i have not enough superlatives for this book <3
Flic Everett - ‘2014: the summer of Instagram life-shaming’
Feet are never particularly attractive. But since the world took to Instagram, they’re essential photographic props. How will other users appreciate your infinity pool overlooking the Aegean, your shimmering, cobalt horizon in Mauritius or your sunset-dappled waves in Ibiza, if you don’t take a shot of your tanned bare feet in front of the view, and tag it #gottaloveit #cocktailtime?
Because while initially Instagram was all pictures of your friends’ breakfasts filtered to look like outtakes from a Seventies porn film, 2014 is the Summer of Holiday Shaming. The Mummy Lifestyle Bloggers have metastised from their own humour-free, jealousy-inducing websites to relentless Instagram feeds — and now, you can’t flick through your stream of photos without being absorbed into their sunlit world of happy, golden families, vine-ripened tomatoes and French bicycles.
Looking at such lifestyle bloggers as @courtneybabyccino, @designmom, (“I post on where design and motherhood intersect … we’re currently staying in our family house, which is located in one of the most beautiful parts of France”), @FamilleSummerbelle (“Apero sur la plage”) and @Bleubird (“Some photos from the farmer’s market” — only if that particular market was directed by Ang Lee) it’s impossible for normal people not to feel both nausea and shameful envy of these perfect representations of modern family life.
For Instagram has now become the glossy lifestyle magazine of social media. Nobody’s snapping their kids in the park fighting over crisps, or captioning the pile of washing that needs doing before they go camping in Devon. Instead, it’s a terrible lie, an advertisement for a life that doesn’t exist outside the pages of a Dubai luxury watches brochure, featuring laughing dads giving their blonde children shoulder-rides down peroxide-white beaches, and beautiful mums in Heidi Klein bikinis holding up icy cocktails in pool tiki bars (“#cosimworthit! #wishyouwerehere!).
The likes of @heartandhabit (“wife, mother, apparel designer, yogi, lifestyle blogger” and @mamawatters (”moments I want to remember”, which mostly seem to involve pastel bunting and French kitchen dressers) are enough to make Martha Stewart feel inadequate at the best of times, but in summer it’s even worse.
Because it’s not enough that most of these people are apparently breathing air rarified enough to take the whole of August off (#amazingvilla #solucky) and feeling compelled to document every fresh fig, sunrise, condensation-beaded glass of wine and enough billowing white curtains to remake an entire Bonnie Tyler video. On top of it all, they have to shame our own, ordinary holidays with their exquisite taste, great love for one another and designer swimwear. In the past we might have expected this sort of obnoxious bragging from celebrities in glossy travel magazines — what compounds the misery is that these bloggers are supposedly ordinary people, just like us, who only want to share the joy of their wicker picnic hampers.
Yet strangely enough, they never snap the children sobbing on the plane. Nor do they record the bickering in the hire car about where the villa actually is (there is no #ibloodysaidturnoffthreemilesago hashtag.) They certainly don’t bother to capture the night when there was no food in and they ended up eating takeaway pizza from a greasy kebab shop while the children drooped with exhaustion.
Instead, it’s a toss-up between whether it’s the photo or the captions that are so annoying to everyone who lives an ordinary life, where a holiday lasts a week, not a month, and involves sunburn and a dodgy tummy from eating lightly perspiring prawns in the beach restaurant.
The children are never gloomy 13-year-olds, wrapped in an ancient My Chemical Romance T-shirt, fighting over the iPad. They’re always adorable moppets in matching swimwear, running down Ibizan beaches, heads thrown back with joy, or beautiful, coltish adolescents, posing by the pool with their tanned arms flung round each other (#myfamily #beautifulgirls).
Even the dads don’t mind being photographed. You might think that they’d feel mildly emasculated by all the silken Chinese lanterns and yoga postures representing their hard-earned life, but in this world siring a clutch of Ralph Lauren-advert children denotes extreme virility. Meanwhile, the women are either doing yoga on a sun-bleached jetty or gazing prettily up beneath a straw hat, while the baby clings like an adoring marmoset.
It’s a stage-managed holiday, presented to the world with all the bad bits cropped out. In our envious trawling through these digital flick-books, we’re overlooking the crucial factor — that it’s all an illusion. They are just as likely as the rest of us to be considering divorce as soon as the plane touches down.
Meanwhile, on our own ramshackle camping trips and cheerful package deals, we could well be having too much fun to Instagram it all. Deep down, we know a hazy filter is all very well — but real life is infinitely better, with or without an infinity pool.