What’s your favourite Instagram filter? Come on, everyone’s got one. Mine’s Valencia. I. Love. It. One click of that beautiful button is akin to squirting half a bottle bleach down a grotty loo; it smooths over a multitude of sins. It brightens a gloomy day, makes my face cream look as if it’s punching way above its weight, and seems to make my slapdash food experiments look slightly more edible. All my snaps get the same “treatment” before they make the grid and join all the other filtered snaps in my finely curated grid.
A filtered record of my day to day existence.
Last month’s Elle Magazine featured a brilliant article by Robyn Wilder called Do you have FOLO (Fear Of Life Offline)? in which she talks about Real-Life versus Insta-Life and how a feed full of finely-edited glimpses into the lives of others can mess with our own identities and perceptions of what real life really looks and feels like.
“We can now edit and art-direct our lives online like never before. But how would our friends and followers react if we removed all the filters and presented our existence In Real Life?”
These days it’s easier than ever to satisfy or curiosity into the everyday lives of our peers. Whether that’s their latest life event on Facebook (and subsequent likes), how many followers they’ve got on Twitter, their entire career history and qualifications on Linked In, or their latest travel snaps, shopping hauls and foodie pics on Instagram; snooping in on the lives of others has never been easier. But sometimes what we see on the other side of the fence can leave us feeling inferior by comparison, or even depressed, according to experts.
In the Elle article, Robyn mentions an instagrammer she follows whose profile is a catalogue of infinity pools, gourmet burgers, side-boob selfies and gravity-defying curls. She didn’t mention a username, and didn’t have to, I too – until recently – was one of infinity pool’s something-k followers. Thumbing through my Instagram feed became like a Russian roulette of diptique candles, designer bags, yachts and bikini bum-floss. Scroll, scroll – BANG! Scroll, scroll – BANG! Everytime her perfectly perky side-boob bounced upwards on my phone screen I could feel my own tits droop and deflate like day-after-the-party helium balloons.
In the end I decided to leave the fold. I couldn’t take another snap of a glowing pot of £50 wax next to some plump pink peonies and a pile of fashion magazines. It was just getting too depressing and was starting to skew my understanding of what real life looks like. Because well, you’d never see a picture of her doing the washing up or pinning her boyfriends boxers on the line, or what her airbrush legs look like with “thank f*** it’s not skirt weather” stubble. It’s the filtered, glossy version that we actually get to see.
But we’re masochists. We freely follow and like the insta-ideal. We even aspire to it. Hey, if I happen to visit a hotel with a infinity pool then you can guarantee I’ll Instagram it (…with a little help from my old friend Valencia, obvs). And despite the bum-sweating price, I’d quite like a Diptique or Neom candle. I’m as guilty as everyone else of snapping aesthetically pleasing food porn. Probably more. The truth is no one wants to see pictures of leg stubble, my horribly neglected toenails or a selfie with my Henry Hoover.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be the last person to delete Instagram. I bloody love it. It’s an outlet for both my creativity and curiosity, and a catalogue of some of my favourite memories. But we do need to be #instagrounded. We need to remember that real life does not come with an array of filters to automatically brighten gloomy days or colourise the mundane, and that our glimpses into the lives of others aren’t 100% realistic. What you’re seeing is a curated gallery of their ideal self. We need to be happy with who we are and not feel depressed when we don’t meet the insta-ideal. There’s nothing wrong with normality. It can be just as photogenic!
So. Every so often if you follow me on Instagram you’ll see pictures tagged with the hashtag #instagrounded. Pictures from the cutting room floor, behind the scenes snaps and photos minus the Valencia crutch. Feel free to join me! 🙂