Tuesday 22 January 2019

Caitlin McBride: 'Instagram used to be a happy place, now it's smug and insensitive'

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Caitlin McBride

Caitlin McBride

I am in a very committed love/hate relationship with Instagram.

The site itself is the summation of simplistic genius: a platform which is easily navigated and allows its users to do the heavy lifting when it comes to content creation. Unlike Facebook, which is preferred by an older generation, or Pinterest, one of the fastest growing image-led apps or Twitter, where everyone tells you how stupid they think you are for having an opinion on literally anything, Instagram is the online equivalent to a happy place. Or, at least it’s supposed to be.

It gives you a chance to interact with people you never would have otherwise and get inspiration for travel, weddings, fashion, recipes or just about anything else. But you know what else it has?

The highest populous of braggarts I have ever come across. Hubris is an affliction a lot of users suffer with year-round, but it becomes an epidemic during the festive period, which we are now, thankfully, finally free of.

In the run-up to Christmas, there are the inevitable festive engagements, subsequent celebrations, winter weddings or marking first holidays as a couple, family, in a new house etc. All of these are momentous occasions in one’s life and deserve to be celebrated, especially with your loved ones. But, are the strangers in the ether of the internet really your extended nearest and dearest?

Despite its reputation, Instagram isn’t just a surface level interaction. Psychologists often comment in intentionally-shareable news pieces about the dangers of seeking validation from strangers or oversharing every aspect of yours - and in some cases, your children’s - lives. What they won’t say is that it’s time for everyone to cop the f*** on and get a grip.

That gorgeous picture of someone’s tree in their new home? It’s shot at an angle to showcase how high their staircase is, how tall their tree is and thus letting you know the size of their new house (spoiler: it’s huge).

Then, there’s been the purveyors of what I call the ‘pretty ugly face’, comprised nearly exclusively of women, who share pictures they think are unflattering enough (eyes closed, double chin, ‘natural’ hair, etc) to show how 'real' they are, but still look drop dead gorgeous.

There is no intellectual benefit or additional insight in me pointing out that people only put the best version of themselves online. It goes without saying. But, perhaps, we could be more sensitive in not only what we share, but how we do.

If something good, or great, happened to you, then you should share it with the world. Everyone deserves some happiness and you likely worked very hard for it. But when you’re approaching your seventh or eighth post on that same moment, take a step back and think how that might be affecting someone else.

I’m not saying don’t celebrate, but know when it's time to move on, at least publicly. It’s always important to remember that no one is as invested in you as you. And it's even easier to say life is filled with peaks and troughs when you’re in the middle of a peak.

This isn't the ranting of a bitter woman: 2018 was unquestionably the best year of my life. But even during happy times, it's important to do some self-auditing.

So, my only New Year’s resolution is to be more conscious of social media consumption and try not to get too annoyed about strangers on the internet.

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