29Rooms in Chicago: An Instagram lover's vomitorium
6 August 10:52amSophie Pipitone • Chicago
Social media is a roller coaster ride that never lets you get off.
I checked the battery life percentage on my iPhone which told me, with no remorse, that 45% of my battery life (which came to the equivalent of around 16 hours-per-week) was being sucked into a black hole of nothingness all for Instagram. At this point, the roller coaster was making me throw up on one of those upside-down loops—so, I deleted the app (and Twitter and Facebook), from my device to embark on a two-week social media cleanse. It’s sort of like that green juice diet except for the fact that you never instinctually go grabbing for a green juice while on the diet.
Amidst this two week cleanse, Refinery29 brought 29Rooms to Chicago. My friends and I blasted a nice, singable combo of One Direction and Drake on the two-hour drive down to the city, and I was feeling pretty free. One week into my socials hiatus, my brain was significantly less foggy and completely unconcerned by the lives of other people. Our expectations for 29Rooms was that of an Instagram dream—good lighting, cool art, even better people.
Turns out, the roller coaster I had thrown myself off of was still alive and running before my eyes, and I still had that stomach-churning urge to vomit.
From what I understood about 29Rooms, I assumed it would be a museum-esque experience. You’d move room to room, it’s quiet and reflective, you’d snap a few photos, and you’re not ashamed you spent $40 of your hard-earned money on a ticket. In reality, 29Rooms is a warehouse lined with ‘rooms’ containing extremely photogenic art; whether that be wall murals, paintings, sculptures, live music, dancing... there was no limit. By no means do I want to discount the art, but there was something disgusting about being released into a warehouse like a herd of two-hundred people, and wait in lines that lasted anywhere from ten minutes to an hour to take a photo. That is, a photo of yourself with the art.
I witnessed a girl leap into a Planned Parenthood trash can and pose with her feet in the air. My own two eyes were subjected to a woman in striped pants spread eagle in a Plan B One-Step phone booth. I even watched as two moms tried to skip in line but instead just poked their heads inside a room and zoomed as far as their iPhones could, to snap a photo of a Women's March poster.
Although I still didn’t have my socials downloaded, both of my friends did, and on the trek back home we couldn’t stop talking about how uncomfortable the entire night had been. They scrolled through the hashtags, pointing out photos we saw in the making. It defined every Instagram photo appearing fun and effortless, yet behind the scenes, people were on their grind to get the shot.
Nothing about 29Rooms was ‘fun’ per-se. It just existed to please the Instagram masses.
Nobody wanted to be present in their own life. Nobody wanted to read the walls that spoke volumes or walk through the sand. And nobody, by any means, had an intention to do anything other than collect content—which is equally as devastating as it is embarrassing. We’ve collectively fallen into pattern of falsehoods, made up by celebrities and influencers.
I faced a moment mid-29Rooms when I considered that we might unknowingly be taking part in a study recording the number of people willing to pay to take a picture of themselves inside something dubbed online as ‘cool’.
What I’m trying to say is that social media scares me more now than it ever has.
Let's just say, my history as a social media fanatic is just that—history.