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Hot Drinks and New Shoes: In Defense of the Instagram Clichés

Hot drink in a cute owl mug
You know what I see a lot of on Instagram? Photos of hot drinks. Also, photos of people's dinners. And their feet. And their pets. And, right now, lots and lots of brightly coloured leaves piled up on the ground.

You know what else I see a lot of on Instagram? People apologising for posting photos of their hot drinks, dinners, feet, pets and the brightly coloured leaves. "Could I be any more of a cliché?" they write. "All I need now is a picture of my nails."

Well, I'm not going to apologise for being a cliché. I warn you now: if you don't want to see pictures of two black cats sprawling in the sunshine, my Instagram feed is not the place for you. My Twitter, maybe, but Instagram? No. Frankly, you're on hit and miss ground with my blog. You should click on through to Alice's blog instead and look at pictures of her dogs.

But not yet. Stick around awhile because I'm about to defend my pics of tea.
Curry club meal with vegetarian flag stuck in it
Because, you know what? Unless your Instagram feed - or your blog - is part of a fine art project, it doesn't need to be utterly original. Whatever you claim as your own work has to be your own work and it should be written in your own voice, but it doesn't need to be anything new.

Instagram isn't a competition to be unique. It's a record of little moments of your life. And sometimes the happiest moments of your life are going to involve relaxing with a hot drink and a slice of yummy, pretty cake.

As individual as you are, you should never have to apologise for enjoying the same things other people do.

Hot drinks, new shoes and happy pets abound on Instagram because a lot of people like them. Showing your own take on hot drinks, new shoes and happy pets doesn't make you a failure or a copycat or unimaginative or dull; it just proves that you get pleasure from the same things the people you look up to do.

You should have your own tastes and beliefs and interests, yes, but you're allowed to agree with the crowd.
Fallen leaves
But why do we want to take pictures of such seemingly insignificant things as coffee cups?

Well, for the same reason we want to take pictures of anything: to capture and remember the way we felt at that moment. We were happy hanging out with our friends, moved by a beautiful wedding, excited to be exploring a new city... and we took photos to remember that.

Being warmed by a curry, feeling proud of your new outfit, adoring your cat or being struck by the brightness of fallen leaves might not be momentous events, but they are still happy, positive emotions you might want to hold onto.

Advertisers know the power of images. They know a well photographed chocolate pudding is going to make the viewer's mouth water; we can all imagine how that hot, oozy dessert is going to taste; we can all imagine the moment's pleasure we would get, taking that first mouthful.

Snapshots of small moments in your life do the same. You can look at a picture of a coffee with a heart swirled into the foam and know how much it would warm you on this cold winter's day. You can look at an ancient snap of your cats and laugh all over again as you remember the silly way they chased that string. You can look at a shot of your new shoes and feel a little pride in your appearance.

And you can scroll back through your Instagram feed on a bad day and be reminded of all the happy, fleeting moments in your life and grudgingly wonder if maybe your world is not as bad as it currently seems.

14 comments

  1. Agreed! I post nonstop pictures of my dog, so I can't really judge.  I do get tired of endless self-portraits though...I follow a few people who take photos of themselves in the exact same angle and position 30 times a day. But hot drinks, fuck yeah!

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  2. I'm trying to take more self-portraits at the moment (for the blog, not for Instagram), but not just the same shot of me infront of the bedroom mirror over and over again...

    Comedy pets: YES!

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  3. Just want to say, I love your pictures of Gizmo on the blog! keep them coming. They remind me of the happy days when I had a cat ... I miss having animals so much! That's one of the downside of being in rented accommodation I suppose.

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  4. I'm afraid I'm terribly influenced by food ads, even the awful ones make me crave whatever junk they're selling!  I suspect it's not a bad thing Instagram won't work on my phone - while I like taking those kind of pics myself and looking at my friends ones, I couldn't take snap after snap of random nails/coffee/leaves etc...  I mostly do it for the same reason as you, to remind me of a moment in time :)

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  5. Oh ho ho - that's what I thought! You'd be amazed how many nonsense photos you could take...

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  6. It is so true about Instagram, but I am so heavily addicted to instagram! What drives me crazy if people take pictures of their text messages.  

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  7. Yes, I usually feel like I'm missing the joke with pictures of text messages.

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  8. Sarah, you have such a lovely way of writing things. I love this post. 

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  9. This post is lovely, I've been feeling a bit of pressure not to post 'typical' things in Instagram, but really it should be about the moments I want to remember, not anything else. The dogs (and me) appreciated the mention too, I gave them extra cuddles xo

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  10. Loved this - you have such a knack of putting into words the things I am thinking.  When I posted a photo of my feet today, I thought of this and felt less bad!

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Please play nice.