I eventually bit the bullet and signed up begrudgingly to facebook. Begrudgingly because I didn't ever like the idea of restriction. The web was meant to be a free place where you could find and exchange any information and facebook seemed to limit that. In fact it did just that. It limited everything. However it did two things very well. It made it easy for people to create an online presence and it made it easier to find people you knew and communicate with them. Lets face it, even though the web itself could serve this purpose, it simply wasn't. It was too complicated and facebook made it all simple and put it all in one place. That's why these "alternative" networks worked, I thought. They simply made things easier. However facebook wasn't the end. More and more social networks started popping up here and there. Some failed, like google+ because it tried to be the same as facebook. That made sense. However so many others succeeded and I couldn't figure out why. Part of me thought I was just too old to get the point of it all. Or that I was possibly too educated in a specific field that made it pointless to me. I mean the web had never been a limiting factor to me and facebook was already on the verge of pushing my online socializing beyond my own comfort level, why on earth would I want more. Still I figured it was a place for online extroverts to do their thing. It just wasn't my thing.
Fast forward to this past summer. I was being teased by non-techs about not being on Instagram. At the time I didn't even know what Instagram was. I mean I'd heard the name, I knew it was one of these new social networks, but that was it. I had to google it and read the wikipedia article on it to attempt to "understand" this thing I had no interest in.. My frustration came from crossover with facebook. I noticed plenty of the stuff I was seeing at the time was shared to facebook from Instagram. It was content that I wanted to see. Content pertaining to yoga and acro yoga. Sure I'd see a pic of a still and some words but you don't get the linking of names and you don't get the actual instagram content if you don't have the app and an account. That last bit really annoyed me. Why couldn't I just view without being a member shmember. Yet I finally did it for the purpose of seeing that content alone and only that content. Yet unbeknownst to me facebook and instagram are bed buddies. So facebook tells all my friends i'm on instagram. I'm sure it asked me about this at some point and I didn't bother to read something and I just wanted some box to go away so I could look at my darn video! What it resulted in was people "tagging" me? I don't even know if that is the correct lingo. Basically people starting mentioning me in comments as a way of messaging me for everyone to see. Again I didn't get it because instagram had a perfectly good private message function and so did facebook and google and not to mention sms ...etc. etc.. But whatever ... I'll play along.. Not too long afterwards people began asking me to post. Again I did begrudgingly, but something funny happened. I enjoyed it. I liked playing with the filters, I liked looking at others work, I liked the recognition of my own. I was getting the hang of this.
Turns out it wasn't just another social network. What made it different wasn't that it could do everything and be everything but rather it was its limitations that made it different. Instagram limited the form and content of interaction. It was that limitation that gives way to a better form of online artistic expression. Now I got it! The others were similar. Twitter, tumblr ... they all had limitations of features and a more specific focus that tended to create something unique. I was never fully on board with facebook. It was useful to me because I could communicate with people there but beyond that much of it annoys me. If each social network has a "purpose", then facebooks would be "hey look at me! look at me!". Sure you can turn any of them into that, and in some way that's what they all are. Yet its those limitations that make subtle differences. On instagram I felt I could express myself creatively, with pictures specifically but video as well. I could express and I could see the expression of others without all of the clutter. Others could appreciate my creativity and let me know it. It was all quite delightfully simple without ever being too much!
I'm not sure everyone see's all the subtleties and I'm sure some people just do it because everyone else does. But now I realize there is a different purpose at play here. Although just because I realize it doesn't mean I feel I need to engage in it. I love instagram and it gives me an expression that I enjoy. I tolerate facebook, it is after all the cocktail party of the internet, can't miss the party. :( I have accounts on twitter and tumblr that I never use. Youtube is for videos, end of story. I don't have a Snapchat account and not sure I will, nor do I bother with Whatsapp, and I'm sure there are a bajillion more. I know they all have some attraction, some subtlety of their own, either designed purposefully or stumbled on haphazardly, but I don't need to use them. I'll use the tools that make sense to me and are useful to me as I find them, stumble on them, or become peer pressured into using them. I may "get it" now, but that doesn't mean I have to "do it" all.