If I've been distracted lately and staring at my phone while at dinner or enjoying a drink with friends at the pub, it's not because I'm texting, emailing or keeping up with LeBron opinions on Twitter. No, it's because I'm obsessed with Instagram.

One of my technology-inclined friends told me last year that I should be using the app, so I downloaded it onto my phone without really knowing what it was. I thought it was cool that you could add several filters to an otherwise ordinary picture taken on a phone, but I wasn't really that impressed since you could do the same thing with Photoshop. And it's never that much fun when you're just starting out on a social networking site and you only have two friends. But as I started using it more and more, I became more and more addicted. As I learned how to use it and got a few more friends to share photos with, I discovered that it was a lot of fun and you didn't need to fuss with Photoshop at all. Photoshop was totally unnecessary, which was a bit of a revelation for a graphic designer. Something can look good without Photoshop! Holy crap!

Instagram is a photo-sharing social network that's been around since 2010 and now has over 30 million users. It was just acquired by Facebook for $1 billion. What you do is take pictures with your phone's camera and put it through one of 17 dreamy Instagram filters with the option of fun borders. Your photos automatically get a retro-treatment, re-sizing them into a square reminiscent of obsolete cameras of yesteryear like Instamatics and Polaroids. You can use hashtags to put your photos among other user's photos for searches (this photo I took last night and tagged with a #cats hashtag).


It's a picture of my cat Taco hoping for a bite of soft taco (ha!). My Instagram feed features my little guy quite a bit.

But what I really love to do is take pictures around my neighborhood and around New Orleans and see what other people in the city are shooting as well. You're able to explore the city at any given time through a network of picture takers. It's so cool!

Here are a few of my favorite #Bywater photos:


Pretty exotic flowers.


Some amazing wine and cheese from Bacchanal.


The famous goat tacos at Maurepas Foods.


Dauphine Street flooded with twilight.

And here are a few of my favorite #NewOrleans photos:


A beautiful renovated house.


Mudbugs from my husband's friend's birthday party.


Some delectable New Orleans Snoballs.


A master of chargrilled oysters from Drago's at the New Orleans Oyster Festival.

And if you want to get even fancier than Instagram's plethora of photo-enhancing options, you can download apps to your phone like Pic Jointer so you can arrange several photos at a time to tell a story, like this:


A chocolate hazelnut gelato story.

Or you can use an app like Color Splash to only make certain portions of your photos in color, the rest in black in white, like this:


An impaled PBR can I found around the neighborhood.


Some sort of pipe thing that I swear looks like a pink WALL•E at some warehouses in Bywater.

It's a very engrossing habit. It's great because while you're trying to find something fun and interesting through your phone's camera, you get to see what everyone else is finding fascinating at that exact moment as well. You can follow your friends or you can follow famous people. Right now I'm following @zooeydeschanel and @barackobama. You can also follow the @neworleanssaints and see all sorts of cool pictures of Jimmy Graham, Mark Ingram and the like.

If you haven't gotten into Instagram I highly recommend it, it's a lot of fun and highly addicting. You might start off a little slow, but once you get the hang of it, you'll find it's so awesome that you can create cool images through something as simple a camera phone. And if you want, you can follow me @anniedeladolce.

Also, if you leave me your handle in the comments I will follow you right back.