As social media evolves, increasingly soiled by the worst and loudest impulses of humanity, any poster with an iota of self-awareness has to wonder: What the fuck am I still doing on here? Instagram's newest feature, a sticker you can add to your Instagram story that invites your followers to "ask me a question," provides answers, though those answers aren't exactly pretty.
Unlike its predecessors such as Formspring and Honesty Box, the Instagram AMA feature evades the inevitable ugliness of an anonymous question bin by revealing the identity of the asker to whoever solicits the questions, but keeping them anonymous if you decide to repost their question. Using the feature reminds me of a begone time when I genuinely enjoyed communicating with strangers on the internet and all the wonderful weirdness that ensues.
"Is language a parasite?" one follower inquired. ("No it's freedom!!" I replied.)
"Are you a cop?" another wondered. ("Yes and you're under arrest for asking," I declared.)
As soon as Instagram rolled out the feature, there was naturally a deluge of eye-rolls from all corners of social media. "I can’t even begin to tell you how much no one cares about your ‘ask me a question’ answers on instagram," one Twitter user opined. "[It] is awful and needs binned asap," another grumbled. "Ask fm lived and died in 2014, we don’t need to bring that shit back," a third griped.
"It's the most invasive, obnoxious thing," Taylor Lorenz, a technology writer for the Atlantic, told me. "I used to be able to find fun, real-time updates about my friends' lives, now it's just slide after slide of dumb questions and boring answers. Spamming your friends with an endless feed of self-indulgent answers is a one-way ticket to unfollowland for me."
While it may be irksome to see a flood of trivial answers to inane questions, I like the feature precisely because of its shamelessness. We post because we're self-obsessed. We use social media because we are animals who get off on people paying attention to us. We like thinking about ourselves and learning about what other people think of us. That's why your friends can't get enough of the "ask me a question" feature, and it's also why you may be annoyed by it. When your friends post 106 updates to their stories answering banal queries about their favorite movie or color or food, they aren't even pretending to cater to an audience outside of themselves.
The brazen displays of narcissism that social media encourages are most interesting when shrouded in something else, like an anecdote about your day or a cool observation about a viral meme. With Instagram AMAs, your content is shamelessly about you, you, YOU and no one else, and the transparency of it all is painful to some—but for a pervert like me, absolutely divine.
The feature reveals us for what we are. If you don't like that, maybe it's time to log off.
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