A few weeks ago, I spent a good half-hour Insta-stalking. It’s okay – we all do it, right?
PLEASE SAY YES.
I did that THING where you go from profile >> to profile >> to profile until you feel like you know far too much about far too many people who have no idea you exist. You eventually give up, but not before you’ve made a mental note to play dumb if Lucy from work ever mentions her old schoolfriend Kim, whose photos you’ve saved to show to the hairdresser. “Oh… Kim? Don’t think I’ve heard about her before…”
This time around, I ended up on the page of a girl who looked like an elf in Dr. Martens. After trying to stop myself from crying over her perfect lipstick-applying skills and naturally even power-brows, I scrolled back up to the top of the profile and read her bio. Part-way through, it said: “BOLD, BRILLIANT + BEAUTIFUL.”
I tried to stop myself from thinking: “What a big-head. Isn’t she embarrassed? I would NEVER write that,” but for each thought I held down, another one squeezed through. It’s true that I wouldn’t write anything similar. If I was going to put together a short-but-sweet alliterative bio on my social media page of choice, I’d never have the guts to call myself “bold”, “brilliant” OR “beautiful” along the way.
If anything, I’d run in the opposite direction. My ‘about me’ might read “Tearful, temperamental and ticklish”. “Creative, cranky and constantly hungry” at a PUSH (although, within seconds of writing that, I would worry that I was about to receive an accusatory DM to ask what evidence I had for referring to myself as ‘creative’). But the three Bs? NOT A CHANCE.
These are some of my most recent selfie captions:
+BIG NOSE STRIKES AGAIN (a vague Smiths reference thrown in for good measure)
+I AM A SMALL BOY NAMED CHARLES (I’m obviously not; I am an average-sized girl named Sophie with her hair tied up)
+REALLY PRODUCTIVE WEEKEND (as I, the queen of sarcasm, lounge in my pyjamas that look just about good enough to share with the internet. You know, the ones without the peanut butter stain on ’em)
+WHEN IN ROME, DO AS THE ROMANS DO. WHEN AT YOUR MUM’S HOUSE, TAKE A SHIT SELFIE IN THE BATHROOM WITH THE GOOD LIGHTING (aren’t I funny *cries into handkerchief*)
Concocting these self-deprecating distractions from photos of my face often takes longer than taking the pictures themselves. They’re just little digs, straight from the hyper-critical part of my brain that wants me to stay home and stare mournfully at my stomach rolls all day while texting my friends to ask if they hate me. But this sort of thing feels vital to me. Gently undervaluing myself counteracts any perceived smugness or arrogance. It’s always a quiet way of publicly saying “Don’t worry, I’m not getting ideas above my station.”
People my age – MILLENNIALS! a word I am sick of hearing because it’s always laced with mocking undertones – are told we’re narcissistic all the time. We’re ‘generation selfie’ (ew) and we love ourselves like our baby boomer ancestors loved the Beatles. KOO KOO KACHOO.
But as I scroll through social media, I don’t see much self-love. I don’t even see much self-LIKE. Instead, I see “Plz excuse my face” and “Return of the double chin” captions, just like the ones I use. As I navigate my way though different weeks, I see my friends constantly questioning their abilities and berating themselves for not going to the gym. I don’t see the three Bs popping up on anyone’s profile or flashing through anyone’s mind, but I’m beginning to wish I did.
I can’t find elf-girl’s profile now – I was too busy freaking out over her bio and perfect face that I forgot to check her handle, and I’ll probably never be able to remember the clicking path that took me to her page. But thanks to her and my strange hobby as a creepy acquaintance-stalker, I’ve seen what I needed to. It’s a good thing to be on your own side.