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Tuesday 22 October 2019

Millennial Diary: Ciara O'Connor

Kylie Jenner. Photo: Reuters
Kylie Jenner. Photo: Reuters

Ciara O'Connor

After years of joking about it, it's finally come to pass: according to new statistics, more pensioners are using Facebook compared to people under the age of 18.

It's true, pensioners love Facebook. They love leaving comments on their grand-niece's new profile picture saying, "Lovely photograph i am looking at it on my ipad right now!!" They love sharing ancient cartoons involving weird sexist boob jokes. They love bloody-mindedly believing that everything they see on their timeline has been sent to them personally.

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Teens just have Instagram; or Instagrams. Plural. Millennials can't understand how teens are getting all their social media needs met by Instagram because we are still living in 2016. We have one account where we post the creme de la creme of our visual content: the very finest group photos of The Girls at birthday brunches; sparkling and manicured ring fingers with New York/Paris/Rome landmarks in the background; our objectively adorable nieces and nephews; windswept selfies with bae on top of mountains.

Teens have an Instagram for that - but they also have at least one other account for their 'finsta', that is 'fake insta', confusingly, actually more like a 'real' insta with the raw, unfiltered, content from their daily lives for a smaller group of trusted and supportive friends. Their parents do not know of the existence of this account.

They might have another account for their poetry, or their papier-mache, or astrology memes, or make-up tutorials. Each account serves a specific purpose and caters to a specific audience.

Not that Zuckerberg cares - he owns Instagram too.

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A plastic surgeon has coined a name for the trend that the teens who are exclusively on Instagram will be deeply familiar with: rich girl face.

Rich girl face is the name given to a particular 'look' popular with social media child-women whose hobby is non-surgical cosmetic enhancements - fat lips, puffed cheeks, eerily smooth foreheads and sharply defined jaws. The skin is glowy and tanned and uncomfortably ethnically ambiguous (on white women) the eyebrows are dark and luxurious. Essentially, it's Kylie Jenner.

It feels strange to talk about 'trends' in relation to people's actual faces. Trend traditionally referred to things like handkerchief tops, concealer as lipstick, and runners with a wedge heel - things that you could buy, and wear, and then forget forever. But our physical bodies are just as susceptible to the whims of fashion.

The man with the most plastic-surgeon name of all time, Dr Dirk Kremer, noticed a boom in women in their 20s requesting face-shaping cosmetic procedures such as derma fillers, chemical peels and Botox injections. He said in an interview, "The puffed and plumped 'rich face' aesthetic is practically the new Louis Vuitton handbag in certain circles - an instant, recognisable marker of wealth and status.

"Unlike generations before them," says Kremer, "this new class of cosmetic injectee doesn't hide its enhancements in shame. Rather, its plumped-up lips and puffer-fish cheeks are often a source of pride."

Puffer-fish cheeks! Injectee! SHAME! There's a lot to unpack here, but for now it remains unclear whether the name will actually catch on, or whether 22-year-old micro-influencers will simply continue asking their friendly neighbourhood botox-genie to make them look like the love child of Kylie Jenner and Kylie Jenner.

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The death of Mike Thalassitis has made it clear that in 2019 we have somehow reached a point where there are clear but unwritten rules for grieving untimely suicides.

The media will stroke its beard about masculinity in crisis, our broken entertainment world, the insidious horror of social media. Petitions will spring up calling for 'awareness', or 'support'. And Instagram-famous people will post a 24-hour story of paparazzi shots of themselves with the deceased leaving a nightclub along with some sympathetic words. These are the rules.

Olivia Attwood, breakout star of 2017's Love Island who featured in the eponymous and abortive ITVbe show, Chris & Olivia: Crackin' On, broke the rules.

Olivia had a brief flirtation with Mike on Love Island, before ending up with someone else. She posted a picture of the two of them, writing: "Literally don't know what to say. Another one gone too young. Thinking of Mike's family and friends at this horrendous time. You will be missed terribly."

In response, she received several messages calling her 'disgusting' and a 'bitch' for failing to adequately beat her breast. The grief junkies demanded more. They seemed to demand a picture collage put to piano music, or the deletion of all Instagram content, to be replaced with a single black square. A mystified Olivia said that this was a time for the people who were actually close to him.

Mike's story is about mental health. But it's also a story about how incapable we are of dealing with death in any kind of reasonable, healthy or normal way. Competitively performative social media posts about untimely deaths could prove to be the new rich girl face.

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There is nothing millennials like more than when hard scientific research backs up our nebulous neuroses and gives us carte blanche to be the irresponsible unwieldy toddlers that we yearn to be.

Last week, scientists presented the latest research suggesting that people do not become 'proper adults' until they have entered their 30s. Apparently, hard definitions of adulthood are looking "increasingly absurd", legitimising what we have been telling our parents for years - that stopping pocket money is cruel and arbitrary and booking our own dentist appointments is beyond our emotional capabilities.

The move from childhood to adulthood is "a much more nuanced transition that takes place over three decades".

If you'll excuse me, there's a packet of white chocolate buttons with my name on them. It's science.

Sunday Independent

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