October 21, 2013


I am technologically clueless: the crowning example being that I adamantly refused to part with my dilapidated Blackberry 9700 until it stopped working altogether and I was dragged, kicking and screaming, into the alien world of touchscreen phones. Front camera? All the better to #selfie with, my dear. I probably spent about three hours taking pictures of myself, pleased as punch I no longer had to trial-and-error my way into being photogenic. At the risk of sounding like some unfortunately backwards caveman, I was tossed into social media sensory overload once I converted to an iPhone (Twitter! Instagram! Tumblr!) The social media world suddenly took on more color: every aspect of the lives of everyone I knew, sort-of knew, disliked, and haven't the slightest clue about, presented in all their crystal-clear retina display glory with as much pomp and circumstance as you please.

I now take pictures of food before I eat it. I update my Twitter with mainly self-centered, surely intellectually-detrimental and occasionally vacuous statements.  I have a hashtag for my own goddamn cooking. I #selfie'd. And there was one slightly shameful period where I attempted to exercise and posted all of my "healthy" cooking, Mayfair filter and all, replete with #healthyeating hashtags. I still sigh in relief that I at least had the common sense not to post any pictures of myself in a sports bra and earphones, weights conveniently placed so they lie in a picturesque (but nonchalant!!) pile in the lower left corner of a full-length mirror and then: #fitness #progress #squatlow #dropitlow #strongisthenewskinny (an arguable statement, but I digress) #motivation #liftheavyorgohome. Also shopping bags. I did not post any shopping bags. 

.... Okay, so maybe this is going to be focused on Instagram.

The initial (fine, eight-month-long) fascination I had with this particular social media outlet is beginning to wear off. I found myself getting increasingly annoyed while scrolling through my news feed, but for the life of me couldn't figure out why. Even now, I feel I won't be able to put my finger on the exact reason as successfully as I wish, so you may in for a bit of a convoluted read.

Perhaps it's best to start with a real-life example. 

Imagine a post of a normal, nondescript fruit salad.
Not particularly staged nor well-photographed; grapes, haphazardly cut melons, strawberries... 

Now, imagine comments regarding the aforementioned salad: 
"OMGAWD grapes!!!" 
"So ahmaayyzing" 
"I wish I had a salad like that" (I'm gonna go out on a limb here, but you totally can?)

Now, I don't mean to belittle anyone's taste in salad, nor do I mean to be insulting when confronted with the possibility of someone else's overwhelming affection for grapes, and I would never dream of poking fun at you if a bowl of fruit so happens to be the very thing that gets you off. But how "ahmaayyzing" is it really?

I'm afraid this poor bowl of fruit now has one more responsibility to bear asides from ruling the hearts of a few ardent fans and offending my sensibilities: while I don't take these comments seriously (some people must feel strongly about fruit, I'd imagine), the almost physically-tangible cloak of idiocy surrounding this picture pretty much ignited a strange WTF epiphany moment. The salad pissed me off, yes. But at least now I have a clearer idea of why I am generally pissed off upon entering our filtered wonderland of selfies and dinners. 

We've turned into a generation of attention whores and humble braggers: sadly (and not always consciously) clamoring to gauge our self-worth in the form of likes and followers. Our social media feeds serve as digital portfolios of every new acquisition: clothes, cars, a bag from some poor bastard; we show off how fit we are, how dedicated we are, how healthy we are, how successful we are. And need I mention the ubiquitous vacation photo, where all we see are some girl's upper thighs pointing towards a blue sky and palm trees with the following hashtags or others in a similar vein: #gettingatan #whathappensinvegas #staysinvegas?

Social media creates this inexplicable need (not to mention makes exceedingly easy) to show everyone how perfect our lives are. The sad thing is, they're not. The fucked up thing is, people will still believe us. We are constantly shoving the most glorious parts of our lives into our social media accounts whilst bathing in the secondhand fortunes of others doing the same. As a blogger, social media pretty much makes up the entirety of what we do, and one of the most annoying things I have discovered is that we tend to make things look/sound much better than they actually are. e.g. "Hey, we're having so much fun at this attention whore convention!! LOOK AT THIS GUYS" Well, no... no, it wasn't that awesome. But thanks to a few strategically taken shots at great angles and a hazy filter, it sure as hell looks like it. Lesson learned: no matter how it may look, nobody is shitting rainbows and riding unicorns. Our own humble patch of grass may be green enough, but everyone else's seems to have a fucking villa on it sporting a moat and a flock of flamingos.  

Now, I am in no way suggesting that something like a fruit bowl, however well-executed it may be, is a beacon of personal achievement. But we fall into the trap of believing the glamorization of everyone else's digitally edited lives that we start to covet what we do not own, the lifestyles we do not have, the people we cannot be. This idolatry has spun so out of control that we not only admire somebody, but we think it's okay to unabashedly display a shameless desire to emulate everything they have, be it their lunch or the shit coming out their ass. It seems that what's admired and what isn't is so skewed from all the subtle (or not-so-subtle) bragging we do that it has created a mentality unique to our generation: we want what other people have, with more fervor than ever before. We want, even more so, for other people to want what we have; and in order for people to want what we have, we feel that we need to have what they have. It's a vicious cycle, overflowing with victims of both heady narcissism and debilitating insecurity/envy (have I lost you yet?).

What else explains an Instagram photo of designer shopping bags/boxes (at least show us what's inside)? A handbag, jacket or similar purchases, carefully laid out with tags intact, captioned with something like "I couldn't resist #newbaby #shopaholic #badhabit"? A #bossy hashtag following a photo of something a girl bought herself, independent of male aid (it doesn't make you a boss. It just means you fall into that happy place most decent people occupy of not being a golddigging whore). A "progress photo" after 3 days at the gym? How about the much beloved/hated post of #selfie infamy, posted with a carefully self-deprecating caption along with a clusterfuck of hashtags that contradict the whole humility thing: "being a ragamuffin today #selfie #asian #girl #smile #bedhead #nomakeupnoproblem #mornings #hot #cute #awesome #ighunnies"? ...What gives?


1. The acceptance speech 

That "thanks to my boyfriend for the bouquet of roses and #Tiffany charm bracelet! #luckygirl #sohappy #inlove #boyfriend #couple" isn't, as I'm sure we all realize, so much as a thank you than the digital equivalent of driving around with a loudspeaker. I'm certain there are more private and arguably more satisfying ways to display affection and gratitude towards a significant other. An Instagram post is a pretty shitty way to show gratitude. I mean, that's really the only reason why someone would do this, right? Because they haven't done it in person already? And their phones suddenly couldn't call/text/WhatsApp/BBM/Facebook message, but can only upload pictures? You received a gift, not an Oscar. Nobody needs to hear you thank anyone except for that one single person who deserves it. 

2. The retail catalog

New bag? Have some class: rock it in an outfit instead of tastelessly putting the bag, its dust bag, the shopping bag it came in, tissue paper and gift wrap on display. All it's missing is the receipt. (I'm going to put what little faith I have left in humanity and assume that nobody includes the receipt). Do yourself a favor and just don't. It's tacky. Not to mention netaporter.com will probably have better photos of it from multiple angles (plus there's zoom!) 

3. The like-motivated instathlete

Posting pictures of ourselves at the gym does not, sadly, make us any more fit. Nor do #fitness hashtags. Nor does a holier-than-thou, self-righteous attitude. One may argue that it helps with the whole issue of accountability: but incredibly, people were working out before we had social media. #gains were had, even without updating 500 people who probably don't need to know, nor give half a flying fuck about, your work out routine or how many days you've completed on your #30daysquatchallenge. Groundbreaking stuff, really (don't forget, you heard it here first). In a nutshell: ladies, boys will check out an ass if said ass is a nice ass. This is a fact of life that's as unshakable as how much they also like tits. There's no need to stress out and be all, "but they need to know HOW MANY SQUATS I'VE DONE!!!" And to those with drastic results who want to show it off? Go nuts, you've earned it and then some. Just don't try to give us any unsolicited details as to how you got there. Sometimes a little mystique goes a fucking long way.

4. The shitty cheftographer

As for me, I should probably try to eat my food more than I document it. I mean, nobody really needs to witness most of my culinary struggles. Most people eat three meals a day, and that's hardly momentous enough of an occasion to warrant a picture. Breakfast! Lunch! Dinner! If your food looks like shit, don't post it. Even if it doesn't, I'm sure nobody really cares. I've definitely been guilty of the "DON'T TOUCH IT YET LET ME TAKE A PICTURE" as well as the accompanying extensive ingredient list that for some reason, a lot of us seem to think is necessary. At least I don't do the whole #wifey #gf #homemaker #cook #suchagoodgirl #becauseicanholdafryingpan #microwavemaster #putaringonme #prettyplease? Have I redeemed myself a little? Not really? Okay. 

What is social media, really? A place where everyone and anyone is a self-proclaimed digital celebrity; a place to scrutinize and be scrutinized; a place where attention equals currency. Ultimately, simply a place where we flaunt our shit to other people and creep on the shit other people flaunt. Profound, no? Having said that, allow me to return yet again to the example of our much-esteemed fruit bowl: it's a fucking bowl of fruit. Let us all not be so easily impressed and take it with a grain of salt.