before a story gets to see the light of day, news-gatherers ask the simple question: “Why are we saying it?”. Normally, if it’s judged that enough people will care, the news story is issued.

Instagram, and indeed a lot of blogging, blurs that line. While we’re constantly releasing information to the big wide cyber world, how often does anyone actually stop to ask “why” before hitting ‘post’? Too many times I’ve found myself watching stories of someone’s birthday night out or staring at photos of a stranger’s average at-best lunch and think …but who cares?

I apply this same standard to myself and sometimes catch myself uploading things before thinking… who is this actually for? It’s one of my big problems with this platform, and social media in general. Why do we all think we’re celebrities – and more importantly, why are we relentlessly enabling each other to continue buying into this misguided belief?

Instagram is extremely effective for getting big issues out into the virtual stratosphere, and I’ve consumed a lot of important information through it – from mental health to climate change. Thanks to Stacey Dooley’s recent documentary on fast fashion and its impact on the planet, over the last few weeks I’ve watched Instagram blow up with posts about sustainable wardrobes, no-spend Novembers and more.

Now – I think that documentary was amazing. As a total ASOS fiend (though to be fair, also Depop/Ebay-er and occasional charity shop dweller), it really struck a chord with me in terms of how utterly thoughtless our actions have been to the planet we live on. The reason I listened to it with such interest and respected it in the way I did was because it was presented as facts, without arrogance or aggression.

I applaud the passionate people of this world. I am one of them. But I know from experience the passion I feel about certain things, for example feminism, climate change, and some of my political beliefs – has in the past caused me to speak in ways that have been less than effective. Telling people they are [insert disparaging comment here] for example, or called them [insert rude words]. It’s taken reflection on my part, and patient words from others (…Dave) to explain that people aren’t as willing to listen to your view point when you’re pointing a big fat finger of blame at them.

So while I acknowledge that this new trend of preachy posts telling everyone to stop buying fast fashion come from a good place, for me they somewhat miss the mark and I find them unbearably smug and grating. Posting endless stories and Dostoevsky-length captions about how right you are and how wrong everyone else is, are not likely to achieve the desired effect.

After all, are you more likely to do something when a person shouts in your face, or when they explain why it matters to more people than simply you?

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I know this is a controversial way to start a blog post, but I think you lot can probably deal with it.

You know when you quite like someone and then realise they vote Tory?

Well, this is exactly the feeling I get when I realise people have bought their Instagram followers.

It’s that sinking feeling of disappointment, pursued by a creeping feeling of disdain. I know that makes me sound like a bit of a bitch, but at least I’m being honest. I judge people who buy their Instagram followers.

Big time.

I started my Instagram page when I moved to Leith in the middle of last year, because I was so excited about the area and its non-stop happenings. Street food, cool bars, amazing restaurants, great second hand shops, the list goes on and on. As a passionate writer, I thought I’d link my Instagram to my blog and become a more active member of the online Edinburgh community that I get so much pleasure from being a part of.

I’ve grown my followers organically, and from engaging with people whose interests align with my own (or at least, I like to think they do. Most of the time they’re much more interesting/fashionable, but what’s a gal without her dreams?). From being primarily about Leith and stuff going on there, the blog has evolved into what I loosely term “life and style”, featuring photos and articles on places around Edinburgh – and, when I’m lucky enough, places outside of the UK too.

I get such a buzz knowing that the majority of people who follow me have chosen to do so, because for whatever reason the content they see appeals to them. So it sounds heavy, but for me, realising that a person has bought their followers leads me to question their integrity, and the extent to which it’s been compromised. Yes, everybody likes seeing their follow count go up, but I don’t think Instagram should be used as two dimensionally as that.

It’s such a powerful tool to connect with people both on and offline. I’ve had the absolute pleasure of meeting some inspirational people doing amazing things because I have an honest, organic following and whatever perks or benefits I get out of my Instagram page and blog is earned from the effort I put into it.

Fine, it’s Instagram,  whatever way you look at it there is a degree of self-indulgence, but to use it as a platform to falsely influence another person’s perception of you screams insecurity and vanity all at once. Surely your online presence should reflect you as a person, to at least some extent?

We’re all guilty of projecting a degree of fallacy in our posts, but I think we’ve now reached the point where we all accept that, and still choose to appreciate what has become a sort of an art form. The bent leg, the candid pose, the false smile, the perfect lipstick, the moaning boyfriend/sister/mum behind the camera. These are just some of the measures deployed in the effort to achieve an insta-worthy photograph, but anyone with a slither of sense knows that this stuff isn’t real – especially when the very people in such photos keep telling you so.

To look at accounts with thousands of followers only to notice suspiciously low engagement fills me with a sort of disappointment, because it reflects a much bigger message: that people are increasingly unable to appreciate what they have, rather than the things they don’t. Yes, Instagram can be used for both personal and business pursuits, but I don’t think it should be the dogged recepticle of a tireless masquerade.

So let’s stop caring so much what everyone else thinks about our follower count and keep using Instagram in the way it’s meant to be used: for fun (with a side of self-indulgence).

Over and out,

Charlotte McRanterson

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Recipes, holiday inspiration, shopping, blogging, creeping, boredom… There are myriad reasons for opening Instagram and giving our thumbs a good old workout.

From whiling away the time on the morning commute to waiting for my dinner to cook, I find myself Insta-lurking several times a day.

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As a great believer in the “ain’t no school like the old school” religion, (although not, I hasten to add, to the point of donning open toed shoes and floating around Camden Market plugged into a dusty walkman), I am a big fan of the “vintage to vogue” comeback that has been gaining a steady momentum for the past decade or so. To the extent that I often find myself reflecting nostalgically on bygone eras. The roaring ’40s and wartime glamour, the swinging London sixties and (well of course), Madonna in the ’80s, nonchalantly munching her way through several bags of Cheetos as she walks through the scenes of Desperately Seeking Susan. I basically long for every decade except those that I have physically existed in (soz ’90s. Make it up to ya, noughties.) And I don’t think that I am alone.

Living in an age of rapid technological modernisation and forward-thinking in areas ranging from iPhone number X to bionic limbs, I can’t help but notice the apparent equal growth of interest in all things old. The market for vintage cool has soared in the past decade, from high street additions of antique shops, fairs and ‘boutiques’ to people who actually organise ‘vintage’ parties, comprising of adults of the noughties sitting around clutching cigarette holders, fingering necks draped with pearls with painted red ‘O”s for mouths, in an attempt to recapture the glamour and mystique of the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s and ’50s that has sadly but inevitably demised in a society rapt with technological obsession.

We all have that one large, dusty and almost intimidatingly old photograph album in our house. The one that’s been pored over countless times but which still, on every opening, brings with it the same feeling of thrill. A photographic tardis, the album uncovers to a Facebook-infected age a more coveted time. A time when one’s single wedding photo would often be the only visual stimulus of an entire decade. When photographs were captured because of something, rather than just because.

For some reason things tend to look more appealing when a ‘vintage’ filter is applied. Is this because we, as a generation brought up surrounded by technology, actually ache for a simpler time? It appears that while technology has given a lot to the world (information at our fingertips. And eBay) it has, is, and will continue to destroy the very beauty of the object, and everything attached to it. Cobwebs and all.

It seems, therefore, that the only possible way of combating the sickness that I shall term Phantom Nostalgia, is to embrace the new. It ain’t all bad, and while Tinder as a dating app is largely less romantic than perhaps meeting a stranger on a misty train platform, and old soup stains and splashes on an iPad recipe book would mean a swift trip to the Genius Bar, there are many good things about the modern world – never-ending bubble wrap has been created in Tokyo (zomg, though) and Norway has brought us the invisible bike helmet (still not convinced).

We must not forget however, that the only true reason we can fully appreciate the vintage movement is because we can admire it  from a vantage point – the future. So while we hoard those secret desires to be the object of an iconic ‘summer of ’69’ photograph, we can at least play make-believe with the ‘Valencia’ Instagram filter (a poor substitute, I grant). However it allows us to fall back into the comforting arms of our smartphones while we’re at it. Because let’s be honest, none of us could live without our techno bits and bobs, no matter how cool our granny’s photo album looks, and as my very own grandma Jean would say, “ye cannae have it all”.

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