Long ago (on the timeline of technology), social media was exposed as a disingenuous platform for self-promotion, image, and materialism — just a facade of real life.
It has since evolved to include a new generation of echo chambers and misinformation. Yet with the passing years, we continue to engage, connect, and scroll, if not on one site or app then on another.
The longest-running peril of social media continues to be the omnipresent misperception of those around you based on their own “selective sharing.” It is easy to draw comparisons from snapshots and forget the path you are on — or figuring out — when beauty surrounds every other profile and fills your screen.
But perhaps we have been wrong about this from the beginning; perhaps the misperception is on us not them. Perhaps we have spent all these years missing an opportunity staring at us from perfectly smiling faces in perfectly manicured homes: not to succumb to jealousy or comparison or entitlement, but instead to choose to be inspired.
Snapshots — single photos that show off just a snippet within a larger, unseen context — inundate almost every social media platform. They also offer wonderful design opportunity insights for smaller scale spaces and updates. Best of all, they are something you can tackle in an evening, often without any incurred costs.
Snapshots on social media today are, in reality, visual “vignettes”: small, evocative descriptions. And designing vignettes into your own space is easy and achievable, especially when you are surrounded by inspiration.
Take a snapshot you want to use as inspiration and break it down to its core elements. First, what drew you to it? Avoid specifying objects: Instead, describe them.
For example, a beautiful vase on a table might break down to a large object that introduces contrast in bold colors and is centered on a small platform that brings focus and intention to its placement on the table. The former description is focused on a single object and rooted material acquisition. The latter extrapolates the design elements from a compositional perspective and gives much greater latitude for your own expression: You are no longer dependent on that vase to achieve what you see in the snapshot. (The reverse also holds true: This is why just buying that vase and putting it in your home may not look as good as its snapshot vignette did.)
Now apply this idea to a more complex snapshot you may see across social media, one that is more likely to evoke a feeling from you. A cozy backyard patio ready to entertain looks warm and inviting — a party underway looks fun and exciting. Break them down into core elements: Why does the space look cozy instead of just small? What about it feels inviting, or fun or exciting? Spatially analyze the vignette that inspires you so you can apply it in your own context. Maybe clearing out and rearranging your own patio (or apartment balcony or window nook) to just a few key elements scaled to fit — a place to sit, a surface to hold what you need, decorative lighting, a splash of color — is the key to your own transformation.
Vignettes should not be limited to visual appeal, though. Especially when “atmosphere” is a part of the inspiring snapshot, analyze based on the five senses. You can break down what you see, but what do you imagine of the soundscape? Is it quiet and peaceful, loud and musical, or somewhere in between? A snapshot on social media is not dimensional: Including sensory elements inspired by what you would imagine adds real-life depth to a flat image on a screen.
The beautiful thing about designing vignettes is how versatile they can be. Fireplace mantel? Front stoop? Side yard? Powder room? Bookcase shelves? This is not a commitment — of time or money — like a major home renovation. Vignettes are manageable and bite-size.
All photographs — social media snapshots or otherwise — are designed. Some are well designed and some are poorly designed, but regardless, they are simply a composition of elements in space produced to show something. When faced with endless photos on social media, instead of succumbing to the perils of comparison, reframing your mind-set can help turn negative perceptions into positive inspirations.
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