TALK OF THE CRAG
Fighting jealousy in an age of virtual spray
For better or worse, Instagram is changing the game.
I’LL BE THE FIRST to admit: I spend too much of my life on Instagram. Any time my brain wanders from the task at hand, be it painfully mundane or frustratingly difficult, I reach for my phone, swipe right, and tap that little cartoon camera. As a matter of fact, I checked Instagram three times while writing those first two sentences. I’m not proud of it, but I suspect I’m not the only one with such a bad habit.
My love affair with Instagram coincided with the beginning of a real-life love affair. I tend to avoid technological trends until the last minute, not out of any sense of hipster superiority, but more out of a total lack of interest. My phone usually stays on the oldest version of its operating system until it shuts down, but the guy I was enamored with, a photographer, encouraged me to try it out. “It’s just a fun way to edit and share pictures,” he said. “But what’s it for?” I asked insistently. “What is any type of social media for?” he said. Good point. This was back when Instagram forced the user to take pictures in the app itself—you couldn’t take photos with another camera and upload them—so it was more about the moments the pictures represented, not the pictures themselves, hence “insta.” Quality didn’t really matter, because you were just going to slap a drastically toned filter over it, resulting in a heavy-handed image that would make Ansel Adams roll over in his grave. You shared experiences as they happened, not weeks or months later. In those early days, I would sit and wait for my love interest to like my photos, because out of my whopping 36 followers, his like was the only one I cared about.
Now, Instagram is a billion-dollar business with more than 300 million users, and I follow 1,359 of them, from an account for my friend’s liquor store back in Alabama (“Grab a bottle of the famous Popcorn Sutton moonshine!”) to an account called FluffyPack that’s just a constant stream of cute puppies and piglets. But the majority of accounts I follow are fellow climbers who post envious images of soaring sandstone walls, top-down tryhard faces, and vans parked in front of breathtaking vistas. I wish I could say that I see these photos, smile, and think, “Oh, she must be having so much fun!” But au contraire, my friend.
When I see images that are particularly rad, my head burns with jealousy and my stomach sinks with the thought: I want that. Sometimes it’s a place I really want to go, or sometimes it’s a girl climbing harder than me, but most often it’s simply a picture of someone climbing outside when I’m stuck inside. My melodramatic brain ignores the fact that I am lucky enough to climb almost constantly, both for fun and for my job.
“Ugh, does she have to post another picture of climbing in Bishop?!” I recently said with a whine that should only be associated with doing your taxes and eating lima beans.
“Julie, you were just in France for two weeks!” my boyfriend, the aforementioned love interest whom I blame for my Instahabit, responded. We were on the drive home from the airport, where he had picked me up from a “work” trip where I climbed alpine lines in Chamonix, multi-pitch sport in the Verdon Gorge, and 400 meters of limestone over the Mediterranean in Les Calanques. Not even an hour after a lifetime trip to three European climbing meccas, I was already resenting somebody else having fun.
Jealousy comes quickly when you only see the most beautiful, perfectly edited, carefully curated moments. We all do it. It’s human nature to want people to see only the best of you. When was the last time you had just a single photo taken of yourself—selfie or otherwise—and then moved on to something else? The invention of digital photography afforded us the ability to take multiple