A happy place for when your soul is dead

When I lived in Boston in my 20s, a thing I really liked to do on a weekend morning or afternoon was wander out of my apartment with my camera and take pictures. I would just pick somewhere good to walk around (Boston is a paradise for walking around) and take pictures of interesting things that caught my eye. Sometimes I’d be feeling artsy and it would show in the photos. Sometimes I was just capturing what was there – hey, here are 30 photos of interesting architectural details in the South End! Sometimes there would be a route to it – I feel like walking the entire length of the Southwest Corridor Park today! It was enjoyable and stimulating and if there had been Fitbits then, I really would have been getting my steps in.

(I’m not sharing any of those photos here because they’re in a shoebox somewhere in my house, because this was when taking photos meant exposing film to light and taking it to MotoPhoto to get it developed.)

I don’t do this anymore because I’m always looking at my phone or doing a chore at home. Ah, middle age.

But I thought of those photo walks when I read my friend Maureen’s expression of horror at the Happy Place.

So I missed the latest phenomenon of pop-up Instagram installations, where Instagrammers can take selfies using a background that’s presumably prettier and wittier than what they can come up with on their own. A pretty sad thought, that…

One of these pop-ups, “Happy Place,” popped up in Boston last week – just a jog across the Public Garden from me – and it’ll be here until June, offering folks the opportunity to take photos of themselves – or have a friend do the honor – jumping for joy in front of a rainbow, about to land in a bowl full of – what? – scrambled eggs? Corn Pops?

Oh, and you’ll pay $30 ($35 during prime times) for the opportunity.

The Happy Place is a pop-up, currently in Boston, that is basically a space full of places where you can take photos to put on Instagram.

HAPPY PLACE was created because we BELIEVE that our world today can use a lot more happiness. To make this DREAM come true, we set out on a journey to create a special place where anyone who walks in is surrounded by all things HAPPY. The first HAPPY PLACE in Los Angeles has been nothing short of a DREAM for us and now we are excited to take the Happiness on Tour and visit cities all around the world. Watching so many visitors of all ages from all around the world come through our doors and leave with a smile, made us WONDER, why not spread the HAPPY? So decision was MADE to take HAPPY PLACE on a worldwide tour with our second stop, the great city of CHICAGO!! Our summer stay in Chicago was PURE HAPPINESS and crossing the border to TORONTO during the winter helped us take HAPPINESS global. Our fourth stop is bringing us to the HAPPY city of Boston!

(What is WITH the random BOLDFACE AND CAPITALIZATION?)

So now entire friend groups can fill their Instagram feeds with pictures of themselves in the same zany settings.

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I’ll bet that looks just as clever the 23rd time you see one of your friends there. (Photo from the Happy Place web site.)

All the settings on their site seem to be similarly surreal-but-not-that-surreal settings where with lots of bright colors. So you can capture yourself looking like you are living in a bad knock-off of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse instead of somewhere boring like the surrounding Back Bay neighborhood.

Yeah, I’m old, so I just don’t get it. I don’t really want to. This seems to combine the worst elements of social media identity construction with mass consumerism.

Anyway, enjoy your happy place if that works for you. I’m sure the people who organized it will enjoy our thirty bucks. And your friends will enjoy seeing you in the exact place they took their happy place photos. It’s almost like scenes from a real life!

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