I have returned to Instagram, re- igniting the flame beneath my dead account – neglected for nearly a year – because, well, it was starting to make me look weird. At one point, really only about six or seven years ago, the act of photo-documenting the bobbins, chaff and stained underbelly of one's life and then presenting it online for the world to inspect, well, that was the weird thing.
Now, opting out just looks like you've got something to hide. I'm sorry, but I don't make the rules. If you refuse to post candid photographs of yourself on an unlocked account, sipping tea in bed at 7am, with a glimpse of bare shoulder and billowing freshly laundered duvet, well then we, the world, will have to assume a dark reason for this freakish secrecy. Why else would you be so secretive? What is wrong with you? And what about your partner, spouse, current bed-buddy? If we can't see this person you rub genitals with starring as a recurrent character in your ongoing Instagram lifestory, then I'm going to have to assume your "boyfriend" is an old, discarded shop mannequin you found in a skip. No Instagram filter is going to make this acceptable.
I, on the other hand, posted pictures on Instagram just this week of the real, flesh and bone, breathing boyfriend who despite me being a pretty much awful example of a human being, tolerates me. And not only did some of Instagram's 88 million users press the red heart "Like" button, one person even said he was a "hunk". This made everything happening with Grace Dent Inc right now feel intensely more valid. Reader, I am 41 years old. Photos of my labrador shredding personal items go down swimmingly, although I doubt anyone wants to see the harsh reality of the dinosaur-level piles of dung she leaves in the garden.
Instagram is about a skewiff sort of truth. I've posted about the charming new cushions I bought for the lounge sofa, but omitted the gaping, dangerous hole in the ceiling left by builders who should really have been dressed as Dick Turpin. Nor did I photograph the grey man from the insurance firm who arrived with a tape measure and whined about his experiences on the rush-hour A12. This is Instagram, for God's sake, I'm keeping it party, party, party. Some of the most lucrative Instagrammers I'm acquainted with walk around all social events with mournful expressions, refusing drinks, canapés and light petting with strangers in order to concentrate on their Instagram feed.
"This party is seriously kray-kray!" they'll type, to the accompaniment of a snap of a mini-hotdog they didn't eat, using that emoji of an exploding party-popper. In real life, the most popular instagrammers – the ones who make those "Best Paid" lists – are more like robots harvesting experiences on Earth for the benefit of a faraway planetary emperor. I will never be this Instagram-proficient. I am of the generation that cannot go to a social event without drinking three large glasses of pinot noir, which means from 8pm onwards all my photos feature me with red-stained tramp's lips. Or the problem is my phone has ran out of battery, because to my generation carrying a spare iPhone battery is only something Tom Cruise does in the latest Mission: Impossible. Apparently today's youth suffer from a thing called "powernoia", which means they turn into a frothy heap if their battery dwindles below 25 per cent. I'm not sure where the future is heading, but I know that an old but completely physically well lady took herself off to Dignitas last year because she was so sick of the march of technology. So my guess is, perhaps the future isn't a good news story.
It struck me as I posted a photo of last Saturday night's dinner prep – agonising over trimming the picture so as to lose evidence of a frankly déclassé brand of spreadable butter – that Instagram has turned millions of us into eager-to-please infant-school brats filling out our "What I Did At The Weekend" diary.
"Today I have gone to the park," my Instagram account says, more or less, "and I saw a big dog and it was a good dog with a waggy tail! Then, me go to shops and buy shoes and pants."
But when I filled out that school diary to take in to Bishop Goodwin Primary School in the 1970s my mother would wrestle it from my hands, censoring anything minutely telling. "And then Mammy and Aunty Claire did drink wine and laugh and then Mammy fell into big plant in garden," I'd scrawl as my mother hovered close by, ashen-faced, clutching a WH Smith eraser.
There was a time in my life when it all happened behind closed doors, with limited numbers of spectators. But for everyone born after 1995 their whole world is a shopfront, flogging the brand "Lovely Old Me". Planet Earth is still as complex and frightening, but don't worry, we'll give it a trim and use a really flattering filter. µ
Instagram has turned millions of us into eager-to-please infant-school brats
the prime of life
I've posted about the charming cushions I bought but I've omitted the gaping hole in the celing