Connecting Physical and Social Landscapes in Person and Online
By Ashley Turner
Nine years ago an app began the global phenomenon of staring at our handheld devices for hours on end. Colorful visuals glowing from your screen enticed you to spend hours editing images just right to curate the perfect feed. In 2010, this was Instagram. It was new, it was fun and most of all it unlocked the creativity inside us all. Instagram had taken the best part of Facebook, THE PHOTOS, and made that the focus. This platform became a way to connect with other liked-minded people who were outside your friend group from your hometown, college or work. It was easy to use and you built instant connections all over the globe from posting a photo.
Quickly, online communities formed. Users built their communities from likes and comments, from follows and shoutouts. You saw snapshots of celebrations and every day moments. Now they were Instagramable with a filter, even the most mundane experience was a refined/filtered photo.
Through my own account, @downtownftl, I was sharing my experiences trying to “make the most” of traversing downtown Fort Lauderdale by foot, bike and using our sparse public transportation options. This virtual exhibit was to help break the perceived notions that my hometown City was more than a tourist beach town and had a growing downtown with vibrant potential.
From shares and comments on Instagram, I was introduced to Cadence, and the profession of landscape architecture. I saw the similar passion they had for bettering our community. I was intrigued to learn more about how the profession of landscape architecture could help to strengthen Fort Lauderdale into a more connected, resilient community which we all desired. Unexpectedly, Instagram became a way for me to find a new career outlet. What was first just a local follow, turned into a lasting job position and an incredible friendship.
Instagram today is bigger than ever with over one billion active users, but the original excitement has worn. Was the downfall of this app the multiple changes Instagram made with algorithms, copyright laws and the multitude of ads spamming our feeds? We saw a wonderful outlet become crowded, clouded with the noise caused by the flood of everyday users, influencers, and the app creators.
As I felt the decline of authenticity of the app happening in 2017, I reevaluated time spent on managing both @downtownftl and @cadenceliving. While they complimented each other, I knew I needed to streamline my focus to keep up with the times and trends. Today, Cadence has grown a community on a local and global level with authentic followers, not bought by spam bots. At the beginning of this year, Cadence was recognized by Land8 as one of the professions’ “Best of Social Media” award.
The technology tool that brought me to Cadence and many of our collaborators to the table, still plays an integral role in our work and the way we build connections. For the last six years I have managed and cultivated @cadenceliving’s feed with our team to consistently share content that adds value and not noise to the screen. The friendships, career and connections I made in this span are authentic and I feel so lucky to have met and have these special people in my life – all thanks to an app. Connecting physical and social landscapes in person and online – done right Social Media CAN be meaningful.