Ever since moving in together, my boyfriend and I have been obsessing over having a little companion in the house. We’d always really wanted a cat but thought it would be too much of a commitment. We were on the verge of buying a hamster cage off Facebook Marketplace, we also went to look at a shelter for bunnies and even found a pair we wanted to adopt but every time it was time to commit, we couldn’t. What the difference is in terms of commitment, between a bunny and a cat I’m not sure about to this day. Either way, it was a few months ago when a friend of a friend messaged me that she was expecting kittens, and that we could have first pick. Ever since adopting a little girl named Shelly in the beginning of September, I have caught myself obsessing over taking photos to track her growth and attempting to capture all her funny moments. I feel like one of those moms who walks after their toddler and shares every single thing they do on Facebook.
Of course taking photos and videos just for yourself is fun, but my inner mother took it one step further and created a page on Instagram just for our kitten. First it was just for friends and family, I thought it would simply eliminate the hassle of having to forward the same photo to everyone who is vaguely interested. It was only when I started to follow other people who do a similar thing – and when I started to care about her followers and likes – that I stopped and asked myself; why do I even want to create a social media page for an animal? She doesn’t know what social media is, she doesn’t even understand when I show her a photo of herself. Even as I wrote that last sentence, she tried to jump on something that was too high, knocked some things over and then broke some more things- I don’t think she understands the concept of gravity either.
Then, yesterday at work one colleague asked me how my kitten is doing, to which someone else replied ‘’Why are you even asking? She posts it all on Instagram anyways.’’. This remark made me think: why on earth would I feel the need to make a social media page for a tiny kitten? It made me question something I did on a whim and I started overthinking the whole situation. I’m not sure where I’m trying to get with this article, but it’s just my thoughts on this situation. Am I taking it too far, am I oversharing a part of my life that no one cares for? Really, it’s just because I’m happy to have her, the endless amount of content I have on my phone makes me happy and I feel the need to share that. It’s always when you’re happy, you want to tell your friends about it. Except most of these people online are not my friends, they’re just randomers.
I think deep down Instagram allows us to share everything in our lives, in an airbrushed manner. We crop photos so they contain only what we want others to see, we edit so that every single thing we share is perfect in our eyes. Ultimately, even the process of selecting which photo to post allows us to alter someone else’s view of our lives. So I guess that by sharing these photos and videos of her, I am sharing her good, lovable side with everyone who wants to see. I however don’t post the endless plants of mine she has broken, or how she wakes me up at 6 in the morning for food. So am I really oversharing, or am I narrating a visual story? So, to my colleague; you can still ask how my kitten is doing, I don’t share everything online. I don’t think anyone does, really.
I feel like I am using her page as a place to track her growth and development. In a year I can scroll down and see how little she was and what her quirky habits were. Of course I can do the same thing in my phone’s photo gallery, but I am one of those people who can’t just take one photo of something – I take at least ten and rather than deleting nine of them, I keep all and just post my selection. Even though I never engaged in this myself, the way I use her instagram page reminds me of my family’s photo albums which take up a shelf in the bookcase. Somewhere else, hidden away in the house is a box with other photos than the ones in the albums; these are the ones that didn’t make the final selection to be in the book, but they were still developed and my mom probably didn’t know what to do with them. We vaguely know they’re there but we forget about them and what they portray. My gallery is that box, stored in the attic, while her instagram page is the photo album my mom whips out when my friends or family come over.
So if I am using Instagram as a photo album, why do I feel strange about oversharing? I came across this article by James Greig on i-D, who argues that if oversharing is a thing; there must be a correct amount of things to share. So what is that? I haven’t been able to pinpoint it and I think it’s completely subjective, but nevertheless I’m curious. Greig converses with Dr Ysabel Gerrard, a lecturer in Digital Media and Society who states:
‘’It’s become a cliche that while Instagram is about how showing off how enviable your life is, on Twitter there’s reverse clout in posting knowingly about how miserable you are […] People have a huge degree of agency or autonomy over how they use platforms but the cultures around them are still really intimately tied to how the spaces were imagined by their founders. By posting in certain ways, we’re often responding to how exactly how these platforms want us to behave’’Dr Ysabel Gerrard, on i-D
This, I found interesting because I think it’s true in a simple sense. I guess that I am using Instagram to show the best part of life, but this time it’s not my life, but my cat’s. Maybe this slightly bends the norm on the platform and it might not be why most people in my surroundings use it. But once again, the process of selecting and sharing photos is subjective, so why should we care about anything on the platform? We try to find content that appeals to us, and that doesn’t have to be content made by friends or acquaintances (or their pets). So am I really sharing too much, or am I just sharing what appeals to me? In my opinion, the bridge between sharing and oversharing; sharing the ups and the downs is unclear territory. I was hoping writing this would make me feel somewhat more certain about why we use a platform like Instagram the way we do, but in the end it has left me with more questions and uncertainties than before.