As you guys probably saw on my social media this week, I just got back from my mini trip to San Francisco with my partner and our close friend. I had an amazing experience, all condensed into two days, and I had a great deal of fun sharing some of the things we did with you online. But what travel, especially lately, has made me realize most of all is that Instagram is far beyond just an app that we use every day to share our stories. They say that friends are the family that you choose, and Instagram has taken that to the next level.
This past year, I went all the way across town to meet an Internet friend for the first time at their house before going out to take some photos. I was telling someone that I was doing this and they thought I was insane. “Aren’t you worried they are dangerous?” they asked. “Not at all,” I replied. This isn’t the era of MySpace anymore. Somehow, in some way, we have gained trust in others on the Internet. I met up with this person and she and I hit it off immediately. I stayed and sat at the dinner table with her family. I met her children and her husband. The only thing I could think of the entire time was that the Internet brought me here to share an experience with these people. It began happening all the time with many other people — out for coffee, photographing in their backyards, you name it — and barely any time passes between this and shaking their hand and introducing myself. We have become a digital village where people have become so inviting and apt to spending time together, even if you have only just met. Sometimes you see someone’s visual storytelling and you already know who they are.
As someone who comes from a very broken and polarized family, it is my greatest comfort to meet people online and become close with them, both as friends and as cooperating creatives. I feel that I have a web of people that I know and have learned from. I give and receive advice from these human beings that I would have never known if it weren’t for Instagram. I wake up in the morning to their Snapchats of them in bed with their child and their puppy. I see them in coffee shops and wave shyly. I walk down the street in San Francisco, wait in line at the airport, go shopping in Portland, and people come up to me and say they love what I do. And that is the most rewarding thing to experience — we are no longer a world of strangers, but a world of acquaintances who say hello, and want to make things with you, and want to have thoughtful conversation. Sometimes I feel like I am talking to a wall online (okay, I feel that all the time), and to have the opportunity to meet people and cultivate relationships reminds me that there are people out there reading, that the world isn’t always an unfriendly place, and that human intellect is not dying. It’s out there. You are out there. And I am always ready to talk to you.