I went for lunch with a friend the other day. After we’d caught up on the important things – her recent trip to NYC, what we wanted to eat, which of the middle aged men in the office was being most of a displeasure to work with that day – we moved on to more general topics of conversation.
Some background: I moved into my flat with Rob at the end of last summer. ‘How’s the flat?’ asked my friend, ‘Are you completely sorted now?’
‘It’s fine.’ I said, probably while cramming crisps into my stupid mouth as quickly as possible. ‘No update on that, really, we like living there. The only thing is…it’s not very Instagrammable. It looks rubbish in all photos, it’s SO annoying’.
Let’s just take a moment, as she did, or as I presume she was doing while giving me an ‘are you for real?!’ look, to consider how ridiculous that is. The only thing I have to say about the first flat I’ve moved into with my boyfriend is that it’s not very Instagrammable? Really?
You bet. Embarrasingly, I wasn’t even being mildly ironic; I do genuinely lament the less-than-pinterest-worthy appearance of our flat on an almost daily basis. It’s so far from interior goals, and so far from my own tastes. The whole place is covered in woodchip effect wallpaper, for god’s sake. The ceilings are all artex. The colours are all peach or brown or cream. The curtains are the most heinous print, I can’t even tell you.
And yet…it does feel like home, because it is home. Would I choose the way it’s decorated? No, absolutely not, but it’s a rented flat; we’re not going to be painting the walls, or replastering the ceilings, and while we can add bits and pieces to ensure there are at least some things we‘ve chosen about the place, they don’t make too much of a difference. I mean, I know people like to say ‘oh it’s amazing what some plants or candles or lamps will do’, and it is – to a blank canvas. This, unfortunately, is not a blank canvas. It’s a tremendously dated canvas, but we love the location and it’s a great size and a good price and has nice sash windows, so it’s fine.
Except that it’s not fine, apparently, because I spend a longer-than-I’d-like-to-admit portion of my day scrolling through Instagram, and this isn’t about the shade of peach my landlady thought would be absolutely lovely for the bathroom, it’s about that tendency social media has to make you feel like the things in your life just aren’t as good as others have in theirs. The interiors I see on my feed are all pretty, or rustic, or interesting, or pristine, or searingly cool – in other words, nothing short of double-tap worthy – and so I look at my own home, which I truly love living in despite disliking it’s decor, and I come to resent it for not looking like the ones on my feed.
And my home is not the only perfectly good thing that Instagram causes me to dislike, either; oh no, there’s so much more. A few weeks ago, Rob and I went on a ‘Make Your Own Gin’ experience at Adnams in Southwold. We put off booking somewhere to stay for so long that by the time we did get around to it we had a choice of exactly one hotel, so naturally that was what we went for. The room and the bed were small, the interiors were dated (sensing a theme here?), and the bathroom looked a bit like my nan’s, but in the important ways it was exactly what we wanted; reasonably priced, close enough to walk to the Adnams distillery, breakfast included.
So yes, appearance-wise it was a bit shit, in the way that some old school hotels are, but that was almost endearing, and we had a bloody lovely time. Except, of course, for when I was staring aghast at the room, wondering how on earth I would get the essential ‘breakfast in bed’ or ‘hotel bubble bath’ staycation shot that I was obviously required to post in such an un-Instagram environment, and claiming that we should have just driven home after all.
There are countless other examples I won’t go into detail about too; the delicious and very pretty cupcake I moaned about because I didn’t think it was photogenic enough, the nice building that didn’t look as nice as I wanted as a background and was therefore branded ‘hideous’, and, of course, my own legs/face/hair/clothes.
I am fully, oh-so-painfully aware of how pathetic this is. It’s ridiculous, and shallow, and that’s exactly the reason I’m writing this post. I’m a twenty-seven year old woman, I work with social media every day, and I’ve read more ‘social media is a highlights reel/don’t compare yourself’ blog posts and articles that you can shake a selfie stick at. And yet I’m not immune from letting it make me feel rubbish about my weird textured bedroom walls and my less than luxe hotel stay and my wide, muscular calves that don’t look *quite* the same in a skirt as the long, lithe ones I see every day on the Explore page.
So if I can let my social feeds make me feel like the things in my life just aren’t good enough, I cant help but think it would be easy for others to feel the same way. Young people, for example, or people who are less hyper-aware of how the whole internet thing works, or people who are generally struggling to see the positive things in their life at the time they happen to be scrolling.
What if they come to think that their perfectly lovely family holiday is rubbish, because it doesn’t involve a Santorini sunset and a pristine infinity pool? Or that their New Look bag is a bit shit because it’s not a Gucci Marmont? What if they don’t feel grateful for all the great, important things they do have because they’re so busy thinking about the fact that they’re not the things getting thousands of likes on the ‘gram?
Hopefully, I’m not giving people enough credit, but frankly, I can’t help but feel that social media posts of other people’s homes and holidays and possessions makes me into a bit of an ungrateful arsehole sometimes, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it could have a similar effect on others. Instagram shows us the gorgeous, the aspirational, the impressive and the creative. It also lets us assume that the things that are getting more likes are more ‘worthy’, and therefore if what you have doesn’t match up to the curated reel of hashtag goals, it’s probably a bit shit.
What I’m not saying here is that I want everyone to start posting photos of their washing piles and half eaten sandwiches, in the most visually unappealing room in their house, in poor light. I genuinely appreciate beautiful photos of beautiful things (preferably with a side of frank, real talk). I’m also totally on board with the idea of finding beauty, or at least interesting visuals, all around you, even in the ‘ugliest’ of places. This isn’t meant to be about that though – it’s about recognising that letting social media make me resent the things in my life that aren’t ‘Instagrammable’ is stupid, and vowing to appreciate them instead.
Things don’t have to be worthy of a double tap or a ‘great shot!’ to be pretty fucking great (and that comment is probably from a bot anyway). They don’t even have to be worthy of a photograph. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get back to my granny flat and sit on my ugly beige sofa next to my peach coloured woodchip effect wall, and remember to be grateful that I have a home that I feel safe, relaxed and content in.