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Sunday August 25, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday August 25, 2013 MYT 8:29:16 AM
by reflectby sumiko tan
Open to the world: Studies have shown that while social media brings many benefits to its users, it can also make you feel lonely and depressed. -AFP
SOME people share too much personal information on social media.
Yes, I realise that the statement’s a bit rich coming from me. I have unleashed everything about my life – from singlehood angst to nasty medical conditions – on readers of this column over the years.
But looking at some Facebook and Twitter feeds, I wonder whether and where people draw the line. Do you really need to update your friends that you’ve just woken up? Or had broccoli for dinner?
I monitor Facebook and Twitter constantly for work and have office-linked accounts. I also have a Facebook account using a nickname so I can read my sister’s page. But I am still holding out on creating personal accounts. I’m too busy to chronicle my daily deeds, and I’m bad at coming up with witty, 140-character one-liners.
Recently, however, I jumped on the Instagram bandwagon.
In the process, I discovered what millions probably already know about the social media world – it’s good in small doses and if you’re mixing with nice people, but it can also bring out the nastier side of human nature.
It wasn’t me exactly who went on Instagram but my dogs. It started when I checked out the photo-editing and sharing app. My bichon frise happened to be next to me and so I took his photo.
I fiddled with the filters and he looked simply adorable when I used a red-hued one on him.
Uploading the photo was a breeze. In less than a minute, I had shared my first Instagram post with the rest of the world. I felt rather chuffed.
I didn’t want my chihuahua to be left out of the fun, so I snapped a picture of him too and uploaded it with the hashtag #dog. A few minutes later, oh my goodness, someone had liked that snap. I was thrilled.
I uploaded three more images that day and got several more likes.
Some clearly had no interest in canines, like an “automative photographer based in Russia” whose album comprised an assortment of snazzy cars. I also got a like from a Thai company selling clothes for dogs.
But the other likes came from people like me who love their dogs, especially bichons and chihuahuas.
Since that weekend, I’ve posted 36 photos and videos and garnered about 80 likes for them. I’ve started following seven dog-based accounts and have won one follower.
The best thing about being on Instagram is being in the company of like-minded people. It doesn’t matter if they are in Australia, Japan or America, or what they look like or do for a living. What connects us is our love for our dogs.
It’s a supportive community where people pass comments like “love that smile” and “such a happy face” about each other’s pets.
I’ve also become acquainted with dogs I would never have known otherwise.
My favourite is Balki Bones, a good-looking, white, three-year-old Havanese (a type of bichon) who lives in Los Angeles.
His front left leg had to be amputated after he was hit by a car, but that hasn’t gotten in the way of him swimming, running on the beach and “watching” TV.
He’s amazingly adorable, and if one can fall in love with a dog you’ve seen only in photos and on video, then I’m in love.
That’s the good thing about Instagram.
The darker side emerged when I realised that I was displaying some disturbing behaviour.
Each of the accounts I’m following has at least a few hundred followers (Balki Bones has 72,000), whereas mine has one, yes, just one.
I know Instagram isn’t a competition, but I started wondering if there was something wrong with my dogs (not attractive enough?) or photo-taking skills.
Why aren’t my snaps getting more likes? What can I do to make my dogs more popular and to get them to “trend” even?
I’d been taking photos of them in the house. Perhaps a change of scenery might win them more fans, I thought, and so chased them outside.
Run, Nicky, I urged, and go after a butterfly or something. You haven’t reached the limit of your cuteness, or have you?
Fetch the ball, Deedee, I pleaded, and wag your tail while you’re at it.
Act cute please, both of you, I said.
They didn’t even look at me.
There was something else that bothered me about my behaviour – I valued some likes more than others.
I was thrilled when Balki Bones (his owner, of course) liked a picture. I mean, Balki Bones is the coolest dog ever.
But I was not so excited about likes from accounts where the dogs were less adorable or the photos less well-taken.
I was troubled by my reaction. Was I an Instagram snob?
And if I was feeling all this about a community of dogs, imagine what I might be like if I were posting images of myself and looking at other people? Would I be liking and unliking folks based on superficial assessments of who’s cool and who’s not?
Studies have shown that while social media brings many benefits to its users (allowing people to share information, for example), it can also make you feel lonely and depressed. In particular, passively viewing the holiday snapshots of your friends has been found to be a key cause of envy.
I recently checked out the Instagram posts of a socialite who has been making the news. For more than half an hour, I scrolled through dozens of carefully curated portraits of her and photos of her beautiful clothes, shoes and bags.
I was exhausted at the end of it – I’d seen too much. I also felt as if I’d intruded on her privacy, yet Instagram was an open invitation from her to the world to go ahead and look in. Weird.
I’ve since gotten a grip of myself as far as my own Instagraming is concerned.
I’m sticking to the world of dogs and won’t venture to any other subjects.
It’s also perfectly okay if my dogs have just one follower.
I’m not going to force them to pose in any way they don’t want to. To me, they’re beautiful and that’s what matters.
If other dogs have thousands of followers, good for them – and for me, too, because it means there are superstars like Balki Bones, whose adventures I can also enjoy. — The Sunday Times/Asia News Network
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