You’re most likely reading this in a last ditch attempt to kill some time, a quick bathe in the comforting light of the screen in order to escape the irksome drudgery of whatever task it is you’re supposed to be performing. This moment we share in time through the medium of these words will undoubtedly not make it into your autobiography. It won’t burn forever in the forefront of your mind as a constant beacon reminding of you the joys of life.
The reason: life is, for large periods of time, quite dull and these words won’t alter that fact. Unless you’re the love child of Charlie Sheen and Bear Grylls, who’s been possessed by the spirit of Steve Irwin, chances are not every second of your life is exhilarating. My life clearly can’t be or I wouldn’t be writing this in bed with a watery beer that’s past the expiry date, which is almost on a par with going to the cinema on your own.
This is where social media steps in to not only add your own beautifully unique snowflakes of expression to the world, but conversely to erase those large chunks of life which are as interesting to the rest of the world as the length of your nostril hair is to the average African elephant. I cannot speak for Asian elephants.
Life is no longer the pursuit of happiness, but the skilful weaving of a digital version of your life and consequently the constant bombardment of everyone else’s moments of brilliance. Every day the Facebook newsfeed is a constant source of salt rubbed gleefully into the festering wound of day-to-day life. If someone’s not getting sewn to the hip of their partner in the eyes of some god, then they’re busy uploading pictures of the little bundle of mewling flesh they’ve just squeezed out of themselves and are thinking up names for it via some online survey. As you sip your instant coffee in the bleary light of morning, some loose acquaintance is shoving their success down your throat as they reach another milestone of life in some other time zone – probably a selfie on a mountain ridge or they’re instagramming their gourmet meal instead of eating it.
The medium of social media allows us to perfectly filter our lives and to give off the impression that we’re all photogenic, fun-loving, witticism-spouting professionals that enjoy a life of success, excess and unimpeded joy. We all help spin the yarn that blinds us to the truth of the matter, with all the detached nonchalance of 140 characters. Every day of my life is just unbeatably hilarious, just look at it! Look at me! Validate me!
The illusion doesn’t stop, everyone thinking everyone else is leading a phenomenal existence sustained through likes and shares alone, as the toxic tendrils of social media unfurl across almost every aspect of life.
Yet while we may feel like we’re information demi-gods with access to news of events as they happen in real-time, in the flurry of tweeting thumbs the issue of trust is called into question. Opinions are presented as fact, conjecture as evidence and the entire message blurs into a perniciously ubiquitous noise, spreading faster than gonorrhoea at a stag party. The self-styled image of ourselves that we present to others, at work, to family, is amplified and accelerated through social media, where a slight waver of the voice cannot be heard and every image of you has been carefully filtered, edited and approved for the online representation of your life.
Lemme just snap this bona fide polystyrene cup. Why? Because I’m a cunt.
Social media makes liars and fools out of all of us, whether it’s being exposed as the person who sincerely asked when World War 3 happened or something more subtle, such as not agreeing to be tagged in photos so their positive online reputation isn’t besmirched. It’s a lie we all buy into. We all know how it works. At least we don’t forget people’s birthdays and look like dicks as a result.
We hope that all of this mindless chatter and constant posing can be converted into something tangible. Perhaps if you pester your friends with pictures of you doing brilliant things, say reminding the world that you’re packing for that all-expenses-paid holiday and cannot wait to hit the beach, then they will start to think of you in that way, as that version of you. What may have been a moment in time (or a complete fabrication) can become the lasting image of you in someone else’s mind, as they build up a loosely collected assortment of informative titbits from your online updates.
Whether this picture is reflective of reality doesn’t matter so much, because it will be believed; it harks back to the old adage of whether you would rather sleep with a goat and nobody found out, or not stuff the barnyard animal but have the whole world believing that’s just how Saturday nights work for you.
Meanwhile you’re sat there trawling through Facebook or Twitter in the tiny toilet cubicle at work, desperately failing to comprehend how it could be possible to see so many awesome people, with all their unique experiences and untroubled jet-set lives, in quaint restaurants that they probably drove to in some fucking sports car powered on cocaine and champagne – of course it’s a fucking convertible, indubitably Jeeves had taken the Bentley to the garage at the time so they just had to take the Porsche. Good old Jeeves, all of that after having already served up a lobster soufflé that will have doubtlessly infected your newsfeed earlier with the smug air of a self-congratulating food pornographer. Even the fucking lobster has a sense of self-worth and entitlement to it for having been cooked in such a rich, buttery sauce that it knows will convey to a couple of digital thumbs being turned up in rancid applause.
Well when you see this tidal wave of smugness and wonder about how you know all of these people, you probably don’t. It’s the illusion that we’re all happy, young go-getters whose every waking moment is spent living it up like a sordid Pitbull music video. In reality, people are all just walking meatsicles propped up by roughly similar structures and mechanisms as you or me, all bleeding the same blood when we get run over crossing the road whilst gawping at an iPad. How could our real selves ever possibly match up to these brilliantly crafted, happy, beautiful imitators?
No matter how good that #naturalselfie might look online or how many mouth-watering meals are instagrammed, at some point that person will still bow before the gods of digestion, drop trou and scrunch that beautiful face up in excruciating agony as they squat, shaking and doused in sweat, forcing out the faecal equivalent of a dead cat in a soggy carrier bag atop a ceramic shit-throne. This is a moment of life that everyone experiences, regardless of how many followers they have, and yet people restrain themselves from photographing it for the enjoyment of the online thumb-twiddlers, which is one reason to be thankful for the illusion that social media projects. Nobody wants the shit stains of reality seeping through their carefully constructed online profile, just as much as nobody wants to see someone else’s #excretionselfie.