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When I visualize an event like the State Fair of Texas, I instantly think Big Tex, fried junk food and corny dogs. But as the winning entry in DFW.com's Instagram contest suggests, there is so much more to an event like the fair. It's a time for families to bond, for friends to celebrate and for Texans to show just how much better we are than everyone.
Scrolling through the more than 150 submissions, I don't just see objects. The photographs are evidence of people living their messy, beautiful, dysfunctional, hilarious, love-filled lives and sharing glimpses with us.
All social networks cast wide nets and can be tailored to anyone's needs. With Instagram, talented photographers get to highlight their work, while soccer moms and dads get to chronicle their kids' youth. The best part of Instagram is that it allows users to capture their life as it happens, and share it with friends at any moment.
Now, some of the "cool" kids in the tech world accuse Instagram users of trying to be "artsy" -- especially when they use funky Instagram filters to dress up their photos, but that's ridiculous. Most Instagram users are using the app to capture life, not create art (though there's not much of a difference to me).
But, really, who cares? Hipsters have to hate the mainstream (Or if they don't, it's only because it's ironic not to). The rest of us just want to use apps like Instagram to express ourselves.
As more and more people download the app, though, some trends have emerged that also seem to be products of groupthink. If you're new to the Instagram world, this advice may help you avoid slipping into the "annoying feed" category:
1. Limit the self portraits
It's not that we don't want to see your face, it's just that every time you upload a self-portrait we miss out on your perspective. Instagram isn't about making you look cooler once you've filtered away your blemishes. It's about showing us what you see, what you live, who you live life with, where you go and how you got there.
2. Keep it to 3-4 posts a day
Like all of this advice, this definitely isn't a hard and fast rule. It's easy to catch Instagram fever and share too much. Sometimes you live awesome days that deserve to be shared. Other times you're in bed all day watching a Saved By the Bell marathon, and no one needs to know that.
3. Enough text already
No, I am not being hypocritical and declaring an absolute rule. But, the app's icon is literally a camera. Post your inspiring message or awesome song lyric on your Facebook or Twitter. Instagram is for photos.
4. Don't steal
If you're using Instagram to impress followers, stop. Your friends know whether you are an awesome photographer or not. No one has unreasonably high standards for your feed. If you take a great photo, by all means share it, but don't steal someone else's. Your account is about you, not your skills.
At the end of the day, all that really matters is that you've got the memories and the people who helped craft them.
Live life and share it, filtered or unfiltered.