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Instagram and the New Joneses

Dennis Brotzky
April 9th, 2015 · 2 min read
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I have an ambivalent attitude towards Instagram. Personally, I only log on to see what funny pictures @fuckjerry or @thefatjewish posted that day.

I open the app.

I laugh.

It’s a simple, non-complicated procedure, and I enjoy how reliable it is. I don’t even bother to like any of the posts. I know I’m not normal in this regard. I’m not much of a “sharer” when it comes to my personal life (which has only been reinforced since the Snowden revelations and reading books such as Future Crimes).

It’s such a seemingly innocent activity, though—a natural evolution of sitting on someone’s couch and looking through their vacation photos—quaint, charming, even. Yet, I don’t feel the same immersion and nostalgia I used to feel while leafing through those old vinegar-scented Kodak prints. I scroll through several weeks of Dan Bilzerian’s impossibly debaucherous life, or a single weekend with Gigi Hadid on whatever tropical island shoot she happens to be on, and sure, I’m entertained. But then I look up from my phone and around me at the line in Chipotle and wonder, “What the fuck am I doing with my life?” This is where comparing Instagram to family photos falls short. First of all, I’ve never looked through old photo albums while simultaneously deciding if I felt like splurging an extra $1.80 for guacamole (undoubtedly a small, but significant improvement to mankind). But most worrisome is the presence of a strange and subtle sensation commonly known as envy.

The funny thing is that it doesn’t have to be anyone famous or rich. I used to feel a slight (but noticeable) pang of inadequacy with every poolside, loft party, hot tub, and brunch photo that came through my stream. The photos were admirably un-unique: ten little toes with a background of crystal blue water, sunglasses in the club—bottle of Moët raised overhead, the infamous bathroom selfie at fill in the blank hotel. This was on purpose of course. These WME’s (weapons of mass envy) needed to unleash their payload as quickly and efficiently as possible—their symbolism drilled into us through decades of beer and Pepsi ads. What is it they all say? In the words of Descartes, “I selfie, therefore I am.”

My friends—perhaps all of our friends—are unknowingly participating in a new breed of “lifestyle arms-race”. To simply have people know you’re alive is to subsist barely above the poverty level of social media. Nay, to be truly aspirational, to show you’re serious about your upward mobility in the “fabulousness” game, you’ve got show you’re alive…more!

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