As of 2017, we live our lives online. Not a single drop of caffeine can be enjoyed without being documented, filtered, touched up and shared with a series of complimentary hashtags that will hopefully get you ~ noticed ~. Followers and engagement equal instant gratification and perceived success, something we now crave in droves given the fierce competitive nature of our online personas.
And we say we don’t care, but we do. Even if you’re not a blogger or an influencer, you can’t deny that you get a little kick out of seeing that ‘<3’ tick over your expected average or having an unknown Instagram stalker decide vocally that you are #goals. Even back in the day before Instagram had reached such stratospheric heights of popularity, planning, photographing and editing a selfie so it was ready to post at prime time on Facebook was all part of the teenage game. A new hair cut was a blessing, less so because of the hair itself, and more so because you know any big change in style would usher in a legion of ‘beautiful babes! xx’ in your comments section (as you know I changed my hair A LOT as a teen, and between the massive hair extensions, the shaved undercut and the bright red dye A La Cheryl, I always had time for a series of selfies).
My brother used to scroll through my Facebook comments and question why girls always had to gush over each others latest uploads. ‘Because we’re nice to each other’, I’d reply (although, let’s be honest, that’s certainly not always true of teenage girls), ‘and boys should do it too’. I stand by that even now. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if men felt as at ease in complimenting their best mate’s skin as girls did it complimenting their distant work colleague’s choice in boots?
Fast forward however many years, and a lot of us have moved from breaking our backs to get the perfect peachy butt pic at Liquid Under 18s to seriously creating content for the digital landscape. And even if you don’t work within it, such a large part of our existence is now substantiated by what we post online. How will people know I enjoyed my holiday if I don’t post a couple of geo-tagged images? How will those dickheads from school know how well I’m doing if I don’t humblebrag about my latest promotion? How will my Mum know I’ve not descended into drug addiction and moved into a crack den if I don’t post a cute candid from my latest foray into afternoon tea? (Okay, with the last one, just call your Mum guys.)
I spoke about the importance of discovering the ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature recently and how it literally changed my relationship with my phone, but what I haven’t spoken about at length is the importance of having non-internet people in our lives.
Non-internet people? Who are these hermits, I hear you scream?!
One of mine is my brother. He’s partial to the odd Facebook rant and enjoys nothing more than face-swapping his head with Tudor gentlemen in old paintings, but for the most part, he doesn’t have a clue what the latest ‘Blogger Drama’ is (bleugh) or what the fuck the Instagram algorithm has to do with anyone having a good day.
And he properly takes the piss out of me. All too often I hear ‘but you don’t really look like that’ followed by a quizzical look as he scrolls through my Instagram, or a ‘oh hereeee we go, another picture’ as a notification pings up on his phone that I’ve uploaded a new shot (he seems to have turned on notifications for me, and forgets every time that he needs to turn them off).
Keiran also hates my hats. He says he doesn’t hate them because he’s an impossibly nice person, but every time we’re about to walk out of the door and I exclaim ‘oh wait! My hat!’, I witness his expression turn from that of a man with the impending promise of brunch, to that of a man emotionally battered by berets. Continuing with the trend of my nearest and dearest questioning my sartorial decisions, whenever I ask my Mum to shoot, she always says ‘oh you’re not wearing those horrible jeans, are you?’. FYI, those “horrible jeans” are my favourite pair of Topshop straight legs with a stepped hem; they are comfy, slightly too big for me (perfect for e.a.t.i.n.g. excessively) and an awful choice for making my arse looking anything other than a deflated pancake, but I love them.
I’m not sharing this to name and shame my three favourite people (although they should be ashamed, because my taste in hats is EXQUISITE), but rather to confess the importance of having non-internet people in your life. Of having people that can mock you and help you escape in the same breath, who can say well done for doing well but also instantly bring the conversation back to what really matters - where exactly is that spare packet of Rich Tea biscuits?
It’s important. Not least because it stops us from getting a big head, but also because it reminds us on a deeply personal level that there is more to life than the pixels that we squash together online. Our lives are rapidly turning into that Black Mirror episode where everybody rates their personal interactions immediately after they have happened, and those with lower scores are shunned by one another; individuals with lots of likes and lots of comments are aspirational no matter how contrived or curated their online personalities happen to be, and so it’s so easy to get caught up in numbers and images and shares that aren’t even real.
You can’t hold a like in your hand, and you can’t bank on your online persona living any longer than those ‘crucial’ first 9 squares on your Instagram feed. And it’s refreshing to have somebody remind you of that, outside of your digital bubble. I’m not discrediting the “online” as a very real, lucrative and, to some extent, accessible career path, but what I am saying is that when it goes to shit or even when it goes well, the world keeps on turning outside of your 10GB data limit.