Instagram Presence in the Never-ending Present

May 10, 2020

by Jesse Montero, Sophia Lopez, and Gianina Azores

It is suggested that we all stay at least six feet away from each other. This pandemic, social distancing, and the enhanced community quarantine have slowed the world down to a halt for eight weeks now and counting— slowly rendering the passage of time senseless. 

This entire ordeal goes up against the culture of productivity which pressures us into making our days count. Particularly in this internet-driven generation, ideas like #YOLO (you only live once) or #FOMO (fear of missing out) have become commonplace no matter where you go. Such is very telling of our anxiety to see, do, and experience more in order to carpe that diem (seize the day). 

But with everything that’s going on right now, we aren’t physically doing much. There’s no way we can be–and so online we go. Thanks to technology, we are afforded the luxury of working around the social disconnection brought about by physical distancing. Instagram (IG), the platform that almost single-handedly perpetuated our generation’s sense of urgency to live life to the fullest (at least performatively, online), has become a syringe that we use to try to inject even an ounce of normalcy and companionship into our otherwise solitary lives. Such attempts come in the form of trying out various IG story filters and browsing through memes for hours on end.

Clicking through friends’ stories reveal that baking bread, making TikTok dance covers, and hanging out with loved ones through video chat have kept people busy during this health crisis. 

Even if the pandemic has left us boarded up at home, we’ve still found ways to be up to something or at least to appear to be up to something. It seems that the pre-Coronavirus sentiments of Instagram have simply adapted to the quarantine-friendly activities that we now fixate our time on. Yet, as our reality has migrated to our online spaces, the dark side of it looms over our candy-colored, dreamlike newsfeed.

With all the time we spend on IG, the platform has become the main source of pandemic-related news for most. As much as it is a lighthearted place for entertainment and solace from the crises we face, the site has transformed into an outlet that lets us raise our voices against injustices and our bleak realities. 

Users are maximizing the photo-sharing app’s ability to offer a wide scope of information and content by battling misinformation, sharing safety tips, and establishing donation drives. Many even relied on the online space to amplify their opinions regarding politicians’ decision to prioritize a media network shutdown over COVID-19 mass testing during this calamity. 

All this and more are on the website— one that seems inclusive to the untrained eye. If they take off their rose-colored glasses, many can soon acknowledge that the socio-economic class divide affects online behavior as only those with an internet connection can see these insightful Instagram posts.

Instagram: Then and Now

Before the existence of Coronavirus was still unknown to the general public, the users that we follow on Instagram feature a mere image of themselves living their best lives. They wore the cutest outfits and traveled to places that most can only dream of going to (for now, at least). 

Scrolling through all these well-curated pictures, feeds, and videos amidst the dreadful week can make anyone wish that they’re also living vicariously. Hence being caught up in the dreadful #FOMO, which refers to the feeling that others are having more fun than we are. 

But that currently isn’t the case. In a time when everybody is going through almost the same problems, the feeling of FOMO has evolved into a different beast. What we collectively feel right now isn’t so much a fear of missing out but rather grief over time lost.

For this reason, Instagram posts and stories are changing. Our timelines are slowly veering away from carefully crafted content and shifting towards focusing on more poignant, genuine moments regardless of how mundane they may be. 
In many ways, self-expression has become more authentic, raw, and not as manufactured as before for the benefit of our followers. More than that, it is strange to see how life on Instagram has transitioned from being lived seemingly in the moment, to being lived almost exclusively in hindsight. Nostalgia, it seems, has become the most popular filter these days.

Being real with Instagram

Though social networks have their ups and downs, it is admirable that sites like Instagram have shed their intimidating image and have matured into more accommodating platforms where people can share their most intimate problems. This may be exactly what the world needs in the midst of international adversity. 

Due to the imposed physical distancing brought about by the severity of COVID-19, humanity has been compelled to stay home. With social media as its main source of companionship, individuals are left to communicate their compassion through a computer. 

Not only do netizens extend their love to their family and friends online, but they also show concern for their fellow countrymen through digital rallies and charity drives— both of which unite communities to work together towards the common good. 

This solidarity is essential now more than ever because it’s high time we use and demand cumulative action through social media as it is a catalyst for change.
We’re capable of doing so and making it out of this pandemic with our heads held high, always upward and ever forward. After all, we are Filipinos and we’ve had this inside of us all along. It’s called bayanihan.

So… what now?

With the power to sway our collective experience comes the need to manage our expectations. We cannot solve everything. However, we should at least try to ease our compatriots’ heavy burdens in a way we know best: through social media. 

While it is far from a catch-all solution to all the problems we face currently, it definitely has its own strengths. Contributing doesn’t necessarily entail going viral or creating an earth-shaking digital campaign right from the get-go. 

Start small. Talk about issues that are barely covered on mainstream news networks such as how people from varying income brackets are affected by social distancing. Spread the word on causes that are close to your heart. Use your platform to contribute to volunteer efforts. These are just a few of the countless ways to get involved online.

On the flip side, this access and power we wield through social media are undoubtedly luxuries. This must not be lost on us. While we crusade online from the comfort of our own homes, not everyone is so fortunate.

Local labor workers and daily wage owners without access to a social safety net do not have the option to work remotely. The majority of Filipinos do not have the financial security, the sustenance, and the resources to procure the protective gear and supplies needed to tide over the hardships caused by this disease. Social distancing and living life safety online are privileges that they cannot afford.

As such, we are presented with a challenge to put our privilege to good use by doing whatever we can to help those affected by the pandemic and the lockdown. Whether it be donating personal protective equipment (PPEs) and meals or speaking up in times of injustice, anything we contribute can go a long way. 

By connecting with others through digital means especially in times of great concern, stress, and anxiety, social distancing doesn’t have to translate to social detachment.

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