My Life, According to Instagram

Social media is embedded in our daily lives. From the moment we wake up, we are connected, we are sharing, and we are consuming. In Australia, 60% of us are connected to Facebook, with half of us using it on a daily basis, and similar trends exist with our use of Snapchat, Youtube, and Twitter (SocialMediaNews, 2018).

When we engage with social media, we are engaging with the documentations of people’s real-life experiences – whether that be an article, a tweet, an instagram story, or a facebook post. In fact, according to Sensis, catching up with others and posting photos and videos are among the prevalent reasons behind people’s social media usage (2018, p.33). Additionally, the increasing immediacy and effortlessness of our social media interactions seem to be motivating a move to mobile, with 81% of people consuming their social media through smartphones. (Sensis, 2017 p.26).

However, whilst much research exists surrounding peoples’ interaction with social media itself, there remains an opportunity to develop an understanding of how the process of capturing a moment impacts an individual’s memory of that same moment. And, because of the changing nature of our documentation-storage, this issue now partly resides within our use of social media.

And this leads us to my previously discussed notion of cognitive offloading. That is, the way in which technology seems to be doing most of the remembering for us. Perfect examples of this are the ‘memories’ functions of Snapchat and Facebook, and digital archives, which may exist in the form of camera rolls, cloud storage etc.


This led me to reminisce on a festival I attended earlier this year.


Looking back on my documentations of this day, my experience could be described as an enjoyable fun-filled day out with friends. However, when I look at these photos I can almost taste the dust and grit that covered me head to toe, and left me no choice but to leave the festival early – because I could no longer breathe. It was also ridiculously hot, and the drinks lines were expansive and slow-moving. Nonetheless, I still had a great time, and I made sure my social media channels knew about this (minus the bad parts).

Clearly, my remembered memories of this event slightly differ with the portrayal of the event in my documentations. And, looking at the documentations allowed me to reconsider my memories, quite possibly altering them in the process. Moreover, I was careful in constructing my experience for my social media channels, posting different types of documentations on different platforms.

I figured it probably isn’t just me who does this, so I decided that I would explore the relationship between an individual and their device using ethnographic research. This could be achieved through many approaches, but I believe that the following methodology may be the best way forward.


One-on-one interviews with consenting participants where we will collaboratively undertake a digital ethnography of their remembered and captured memories. This may include viewing their pictorial archives and discussing the memories which surround them. This process would include taking screen captures, screen recordings, and the recording of the interview itself (video or audio). With the end product being a short video/video series displayed on social media which features a collection of the person’s documentations as they explain their memory of the event, accompanied by my research findings.


Does capturing a moment ever interfere with your real-life experiences? Comment below.



Beneito-Montagut, R., Begueria, A. and Cassián, N., 2017. Doing digital team ethnography: being there together and digital social data. Qualitative Research, 17(6), pp.664-682.

Note: this reference was used in the general formation of my methodology approach. 

Cowling, D., 2018. Social Media Statistics Australia – August 2018. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 28 Sep. 2018].

Pink, S., Sinanan, J., Hjorth, L. and Horst, H., 2015. Tactile digital ethnography: Researching mobile media through the hand. Mobile Media & Communication, 4(2), pp.237-251.

Note: this reference was used in the general formation of my methodology approach. 

Sensis, 2017. Chapter 1 – Australians and social media. Sensis Social Media Report 2017. [online] Sensis. Available at: <; [Accessed 28 Sep. 2018].

All images are referenced in the captions. Links can be accessed by clicking the image.

Featured image

Fredrik Öhlander

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