Brilliant sunshine casts a vibrant glow on the sand. Waves the prettiest shade of blue glint in the background. A tropical drink rimmed with salt and garnished with lemon rests under an umbrella.
Welcome to the "Instagram: The Summer Edition."
This, in simplest terms, is a three-month-long showcase of dream vacations with catchy captions and stunning destinations. Spring break elicits a preview of this photographic outpouring of paradise, and I'm definitely guilty of the cliche palm tree post.
I remember exactly how and when it happened. Relaxing on a luxurious beach chair in Hilton Head, South Carolina for spring break, a frothy pina colada in hand and sunglasses perched on my nose, I felt an inexplicable need to capture the moment. I'd stashed my phone in the car to eliminate the distraction of pinging text messages, but there was something about the scene before me that begged to be photographed. My car was only a few minutes away, so I grabbed my phone, snapped a few pictures and returned to my tropical beverage.
And a couple of days later, I posted one of those pictures on Instagram.
The beach vibe is tinged with a sense of peace, nostalgia and simplicity. Around the world, people flock to sandy shores, allowing the crashing waves to wash over thoughts of the daily monotony of work or school.
Snapping a picture seems to preserve a flicker of the beauty you cannot find back home, and in today's world, a positive experience feels like it has to be shared. And sometimes, understandably so, this inundation of vacation posts can come across as bragging.
"Personal expectations that may lead to largely self-centered motivations include possibilities for gaining respect and recognition, increasing social ties, augmenting one's self-esteem, enjoyment of online activity, and achieving enhanced cooperation in return," two psychologist wrote in an article from Elsevier.
But as I've scrolled past smiling snapshots of the Bahamas, the Caribbean and Florida, it doesn't feel like bragging to me, but rather, an element of our generation's social media trend: capturing and sharing every positive moment.
So, in a sentence, Instagram remains a haven of predictability.
As December peeks around the corner, holiday posts with snowy backgrounds, steaming cups of hot chocolate and comfortable sweaters arrive. Turning 20 means a birthday post with shiny silver balloons and a couple of candid poses just for fun. The last day of school cues the gathering of friends outside a shared dorm and a sentimental message like, "thanks for all the memories, I'll miss you all."
Once again, I can't and won't criticize these trends because I participate in them, and they're also a fundamental part of our social media experience. College students use Instagram to share our travels and accomplishments, to support our friends in their endeavors and to stay connected.
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And sometimes, if the inundation of tropical destination posts feels overwhelming, there's nothing wrong with closing the app and continuing on with our own lives.
I'll probably post a summer beach picture in October when I'm drowning in schoolwork and would give anything to be away from the windy cornfields of Ohio. But for now, June, July and August stretch invitingly ahead. We all have the option to put our phones down and see the sunshine, the mountains and the ocean through our own eyes instead of through a camera.
Some moments shouldn't be captured but lived, and this summer I want to live.