The rise of anxiety attributed to our modern obsession with social media might be a sign that we realise we should be doing more with our lives than taking pictures of various parts of our anatomy, writes Tania Edwards
My friend has taken to expressing her vulnerability on Instagram. She realises she’s been keeping a lot of stuff inside and doesn’t agree that that’s the perfect place to keep it. In recent days, she has been sharing little postcards that assure her growing following they are “enough”.
Enough for what exactly? It’s reminding me of the recent Art Pass campaign, where posters across the country assured us that if we went to a gallery we could discover ourselves.
I’d have thought a break from daily navel gazing was the point of schlepping round a gallery.
But apparently not. It’s now for finding the real you, or paintings of people with similar haircuts so that you can take a photo to share of your, lol, “twin”, lol.
When I was young, peak vanity could only be experienced in designated poseur destinations like Ibiza, where women were kept afloat by their new breasts, and men fretted that their waxed shoulders might betray them before their holiday was over.
Now everyone can experience peak vanity from the comfort of their sofa by scrolling through that friend’s photos of Burning Man. At least Burning Man requires effort. If you can be bothered to take 14 sequinned catsuits to the middle of a desert I think you deserve some Facebook likes.
I save my resentment for people idly taking pictures anywhere and everywhere, and, horror, smirking in satisfaction at the sight of themselves, as if they’ve bumped into an old friend.
It’s extremely disconcerting socialising with these people. Nothing can undermine your desire to be polite quicker than someone air-kissing their fans in an Instastory as you introduce yourself. When Narcissus fell in love with his reflection in a pool of water (the world’s first and finest filter), he died. Good, we thought. He deserved it.
It’s not that we didn’t want to take a quick peak at ourselves, it was that we knew instinctively it was wrong to indulge the impulse. It was also tricky. Take photographs, for example, once you couldn’t see a picture until your local chemist had developed it for you.
Now hardly a week goes by now without someone limply apologising for another unsolicited dick pic. Politicians, policemen and priests have all been forced to confess. Either chemists are the most traumatised people in modern times, or this deluge is a new phenomenon.
We just weren’t preoccupied with photographing our genitalia before we succumbed to the temptations of the Apple. Of course, you could be an exhibitionist; but typically you’d be one within socially accepted parameters.
Performing arts, for example, helped you pretend that you had something important to say or an interesting way of saying it. It meant that you could show-off at work and still be tolerable at parties. The theatre offered an opportunity to explore most of the major sins, certainly pride and adultery, while you pretended to be someone else.
Now everyone’s pretending to be themselves, and it’s worse. The most unlikely characters are hashtagging their way through every outfit change, lunch choice and toilet function.
Death by selfie has become a thing. In an increasingly self-obsessed world, people are scaling skyscrapers and leaping in front of trains to get anyone to notice them at all. I’m still not sure if documenting three looks in one brunch for one follower is more or less depressing than falling in a well (and dying) for the amusement of two. With self-examination comes self-doubt.
Perhaps everyone has tattoos now because houses are expensive and we’re all yearning to decorate, perhaps looking like we’re having a full-on panic attack like David Beckham is aspirational, but our skin isn’t the only thing we’re tweaking.
Gigging at a cosmetics function recently, I noticed everyone in the room had matching plumped cheeks and pumped lips as if they all wanted to look like the same cat. One woman’s overdone mouth was tumbling off her face. The internet is encouraging these ‘improvements’ at a frenzied rate.
Meanwhile, the stiff upper lip has been swept away by this tide of trembling trout pouts. The blander the content being shared online, the more exculpatory the captions. Each carefully captured butt shot is now accompanied by an elaborate, if predictable, tale of overcoming the kryptonite of butt anxiety.
Maybe anxiety is good. Maybe anxiety is the final death rattle of your critical faculties. Maybe the nagging feeling that you’re not all you should be is your only hope of redemption.
Maybe the residual intelligence you’re beating to death with ever more degrading platitudes about your essense [sic] is struggling to rebel.
Sadly, intelligence never rebels for long. It knows an easy way out when it sees one. This might be it. Conceivably, joining the mob to splutter in faux outrage before slumping back, exhausted, to gaze petulantly at its own backside like a chimpanzee, is the only stimulation the modern mind needs. On the bright side, as we become increasingly shallow, our journeys of self-discovery will surely get mercifully shorter.
Soon it will just be one man falling in one hole, lol, as it should be. Brevity will accidentally be rediscovered and might even be celebrated again as the source of wit. Until then, I too, can be found on Insta.
Tania Edwards is taking her new show, Don’t Mention It, to Monkey Barrel 2 as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 2-25 August (excluding 14). For more information visit www.taniaedwardscomedy.com