Instagram and Homogenization Of Culture

I’ve been sitting in a cafe looking out onto a downtown Chicago street, watching people pass by and trying to think what to write about for the last hour and a half. As I watch hundreds of people walk by, I can’t help but notice something–almost everybody looks similar, within their chosen “performance of self” categories as they do in Minneapolis.

I’ve noticed the same thing during recent trips to Los Angeles and New York.

Now, I’m certainly no sartorialist myself, but I can’t help but think about why this might be. With the age of the internet and mobile devices, specifically apps like Instagram, we’re seeing a broader perspective than we ever have before. We’re getting a direct feed from people all over the world as to what they think is cool and interesting.

Location is no longer a consideration when it comes to fashion, as you could see a really interesting outfit worn by a guy in Japan while scrolling through Instagram on your lunch break. If it is deemed worthy by Instagram’s algorithms, then tens of thousands of people will see that same image all over the world.

While inspiration likely previously came from traveling, or perhaps just walking down your own block and seeing what your friends were wearing, we’ve centralized a place where the coolest trends can exist. Where around the world, if something is cool, it can instantly be picked up in New York, Los Angeles, or wherever.

It seems to me that this would kill the phenomenon of regionalized style–Los Angeles having a “look” that is different from New York, or even Japan.

But as our feeds become filled with references from around the world, we become influenced by all of the same things. It becomes like one giant neighborhood where people get to experience and see what they like and want to imitate.

I would imagine that this substantially reduces the number of different styles in different regional areas as everyone has access to every different region now, and instead of dressing a certain way because our friends, neighbors, or community dresses that way, we can reflect what we see at much higher level.

In terms of business, I find this interesting because it provides a marketplace where companies could potentially tap into a global market instead of being more of a niche market–the trends will change as time goes along, just as fashion always has. But now the market for that type of fashion is massive, created by the centralized model of Instagram.

This also means that in terms of a broader market, more companies have to compete within the broader categories, looking for ways to stand out from other labels, etc. I find this particularly interesting with the trend towards no/low branding on apparel. The giant Abercrombie logo on t-shirts is generally found to be tacky now and most modern clothing only subtly features branding of that type.

Perhaps a small pelican logo or something like that. In a way, this might drive fast fashion, cheaply made clothing that costs less than competitors, as people try to find a way to stand out while still buying clothing that generally looks like this centralized, world-wide style.

I have to question whether this will have the same affect on culture in general, I imagine that it will. As we’re all able to see and access aspects of world culture through our phones, we naturally will adapt certain aspects of those cultures.

In 100 years will this mean that we are a global culture, as we become more connected across the continents and eventually unify as a single species? I’m not sure, but I can tell you that there are a whole lot of people that look a lot alike walking past this window I’m looking out of.


On Side Projects & The Tipping Point

Avoiding burnout on a project is a very real issue that must be dealt with in a variety of ways. In the last three years of writing my blog Break the Twitch, I’ve hit burnout a few times but most recently, I have only been writing once or twice per month for the site in the early months of 2017.

It doesn’t feel good to produce such a small amount of stuff for a project I believe in so much. There is a lot of negative self-talk that goes along with that as well–it’s easy to beat ourselves up over a lack of production. But inspiration ebbs and flows–we’re not robots and we simply can’t do the same thing over and over without stopping.

That is a recipe for disaster, we’re just not built to operate that way.

After a few months of writing but not putting out much content, I started working on a side project with Amy called Minimalism Books–a simple little microsite that lists my favorite books about minimalism. I figured it could be helpful for people that are searching for that particular term.

Amy and I spent about 8 hours over two days building out the site and I felt a surge of inspiration and fulfillment with working on it. In a way, completing that little project helped jump-start me on writing again, as I’m doing here right now.

My daily writing requirement has jumped from 250 words per day up to 500, which is substantially harder. Not just 2x harder, but actually several times harder–not because of the word count, but because of the expectation when you start.

Resistance wise, it’s much easier to sit down with the expectation of only having to write 250 words. Typing starts more fluidly, knowing that it’s only about half as much as this article ended up being. It isn’t some big project, some instead a small step to accomplish your goal each day.

As I sit down to write 500 words for today, I feel a heavier weight on the first words as I begin. This article better not suck, as it has to make it to 500 words instead of just 250 today.

Going in with the expectation of having to hit a certain milestone, a certain quality mark, is exactly what prevents us from doing our best work to begin with. When we can simply let the words flow, unedited, we have much more to work with.

I often compare this to the idea of trying to sculpt a bust out of clay without taking the clay out of the container. The container of clay represents a blank page with no words on it–there’s nothing to work with, nothing to edit, to mold and shape into what will become your work of art.

Writing unedited, allowing the words to flow is like scooping the unformed clay out of the bucket and putting it onto the table. The unshapely ball that somewhat resembles a head and face slowly get worked into what looks slightly more like a human face.

We know where to take it if we have clay on the table–take what doesn’t look like a nose and shape it into what does. It turns all of that potential creative energy into kinetic creative energy.

So find the number that allows you to get past your tipping point, where the weight of an idea will carry itself once you lift it high enough into the air, and then do that almost every day.


The Rocky Chronicles

And so begin, the puppy chronicles. We’ve been looking for a dog for a while and we came across this guy yesterday. He’s about four month old Maltipoo, his dad is a Maltese and his mom a Poodle. He was with a family from the time he was about 12 weeks old, but it turned out that the family was too busy to keep him and brought him back to the breeder.

We went to visit him this evening and ended up taking him home with us. It worked out well because the previous family included all of the food and toys that they had bought for him as well. It seems like he was well cared for, but it just didn’t work out.

So, we’re excited. January 27th is the 10-year anniversary of the night Amy and I met, so it’s kind of a fun thing to be getting a dog together on almost this exact date. We’ll be sharing more of his adventures as we learn more about him and see what he’s like. While we were visiting him before taking him home, he was playful when down on the ground and then he’d sit with us very calmly when we picked him up.

We’re really looking forward to training him and getting to know him better in the coming days. He’s a fun little guy and has a lot to learn, as do we. Here’s a picture of him about 10 minutes after we brought him home. We’re off on an adventure!


2016 Annual Review

Well, it has been quite an interesting year, hasn’t it? This is my annual review and audit to reflect back on how things went in 2016. This is now the second time that I’m creating this style of report to check in on how things went throughout the year. If you’re interested in reading the 2015 year-end report, you can do that here. Otherwise, onward! Cover photo by Rita Farmer.


How to Prevent Motion Sickness When Flying

I sat in the back seat of a maroon 1986 Dodge Caravan, complete with the classic fake wood panels. It was a six-hour road trip from Ann Arbor to Louisville, and I found myself entertained by my Nintendo Gameboy. No, not the color one, the original black and white one. It took about an hour or so of Metroid until I looked up and projectile vomited into the unoccupied middle seats. Somewhere around Dayton, Ohio, in fact.


2015 Annual Review

Since about 2009 or so, I’ve written down New Year’s resolutions in my Moleskine notebooks. I’d draw sketches and write down my aspirations for the upcoming year, such as financial goals, health and weight-loss goals, and so on and so forth.

The problem was that upon completing the list of dreams and aspirations, I would move on to the next page in the book and not look at them again until years later. Whoops.

I proceeded to do this for maybe… three years? Looking back through my notebook makes for some laughable reading. Many of the 2009 resolutions seem to magically reappear on the subsequent year’s list. I can’t imagine why.

Goals have a way of evaporating when left unattended.

2015 has been different.