Paying for Atmosphere, And Taking an Insta to Remember It By

Logan Sachon: I’ve been thinking about Instagram a lot this week. I hung out with some friends that Instagram a lot, and they both have beautiful blogs and beautiful lives and take really beautiful photographs. I often look at their feeds and almost get sad because they seem to be living the best life, and I just feel, why isn’t my life like that? With garden parties and good lighting all the time? I mean, I think part of it is the “fear of missing out” that has spawned many a think piece. But I think it might go beyond that. Instagram makes perfect, beautiful lives look easy and attainable. And in some ways, purchasable. And I think it’s more powerful than, say, coveting an apartment on TV or something in an Anthropologie catalog,  because these are pictures of real people’s real lives! Have you ever spent money because of Instagram do you think?

Mike Dang: I only recently understood the proper way to use Instagram. For the longest time, I thought it was just a personal photo filter. So I’d take these personal photos, for example, one of my mom on Christmas Day, and then put a filter on it. But then people began liking the photo of my mom, and I was like, hey wait a second. People can see this! And then I figured out how to properly use it. But your question! No, I have not been tempted to spend money because of Instagram. Have you?

LS: Yeah, I think so. Maybe not actually spent anything, because: NONE TO SPEND. But wanted to, for sure. Checking in with my friends and their friends and all of their beautiful lives has slowly started to brainwash me a little bit. I had mostly sort of accepted that I have no money right now, you know, and stopped really coveting THINGS. But looking through my feed and seeing pictures of my friends in faraway countries and close by cafes and taking pictures of their new flea market finds and thrift store dresses, yeah,  I do feel that if I had money I’d buy a plane ticket right this second, or at least a cab ride to a cafe with beautiful sandwiches. A new dress. Anything.

My friend Amy has a beautiful job and a beautiful Instagram feed, and she is very open that her Instagram feed is not real life. Here’s the “disclaimer” she wrote about Instagram on her blog, which I think is so great: “DISCLAIMER- The photos and thoughts expressed on Instagram are not necessarily representative of life as a whole. Certain unattractive life pursuits are omitted. Proceed with caution and a grain of internet salt. ” I love that and I know that, but it still feels like I must be doing something wrong. But even looking through my own feed now—and I don’t take photos that much, usually only when I’m somewhere just gobsmackingly beautiful and can’t believe my good luck, or when I’m with people who are into it—but the things I’ve snapped are pretty perfect. I can imagine it must look, to some, that I’ve living some dreamy life, but I know the truth!

MD: Yeah, I think a lot of people feel intimidated by that, but I also believe that there might be some people out there who actually live their life in a specific way so they can Instagram it. Do you know what I mean? Like, “Let’s go to brunch, but let’s choose the beautiful French place where they serve pain au chocolat sprinkled with powdered sugar and serve it to you on floral china.” Like, let’s spend money here, because we want to photograph it with our phones.

LS: Oh, I don’t think that’s true. Correlation is not causation! I think people who share beautiful photographs of their lives are interested in living really beautiful lives, and I think that means a genuine desire to be in and enjoy beautiful spaces. But the sharing of the space as part of the experience of the space is so interesting. To those of us who don’t take pictures, it seems almost silly, right? But then there are people who don’t understand why you and I talk about our bills all the time. Do you feel like you present a true version of your life on the Internet, or on Instagram?

MD: Yeah, I do. I mean, you know me in real life, and you know what I write on our site, and I’m pretty much the same person right? If not a little bit more interesting, because in real life I think I’m just a tiny bit boring. But you’re right. I do like going to beautiful places. I like a place with good atmosphere and will pay for that, but I just don’t take photos of it. But I will always pay for food over atmosphere. Hole-in-the-wall burrito places are my favorite.

LS: You are NOT even the tiniest bit boring, don’t EVEN. Atmosphere is the number one most important thing in my life. Okay that’s not true, but in choosing places to spend time. I chose my apartment initially because of the lighting in my bedroom, that’s it! And atmosphere is why I spend so much time bopping around the city trying to find nice places to work. This office is FINE, it’s an office, there’s a window, but it certainly doesn’t have salvaged wood floors and leaded glass windows—NO FERNS HERE. And that’s the kind of place where I want to spend time. SO I SEARCH.

For now, I search for coffee shops where I can stay for a few hours without feeling guilty or imposing. Eventually, I’d like to pay for a desk somewhere beautiful. Would you pay to work in a nicer space?

MD: Haha. Nope! Because I have different financial priorities than you, and paying to work somewhere when you can just work at home or at an office that’s available to you for free doesn’t make a lot of financial sense to me. Like, I could use that money to pay off my loans. My sense is that co-working spaces are not cheap. And I could use, I don’t know, six months of money dedicated to working in a pretty co-working space, and just take myself to a REALLY pretty place like the French countryside, or an Italian villa.

LS: Oh I want that too now. I’ll come with you and Instagram it.

MD: Yes! I will like photos of us in a villa. And don’t get me wrong, I do like Instagram. I think it’s fun. During my freshman year of college, when digital cameras weren’t as pervasive as they are now, I spent hundreds of dollars on Kodak film and photo development. I took so many photos that I was able to put together a 50-page yearbook for my dorm. And then, I just … stopped. Or not stopped, but taking photos and spending money to develop film became less important to me. I felt like I was living my life through photos, and not through the actual thing I was doing. Like, here I am at dinner with friends. Why did I spend so much time taking photos at dinner, rather than just sitting there and actually enjoying the dinner?

To me, it’s like going to Disneyland with your parents, and your dad is spending all his time recording you on his camcorder. Dad! Spend actual time with me! You paid all this money to take us to Disneyland, and you’re not doing anything but capturing this experience that we’ll watch maybe once.

LS: I used to be very anti-photo. I didn’t take photos for years. And for the same reason, I wanted to be “in the moment,” and not worry about capturing it. But in Portland I met some people who took pictures all the time, and in a way that didn’t feel like it was invasive, and it turned out to be really nice to have those pictures around. So now I take them sometimes with my phone. But I still don’t try to like “frame a shot” or whatever—I don’t even know what that means or how to do it. I don’t even look through the finder. I just click a bunch and home something comes out that resembles my experience and memory of the place. I don’t even know how I’d print a picture if I wanted to though. Seems complicated, expensive.

MD: Yeah, it’s all about balance. Having a photo is great. Going to a nice place is great. You can do both without ruining the moment. So, going back to what we’d rather pay for—would you rather pay for a place with good food and a great atmosphere? Or a place with amazing food, but okay atmosphere?

LS: Well I want great food and great atmosphere. But definitely atmosphere, yes. Pretty spaces are so important! Being comfortable and happy and relaxed.

MD: Yeah, I might take back what I said about food over atmosphere any day. Hole-in-the-wall burrito places are great, but if I’m paying good money, I’d like to feel like I’m in a nice place too. Good food, good atmosphere, good service—that’s the trinity you want.

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