Instadads up the ante: 'It's the little followers trailing you around the garden who really matter'
This Father's Day, don't just muddle through like an average dad. Follow Bill Linnane's handy how-to guide for earning major kudos online
Gather ye round my brothers, and let me tell ye of a fabled time, a golden age where a father's job was to simply have a job, and little else. Returning from a hard day's work, he would retire to the drawing room with his pipe and slippers, and nobody was to disturb until he had his tea, whereafter he would depart to the pub. A father was a remote and distant thing, as nature intended.
Sadly, times have changed, and now fathers are expected to partake in a child's life well beyond the fun production bit at the start. So we adjusted and learned, just like we did at those antenatal classes where we were advised on the best technique for gently massaging a thrashing woman who is threatening to murder you.
Some dads have even gone one step beyond, crossing the threshhold from quietly enjoying the miracle of being a parent, to very loudly advertising their skills across social media. These Instadads - like Simon Hooper (@father_of_daughters) or Matt Farquharson (@papa_pukka) - have amassed thousands of online followers, and are therefore better than most other dads who just get on with it.
The Instadads' accounts bring the revelation that parenthood is not all glamour, glitz and Gap catalogue style perfection, as they capture suburban chaos at its most lightly filtered. But with followers comes power - ahead of Father's Day this Sunday, here's a handy guide to jumping on the aspirational lifestyle brandwagon.
Capture everything! Sort of…
The key to leveraging your image from 'just a dad' to influential #brandad is to portray yourself as a put-upon martyr, drowning in a sea of sturm und drang. Context, of course, is key - if your kids empty out bins and throw stuff about, take the opportunity to snap it for Instagram. Kids are great, aren't they? Do not, however, take photos of the actual filth of your home, complete with fresh turd in the hall courtesy of the toilet-training toddler. Nobody needs to be reminded that you can either have an impeccable, camera-ready home, or you can spend time with your kids. The Instadad understands that, much like with childhood itself, reality must be used sparingly.
Kids are always getting up to mischief, and a photo of them scurrying about like ruinous gremlins is sure to bring a lot of traction online. However, it's important to know where the boundaries lie.
DO: be like Stephen Crowley, the Dublin dad who Photoshopped his daughter into mildly dangerous situations and posted them on Instagram to scare his mam.
DON'T: be like YouTuber DaddyoFive, whose increasingly cruel pranks led to him losing custody of his kids. Shouting at your kids due to mental exhaustion, stress or malnutrition is one thing - doing it for clicks is just bizarre.
Remember your ABCs - Always Bring Camera There is no occasion that is not fodder for your online profile - birthdays, Christenings, parole hearings - you are going to need to capture every moment. Always have that phone ready to document your child's first steps, first day at school, or the process of them becoming estranged from you as you obsessively photograph everything.
Gone are the days of the chuckabout in the back yard, where father and child would throw the old pigskin back and forth while a Wonder Years narration plays inside dad's head, assuring him that he has now achieved Cat Stevens' levels of perfect dadhood. The modern dad has no time for leaving the house, what with feeding the beast of his online profile, so instead challenges his kids to team deathmatches on Call Of Duty, without ever hearing the call of his own actual duties. YouTuber Finnball regularly posts videos of his son playing him at COD, and despite millions of views and subscribers, still hasn't become alert to the fact that there might be something slightly Oedipal about a son repeatedly murdering his father with an AK47.
Instadads know that online supports like Rollercoaster.ie or Mummypages.ie are not for them. Instagram is a place of surface only, and the myriad challenges of being a parent are far too complex to be captured in a photo of a handsome dad with four kids and two changing bags hanging off him like the late stages of a game of Buckaroo. Around 90pc of being a dad is either undercutting mum's authority by allowing them treats before bed, or blowing a gasket when someone empties a packet of cheese and onion crisps into the PS4. But instead of all that, just post photos of yourself styled like Hugh Grant's character in About A Boy, all 'kids, eh?' and tightly choreographed mess.
A trip to the shops with the kids is a fun event, when you get a real taste of the logistics of Hannibal's trek across the Alps. Take lots of photos of your kids in the food hall at Marks and Spencer, before bundling them back into the car and going to Lidl to do your actual shop. The modern dad feels that if he manages to get them all to the shops and back without misplacing a single child, he deserves the Military Medal for Gallantry, or even a new set of golf clubs, despite the fact that mum does this three times a day.
All the bags and all the kids, all bundled on a trolley! What a great shot! What isn't great is the fact that they screamed for the entire four and a half hour flight to Lanzarote, and screamed even louder during the layover in Shannon, leaving the poor American soldiers in the lounge area with an even more severe case of PTSD. The good thing about photos is there is no sound, and the Instagrammed child is always seen and not heard.
Precious memories, AKA #content
Remember that scene in Kramer Vs Kramer where the father helps his child cycle a bike? Now picture dad letting go too early to whip out his phone and capture the moment, only for the child to crash to the ground, breaking an arm. This leads to another great moment - the trip to the hospital, where you get to share your anguish about your child's wellbeing with strangers on the internet. Might be best to put away the phone when the social worker asks how the accident actually happened.
Few things in a father's life are sweeter than brand synergy, so why not get some fellow influencers over with their brood so you can cross-pollinate your accounts? So many wonderful opportunities as you force your kids to hang out with a bunch of equally showbiz-primed prima donnas, all jostling for lens time and seeing whose photo gets the most likes. You know, a normal, healthy childhood.
Everything is fleeting Photos used to be a way to capture moments in time, and were so precious that when people were asked what material items they would save from a burning house, photo albums usually made the top three. Social media changed that, for better and worse, and while it is a comfort to see images of other parents struggling with the chaos of a busy home, it never quite relates the pleasures and sorrows of having kids.
The Instadad claims to ditch the sugar coating of family life, but it was never sugar coated to begin with - nobody takes it lightly, as it is, in the end, the only thing of true merit you will ever do. Thousands of followers are a comfort to the ego, but it's the little followers trailing you around the garden who really matter, and their contentment is considerably more valuable than your #content.