Above: A woman on a phone. Credit: Nastya Gepp.
We know very well how a photo is typically accessed on Instagram. The activity of scrolling down one's feed has become a modern pastime par excellence. The action of scrolling down in order to look at new posts has become ritualized as a daily routine within the leisure space. For many of the 1.2 billion users it is quite automatic to check the Instagram feed fairly frequently--with content being comprehended at speed, almost telegraphically.
The force of Instagram, for the user/viewer, is the force of feeling that one is becoming more informed, more aware, more acquainted with the visual world and the visual-led interests of others. The enjoyment is recognisably voyeuristic: the user looks on, always wanting to see more, up to the point that the pleasure suddenly becomes .... nauseating. The scrolling down action brings the user closer to so many new things, and then, abruptly, at a certain moment, the urge to cease looking through the photos-videos with a vague or pressing feeling that any longer might be time wasted. The essence of the experience of the app. is this tension between the two feelings: the compelling voyeuristic thrill of seeing so much about the intimate-personal lives of others and an opposing, sometimes stark, sense of have indulged and squandered time.
If we say that someone is "always on their phone" we might mean that they are always actually making phonecalls, or we might mean that they are always texting others, or, more likely we might mean that they are continuously engaging with photos and videos posted by others to social media. The person who is "always on their phone" is often a photo-video maven--an expert, a connoisseur.
(3 December 2019)