OMG, look how crazy this party is!

OMG, look how crazy this party is! (I took this picture, and never Instagrammed it, because it’s really not that great. That party was unforgettable, but this picture doesn’t convey that. It can’t.)

I understand the the idea behind taking a picture at 3 in the morning. You’re having an amazing time. This place, this party, this concert, this music, this crowd–it’s all amazing. It’s like nothing you’ve ever done before. You’re having the Best. Time. Ever. And like many other enviable scenes in your life, you want to capture it and send it out to all your friends so they can stare in amazement and envy.

But–stick with me here–a 2″ x 2″ picture on your cellphone will not achieve this. And no one cares about what you’re doing.

I mean, I’ve done it. Last weekend I took a picture at a masquerade. The weekend before, I took an Instavideo of the dance floor at the new club Verboten. But every time I do this, I hate myself a little bit. And I’m trying to do it less and less, because I know that my Instagram feed is but a poor approximation of how this party makes me feel, and this showing off is really in poor taste.

It’s like every time I Instagram my nightlife, and see that only four people liked it, I think, “I guess you had to be there.” Of course you had to be there! It’s a fucking party. The point is to be there and interact with people and listen to music. It’s not like nude art photography, or landscape photos, where you can look at them and say, “Well, that is very attractive and pleasant to look at and I would hang that on my wall.”

Disco Ball at Verboten

You get a free pass to Instagram a disco ball, like, two times. Then you should let it go.

Look, it can be done. You can get an attractive, interesting photo when you’re out if you’re alert for opportunities. You need good lighting, maybe a cityscape out of the window. You can get a good picture of a disco ball, though that will get old after a while. Every once in a while a glowing DJ table will do. (A clear view of what song is playing–if it’s a good one–will help. But don’t expect it to be a blockbuster photo.) But 96% of nightlife Instagram pictures fall into the following suck-fest/boring/unattractive categories:

1. A group of dimly-lit drunk people smiling and acting, “so crazy! Wow we’re so drunk wooooooh!”

2. A stage with blurry red lighting, a small figure, and black everywhere else.

3. A video with flashing lights or just blackness with occasional glimpses of movement, with poorly articulated music in the background.

Even if you do get a fairly good picture, it won’t blow up your feed. I keep trying, and it never happens. Nightlife pictures aren’t pretty, and don’t stand out in the Instagram feed. People will scroll right past.

Fashion Week Party

For a nightlife photo, I thought this one at a NYFW party was actually pretty good. It got five likes, about 14% of my average. I ended up deleting it.

If writing about music is like dancing about architecture, Instagramming your nightlife is like drawing your life story on a Pictionary pad.

Professional photographers know this innately. People sometimes ask me to take photos at their nightlife event, and I always demure because I need a special flash for my camera that I don’t have, and I just don’t have the skills to do a good job. The best photos require either a professional lighting apparatus, or natural filtered light coming through the window. They also need expensive internal technology in the camera to deal with varying light conditions. Your iPhone does not have that technology. It can’t even capture your face in your mirror selfie without blurring the edges. (Which is why you love it, admit it.)

You would think videos would more accurately capture the way you feel. But they are even worse. I’m sure the Ellie Goulding concert was banger. But your video taken of the stage from a hundred feet away, with tinny bass crawling dejectedly from the itty bitty speaker from my phone as I watch it the next morning, is not cutting it.

I even tried Snapchat for a bit. But the only nightlife thing I captured that elicited any reaction was a butt naked girl running around at one party. The rest was just self-congratulatory “Look how I’m partying!” bullshit. I deleted Snapchat last week.

So go ahead, take a picture of the flowers in the park. Take a picture of the city from the rooftop bar at sunset. Instagram your outfit for Coachella. Even take a selfie in the mirror in your bedroom with the lights blazing. But once you enter the bar, club or concert venue, slip your phone in your pocket.

This is the time when you should actually forget about social media, forget about showing off, recording it, and just be there. Bathe in the present moment, take it all in and commit it to memory. Shazam the songs. Dance with your friends. Laugh, drink, flirt. Go home and write about it in your journal. Describe it to your friends the next morning over brunch.

But don’t fucking Instagram it.