Cartoon of a woman holding up a mobile phone to take a selfie

It would help us all if social media would #keepitreal

Cartoon of a woman holding up a mobile phone to take a selfieJust recently I learned that Instagram has more subscribers globally than Twitter. Well, they do say a picture paints a thousand words whereas the limit on Twitter is just 140 characters.

Instagram! It is currently my greatest bête-noir. I want to love it but I find myself loathing the narcissism. To my mind, Instagram just isn’t British. Us Brits are full of sang-froid (strange how the most appropriate words to describe us seem to be French!) and I don’t ever think of us as a nation of strutting self-loving poodles. Au contraire (here I go again), the British have a worldwide reputation for being steely, bad at accepting compliments and full of contempt for preening prima-donnas.

However, it seems Instagram is the flavour of the moment and daily it is used by millions of British who extol the virtues of their wonderful lives in glorious technicolour to all and sundry. Never a second goes by without numerous photographs of beauty and success being posted up on the Web. Other than the multi-award winning, money-earning Unmade Bed of Tracy Emin, there is nothing squalid at all about the images you see on Instagram because you see, Instagram is Utopia.

Cartoon of a girl shoppingIn the Instagram world everything is flawless. There are no pictures of unkempt homes with shopping trolleys in the front garden. Grey concrete office buildings do not exist, cakes do not sink and flowers are never dead. Instagram participants are the antithesis of misery. The sun always shines, everyone is beautiful, life really is picture-perfect.

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So why do I hate this vision of loveliness? Surely I should put aside my reservations about the self-preoccupation it encourages, lose my scrooge-like gloom and delight in the glory as, without doubt, there is inspiration to be found there. A striking photograph can tickle the imagination and encourage creativity. I applaud that.

I also have no problem with Instagram firing up a little envy in our bellies. Envy is not a dirty word. Feed it right and it can be the kick we all need to help us reach our potential. No, it is the marginalisation that I hate.

Instagram can ruin a day. Just like that! Put yourself into the mind of a vulnerable teen. A photograph can proclaim loudly: “See! Over here! Look at us! Having fun! Living life to the max! Without you, you loser”. That’s what it can say. Not only to you, but to the whole word too. The humiliation is complete.

Sketch of a girl looking depressedWe all remember how tough life can be when you are growing up. On top of the pressures we had as children, there is now the danger of social media highlighting your weaknesses. No rock is unturned, nothing is sacred, and secrets are public. With Instagram there is nowhere to hide.

Regrettably, I don’t have an antidote. Non-participation is no solution, as it merely seems to feed the beast. It illustrates ever louder how completely out of the loop you are and that doesn’t help anyone. Forced into a corner, it seems that the way forward is to take an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach, which perhaps explains why the number of subscribers has grown so enormously.

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My only other suggestion is to hook up with a group of mavericks and together mount a campaign to use Instagram for some good. We know Instagram’s following is immense so it could be a massively constructive tool for rebalancing the books. I think it’s time to #keepitreal. Anyone else?

About Imogen Jamieson

I live in rural Surrey with my family and when not attending to their every whim or holding down my part time job, I enjoy writing. The seemingly insignificant highs and lows of every day are what interest me and I observe small successes with pleasure, empathise with the bad moments and seek subtle humour wherever possible. I also love a good chat over a cup of tea.