New York - The unthinkable has happened. I have, after years of tentative engagement, finally tumbled down the social media rabbit hole into the wonderland of Instagram. I’m obsessed with Instagram.
Why the delayed embrace? And why Instagram rather than Twitter or Tinder or Snapchat or Yo? The truth is rather embarrassing. I was always that old git who couldn’t remember to bring his phone. (I never quite knew where to carry it. Trouser pocket? Nut cancer. Breast pocket? Lung cancer.) Even if I happened to have the damn thing on my person, I still had no idea which buttons to press. This situation changed dramatically about six months ago.
A girl from Tacoma named Beth cornered me at a party. “Hey, stop resisting. Try this. I dare you. I think you’ll like it,” she said, throwing down the gauntlet in a film noir voice. Tacoma Beth was a pusher. She grabbed my phone and uploaded the Instagram thingy onto my thingy. Beth showed me how to selfie. She even showed me how to take pictures of other people. I was instantly hooked. (Except for the bit about taking pictures of other people.)
Suddenly, social media seemed almost obscenely easy. When grappling with Twitter I never quite knew what to write. What do I know about the Arab Spring, ferchrissakes? With Instagram all I had to do was upload an image of myself, and stare at it for a moment, and a snappy caption would invariably come to mind.
Within a few weeks I had hundreds of followers, and then thousands. The Instagram community was welcoming and good natured. The vitriol of Twitter and Facebook was mercifully absent. I reciprocated the only way I know how: by inventing new genres of selfies. We’re talking senior selfies, subway selfies, and my chef d’oeuvre, the elfie selfie.
Elfie selfies are accomplished by donning a hooded garment, stuffing the hood with toilet paper and tucking the sides of the hood behind one’s ears. Et voila! The elfie selfie. Sprinkled in among this cavalcade of autofellatio are images taken from my shoebox full of sordid vintage snaps, including a drunken queen and junkyard roller-skater.
I felt that I was doing a bang-up job, but then I ran into Tacoma Beth. Adopting a tone that suggested she was about to tell me I have halitosis, she threw down another gauntlet. (I wish people would stop throwing down gauntlets. I know it’s very Game of Thrones, but that’s no way to treat a nice pair of gloves, in addition to which I keep straining my back.)
“You are doing a pretty good job, but you need to start following other people.”
“You have thousands of followers. If you don’t start following others, the Instagram gods will think you are a narcissistic a--hole.”
“But I am a narcissistic a--hole. And so are all these other people. Look, they are even posting pictures of what they are about to eat for dinner. At least I am an empathetic narcissist. I make the effort to amuse others.”
“Shut up and try it. You never know, you might actually enjoy taking a proactive interest in the rest of the population.”
Acknowledging the existence of others was every bit as boring as I thought it was going to be. The main reason for this is that many Instagrammers have, in an effort to add gravitas to their feeds, turned their backs on self-evident charms of the selfie in favour of more sincere genres. Examples include flowers, sunsets, and, my least favourite, those screenshots of text, usually platitudes of the what-doesn’t-kill-you-will-make-you-stronger variety. Also a bit worrying: those heart-warming pictures of (non-consenting) pets and children. These make me nervous. I have visions of these unwittingly Instagrammed brats decrying their parents in therapists’ offices in years to come, claiming privacy violations.
I make no apologies for being an unapologetic selfie-apologist. Selfies are fabulously stupid. Selfie vanity is life-affirming. There’s a manic pouting tween inside all of us. Set her free! Long live the selfie!
While dragging my eyeballs across these endless images of pets and peonies, I made a critical discovery: The most enthralling Instagrammers are, paradoxically, the ones with the most superficial occupations. Nuclear physicists and politicians are a big yawn, but models and make-up artists, are, whether intentionally or unintentionally, quite bizarrely entertaining.
Edward Wilding might just be the best example. Handsome Ed is a successful young model from the North of England who takes the piss out of himself and his Zoolander-ish milieu. When he isn’t prancing down a runway in Versace or posing dressed up as an English country gent, he is ransacking the universe for a Big Mac. Even major models, from Gisele and Christy to Naomi, are flaunting themselves with daily posts for your delectation or derision.
Fashion people understand that Instagram is a visual medium: Über-stylist Edward Enninful posts insane examples of his work including images of Linda Evangelista in fetish rubber wear. Menswear line Mr. Turk posts endless male-objectifying shots of its swimsuit designs.
Last week I was nominated for Instagram-of-the-week by Vogue.com. As I careen toward 10 000 followers, superstardom is beckoning. Miley Cyrus only has 9 990 000 more followers than me. Follow me today and help me depose that little upstart. – Slate