Instagram is – at base – narcissism, self-obsession, insecurity, pathological inadequacy and the normative, technologically-mediated ubiquity of endless self-surveillance as peer-group pressure on steroids. It’s probably offensive for some people to hear these analytical assessments but, really, that’s ok – it is a part of a core psychological narcissism that the confrontation with and of opposing beliefs (or facts) creates just the right degree of internalised cognitive dissonance that a person (or a social system) might then proceed to reflexively define their own self-identity in contradistinction to their conceptual or ideological antithesis. We depend on our Others and the externalised absence of negation that difference represents to proceed to iteratively, procedurally sediment our selves around this emptiness.
“…but Instagram (and social media) is not all shallow, superficial aspirations to approval and self-validation through other people’s eyes. It can be a positive, creative force for self-expression and the renewal or cultivation of shared cultural identities,” you might respond. Yes, this is all true but there is a subtle twist in this tale. What is shallow, superficial and constitutes an abbreviated sense of self-identity or psychological grasping towards articulated individuation is *simultaneously* a creative force for the production of cultural depth, creativity and personality.
What is shallow is also deep but the ways in which it is deep are thoroughly distributed across the surface and effervescent transience of symbolically staccato social media posts and self-representations. Self-identity and cultural continuity have always been distributed in this way but with the advent of accelerated information-processing communications systems, the extent to which this identity has become dispersed and diffused across an entire information ecosystem has become axiomatic and irreducible. We live through other’s eyes because this is the most efficient and effective way by and through which the global cultural and communications system self-propagates: via creative dissonance and constructive insecurity.