The Ten Commandments are imperatives followed by the Jews, Catholics and Protestants for happy life — don’t steal, cheat, lie — set down by Moses and immortalized by the tanned Charlton Heston in the 1956 film by Cecil B. DeMille. The idea, of course, is that delayed consequences typically outweigh the pleasure of the moment; sleep with the hottie next door and oh, what a tantric afternoon, but when you lose your beloved later to a lawsuit you won’t feel so fine. Of these laws, the most interesting perhaps is “You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”
Idols. We wonder, of course, at the meaning — no, this isn’t a blog about God, but instead of communications value. So why would a multi-thousand-yearlong meme about spirituality suggest that “idols” are as bad for your soul as sleeping with your neighbor’s spouse?
We live in an age of idolatry, from the obvious American Idol and reality-TV-flavored New Jersey housewives with plumed bosoms to iPods that cocoon us in artificial music and laptops that pull us to friends we have never met. Instagram is the latest invention, a seven-month-old social network of photo sharing that allows a snapshot of lackluster scenery to become a minor work of art.
For example, see the photo above. This was shot quickly on a cycling trip as the image of a tree before a cloudy sky caught our eye. The actual image wasn’t impressive, but we thought, “we can do something with that.” A crop, alignment, filter, and viola — colors bloom.
The expression of the human soul and hunger for connections have been with us for generations, but we are evolving to the point where technology can distort the world around us. Instagram is the latest addiction; a wonderfully clever service that ties quickly into Twitter to give your existing social graph a new overlay, photos you can edit into almost any creation. So we feel more connection to the world around us that doesn’t quite exist. The pastels of unreality are wonderful. What happens when technology embeds filters in our contacts, and artificial overlays make any image appear more what we want than what it is? Eventually, we can turn anything into a beautiful construct. Are fake idols good for us, too?
Until we figure it out, we’ll play on Instagram. It has more than 2 million users already, and is attracting 130,000 idolaters each week.