Insta Star

LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph Gonzales - The Freeman

I'm getting to be quite the Instagram addict.  And to think I resisted adding yet another app to my already burdened phone.

However, a year or so ago, a Thai artist I had met at the Chattuchak weekend market in Bangkok had told me that if i wanted to see more samples of his work, it would have to be through Instagram.  And so, there I unwillingly went, grudgingly opening an account so I could peruse Gank Pansuay's works.

And even then, I still had no idea of the potential attraction of this app.  I would post random pictures which, to my untrained (and very myopic as well as astigmatic) eye, seemed like they were post-worthy, but nothing much happened.  Not much hearts, which wasn't a surprise as I had no followers, except for the fifty friends I had very slowly accumulated over more than a year.  I also followed about the same number of friends, and so my feed was super manageable, just the way I liked it.

So the year passed, and then some.  I kept posting, especially at far-flung places where I luckily found myself.  I would most especially feature interesting art works I would stumble upon, especially by street artists.  That pretty much summed up my Instagram existence.  Until last week.

For some unknown reason, I have reached critical mass.  Every day, I have been added by four or five random strangers, from the Philippines and surprisingly, Indonesia.  This has gotten to the point that I have (shockers) reached more than a hundred followers!  Double my year long accumulation in just a week!

What could have caused this sudden internet popularity?  What did I do to merit the attention of total strangers?  Every time I get a follower, I immediately check them out. Who they are, where they're from, and what they post about.  (And at the back of my mind, the ultimate burning question is, "Why do you want to follow me??")

I have three Indonesian friends on this app, and I've posted on an equal number of trips to this group of isles.  Did that somehow convey a message to the Instagram algorithm makers that therefore, they should keep suggesting my name to Indonesian youth? (Don't they realize I can corrupt their sweet innocent lives with my dark humor?)

I've also gotten a few oddballs, such as a user whose moniker is "mrgayireland2016".  I checked him out, he does indeed look like a beauty queen!  What would he want with my posts on family and artworks? Also, I have gotten a few commercial establishments, so I guess it's a marketing ploy for me to check them out and if I like what I see, buy from them?

I have no posts showing bare chests or pecs, abs or delts.  No risqué skin exposing grams, no shower scenes and no just got out of bed loungey poses.  Those seem to be popular draws, with followers numbering in the hundreds of thousands. (Note to self: I should hit the dumbbells on the off-chance I can also accumulate salivating followers).

Somebody explain this phenomenon to me please.  It must not be because of my stellar looks, because if that were the case, I would have fifty thousand followers (at least!). It's not because of the uniqueness of my posts, because I look at what's available on that site, and my breath gets blown away by the sheer creativity and the eye for beauty that those "normal" citizens have for what surrounds them.  So what explains this?

Is this the escape fantasy offered by Instagram, that it can offer its users a window into the world of other people, and dreams can be born and nurtured? (Which means there are people whose lives are even more pathetic than mine?)

Whatever the reason, I'm getting sucked in as well.  I am looking at the posts of other strangers from all over the world, speculating on who they are, (quietly) judging them, admiring their posing ideas - but still not following them. 

That one, I'm still resisting.  My life is already chaotic with facebook, and I shouldn't add another social media vector in it.

Meanwhile, I lie in wait for unsuspecting followers. (Follow me @joetrillana)!!!

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