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The stories of Instagram

I was the loudest and least informed voice in conversations about the pros and cons of Instagram. Arguing the negative, I took an extreme stance: no social media, ever. The app seemed a sure sign of insecurity, a means of fulfilling needs for attention, validation. Yes, you are beautiful, and yes, that trip you went on to Iceland looks incredible.

Everything changed when I decided to use the application and its vast potential as a personal photo diary. I arranged my diary entries by date, generally compiling ten photos a day (the limit). I was able to track my experiences in a highly active time of life. And, even better, I was able to reflect on moments lost and ultimately regained.

I followed no one and was followed by my best friend and boyfriend. Opening my account up was an easy decision once I’d used the app for a month. I began to see Instagram as a way to tell stories, a means of sharing images and text with individuals whose perspective and presence I value.

Life is full of moments in which we bear witness, sometimes as the single witness. And to be able to savor these moments, and indeed to add to them for the means of deeper understanding and wider range of personal impact, is inspiring. Garry Winogrand once said, “I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.” Walking, biking, living, I find myself noticing the small and large and wondering what these things would look like through the lens of Instagram. I am more open to oddity, more aware of complexity and more invested in life. I feel continuously inspired by the materiality of the world, and the way it looks particular to me. The unique perspective of Instagram, capturing life through a single pair of eyes and transmitting what you see to others, seems highly powerful.

To those who would argue that Instagram takes over lives, becoming all consuming perhaps to the detriment of more “productive” pursuits, I say, opening yourself up to the beauties and intricacies of the world has immense benefit in the now and the soon-to-be. Instagram is the medium through which we can begin to see depth in our moments and power in our time.

My relationship with this particular form of social media could be described as one of great respect. I see the possibilities contained within reach, the ways I can connect and experience a multitude of lives, including my own. In the five or so days since I made my Instagram public, I have celebrated a few birthdays, seen the Stanford women’s lacrosse team win a national championship, experienced spring in New Haven, Connecticut and tried to sell some clothes. I have seen the highs and lows of lives I care about, carrying on conversations in response to/as a continuation of these viewings in real time.

The wonderful thing about technology in our present is that it is constantly developing and changing. And who knows the way it will direct and enhance our lives as it continues. I look forward to what’s ahead.

Contact Hannah Broderick at inbloom ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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