‘Hashtag Life’: Is Instagram Our Saviour During Lockdown?

As the outside world came to a halt about three weeks ago, I like to believe that social media – and Instagram in particular – has been helping us stay sane.

The ever-running social media engine has been saving the day while documenting the curve we are on, pushing us to spend more time on our phones. Our social media appetite has increased, and screen hours and mindless scrolling have gone up.

There’s this compulsive need to visualise, to post, and most importantly, to see how others are coping in the middle of a global lockdown when quarantined in our homes. This act of relentlessly capturing moments, in my opinion, not only changes the terms of confinement but also unravels new possibilities.

Has it not evoked a sense of community, lead to digital relatability, and started new lifestyle aesthetics? Haven’t we started finding beauty in little things, and empathising with other people in the world?

Enter hashtag life in a lockdown.

As humans, we have the inherent knack to find and create something with everything, to use and do what we can, where we are, trying to create a presence of something even in the absence of everything, and document rituals and habits that outlasts our current limitations. So, why and what are we Instagramming these days?

News and updates on how different lives are affected by the virus, the plight of daily-wage workers, the lack of health governance and the effect of this virus on the oppressed, exploited, and the starved, the community efforts to contribute, donate, the communal tensions rigging the nation’s skin once again – seeing it all through, all the time. We are seeing different colours of humanity, and if little space is left – in our minds and timelines for the newer observations and vulnerabilities – our mutability, our humble morality and perhaps this melt in time. Aren’t we?

Isn’t Instagram helping us cope with this situation of crisis?

Most of us are using it as a medium to show that we are doing something, while pandering to the capitalist need to be productive and to be there – an imaginary sense of having everything under control. Our Instagram stories are evident of it: from finding peace in the mundane, listening to birdsongs, exercising at daybreak, going through our farewell photos, tagging each other in challenges, making dalgona coffee; to coming to terms with the fact that the lockdown is for the sake of everyone’s benefit, for the climate, nature and for a greater good.

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At the same time, news updates on the site are also morally affecting us. We are either dismissing the images and statistics because of our helplessness or forwarding or re-sharing them with others, who have the same privilege as ours.

And Instagram’s sharing feature is making us realise how dependent we are on others outside our ecosystem – the service providers, people from other continents, fellow instagrammers and so on. Our feeds have become a reflection of our collective anxieties that often sticks its head out of our new (vacation-like) lives.

This is also, in a way, strengthening our conscience and our ability to be compassionate. It is making us realise that the world is more available to us than it actually is, closer than it ever was. For instance, some of us have started reading books again. Why? Maybe because we saw someone else do it.

Neither this world nor our minds were ready for the current emptiness, which is why the scrolling algorithm rescues the world. Through its far-reaching unnecessary contrasted information, it makes us hyper aware, but we don’t know what to do with it – so we hyper upload.

And through this all, Instagram has become a place where we hoard hope as we try and archive the moments where we are becoming ourselves again, rebooting, reprogramming and restarting. If we imagined ourselves as artists, writers, excellent cooks, fitter, healthier, and go-getters, in the post-coronavirus society, then thanks to Instagram.

We are doing what we like and documenting the process and the imagination of it, and while wondering what the ends looks like – we know we will figure it out.

And when we do, we will Instagram it.

Isha Yadav is a research scholar, an artist and a writer. She can reached on Instagram @ishalogue

Featured image credit: Prateek Katyal/Unsplash