If Instagram turns this Andrea Dworkin into Beatrice Dalle, then I’ll pay for it

From 2013, we must make the choice between ‘high vanity’ or a form of snuggly, slow-creeping cyber-slavery
  • @gracedent

A terrific mewling and scuffing of hooves filled the sky this week.

No, not Santa, Prancer and Blitzen, but the sound of cyberspace in a terrible hurrumph about Instagram  – recently bought by Facebook for $1bn – updating its privacy policy to grant itself the right to sell your shots to advertisers without notification or payment. “Instagram? What is this Instagram you speak of?”, I hear some say, employing the dusty tones of an Old Bailey judge being woken for his 3pm milky Darjeeling, his dippy Bourbon and to mumble the verdict on the latest hacking extradition case. Well, Instagram is a highly popular, totally free photo-sharing application which millions of smart-phone users are hopelessly addicted to.

Right now, perfectly sane people, many with university degrees and proper jobs, in fact, people you’d trust to water your plants or post important letters, are letting their bacon sandwich go cold while they photograph it, wang on a pretty one-touch Instagram filter called “Kelvin” or “Earlybird”, then upload it with the profound caption “Nom, bacon butty nom nom!”. Then, as the sandwich grows ever more elderly and the ketchup coagulates, the Instagram user sits staring at the phone, waiting impatiently for the quick-yield gratification gleaned from strangers spotting this picture, pressing a little heart button beside it to indicate they “like” it, and perhaps even writing a little message back saying “Um nom! Bacon samwiddge! In my belly! Nom nom!”.

Food is big on Instagram, so are baby photos – and I know you’ll agree, we all can’t get enough of those – also, shots of people’s desks, non-interesting trees taken from train windows during signal failures, photos of booze, and not forgetting incredibly flattering portrait shots; self-taken, cropped, blurred and put through a Hollywood-style filter. For example, in my Instagram account, I am the erotic hinterland between Helena Christensen and Beatrice Dalle, when the truth is that the person writing this column today – mid-party Xmas season – resembles a sort of boil-washed Andrea Dworkin.

The easy-to-use filters on Instagram are where its real beauty lies. Anything can be staged, chopped, glossed and transmitted in under a minute. If you want to remember life pre-Instagram simply go and find one of your photo albums from the 1990s, taken back before we had access to the pixie-dust that makes pictures pretty. Go and peruse page upon page of closed eyes or devil-red irises, gormless unprepared expressions, sallow skin, spam arms, yellow teeth and thumbs obscuring the lens. And these were the pictures that weren’t ripped into a dozen pieces on the high street outside Jessops on your lunch hour. These were the prime shots which made the £12.99-from-Boots photo album.

Nowadays, we all look perfect on Instagram, like we could be... in adverts selling soap powder! Which is exactly what Facebook and Instagram know and will soon have the right to rope you into. Or maybe just sell your photo to an agency which superimposes your head beside a tube of haemorrhoid cream with the caption “Blimey! My piles are shrinkin’ a treat since I got a load of this inside me!”. “I didn’t know I was a big fan of the musical We Will Rock You?” one might say sadly as one’s face floats by on the 73 bus to Stoke Newington.The fact that I can point this horror out to you, without being quite driven to delete my own account, and knowing you probably won’t delete yours, is testament to how user-charming Instagram can be. As of today, I’ve set my account to private and deleted a ton of pictures, but still couldn’t quite cyber-strop off.

If anything, I saw reports of this uproar as a small pre-Christmas gift. The gift of a wake- up call. Many of us need reminding at least six times a year of the reality of “free” internet. I’ve been told that “if the service is free, then you’re the product” by wise people for the past decade. Still I give away writing on Twitter and Facebook, upload pics on to Twitpic and yfrog, and type away on instant messaging quite unclear who is listening and owns it. With Instagram from January 2013, one must make the swift choice between “high vanity” or a form of snuggly, slow-creeping cyber-slavery. It says much about where we are as humans that many of us would rather have the right to a free filter that makes us look like Ryan Gosling or Nicole Scherzinger than reserve the right to be wholly free.

Has Posh put Romeo on the stage too soon?

I hope Victoria Beckham seeing her 10-year-old son Romeo pirouetting in a mac, waving a brolly centre stage in the new Burberry Mario Testino-shot cross-platform Spring/Summer 2013 campaign makes her happy. Lord knows, it would be nice for something to bring a tiny glimmer of joy to Victoria’s increasingly sad eyes – the ones we’re all politely pretending not to notice and laugh off as “Just Posh being Posh” during the requisite photo call accompanying every family outing. Romeo, still pre-puberty, was formerly that tiny tot one occasionally spotted at football matches, hair combed by his mummy, is now absolutely public property.

There’s no room any more to shout “He’s only a little boy!” or “He’s not the celebrity, I am!” when the media burrows into his life. The downside of becoming a top model aged 10 due to nepotism, the hollow arse-kissing aspect of fashion and our intense need to stare at the fruit of Posh and Becks’s loins is that there’s no off switch on this machine. I hope he keeps his lovely umbrella because I sense a storm brewing.  Beijing cuts to the chase with doom mongers

Beijing cuts to the chase with doom mongers

There aren’t many laughs with China’s human rights policy but I did emit a small snort when I heard that almost 100 people had been arrested for spreading doomsday rumours. You know all those LOL-tastic Mayan calendar, “the end is nigh” jokes we’ve politely tolerated for months? My sides?! China let a few suggestions fly that the sun will stop shining and electricity will not work from December 21, then promptly imprisoned everyone for encouraging social disorder. The world hasn’t ended for these people, but it has got considerably smaller.

Twitter: @gracedent