Alice in Instaland

We are only as real as the last Instagram picture we posted or at least thats how it feels sometimes. If I haven’t posted a picture, am I even a real person?

Or is it the reverse? Maybe that person on Instagram is just a fictitious ghost conjured up by a hyperactive social media manager or one’s hyperactive imagination.
My timeline is flooded with people who seem to be as light as gossamer, so fine and delicate and so transparently unreal.
Their day beginning with freshly washed faces, never mind that you aren’t supposed to see the ‘looks like nude’ make up or filter, to the now mandatory yoga & pranayama picture. India sure has woken up late to yoga don’t you think? Everyone’s doing it now. And if you aren’t posting about it then it can’t be counted. Sorry go to the back of the class.
Then of course the picture of the organic bread and the freshly grown dill from your home garden. Or that picture of the sun peeking through the clouds. Not to forget the little lecture in the foot note or caption about the latest brew that’s going to ‘cleanse you’.
My mind is now taken over by ginger.. or was it lemon or perhaps honey?
I swear if I had to buy all the ingredients that are going to cure me that I read about in a 1 hour short browse of social media, I would need an extra room in my house.

Then there are the ‘jump on the bandwagon’ kind of folks. They jump onto whatever is the latest flavour of the season when it comes to political or social activism. So today it’s a post about CAA and their cute little banner (not sure if they know what CAA stands for) and tomorrow it’s BLM (“It’s something to do with African American people” is about the extent of their limited information).The following day it could be a pair of folded hands for some migrants or floods because, and that’s the key “because”.. it’s all part of the construct.
The construct that’s replaced the real person. It’s who they want to be seen as but most often it’s not who they are. Doing the real work to try and become that person you want to be is just too tedious!

Why bother reading up, getting context, learning, discussing and in short educating yourself, when all you really need is a photograph. All it’s worth really is just the time it takes to put the picture up and then it’s banished from their consciousness. Then it’s on to the next picture..

I wonder though, about the mental dissonance that must happen when that construct clashes with what’s expedient.
As in if the constructed persona bemoans the tragedy that is COVID-19 daily on social media with heartbreaking posts about migrants losing their jobs, and then puts his or her phone down and proceeds to cut their domestic worker’s meagre salary because they haven’t been able to come to work. I wonder if they even see the hypocrisy. Maybe they have a little cupboard in their minds where they put away all these contradictions. If they don’t, their minds might explode one day I feel.

Then there are the people I call the ‘Wisdom givers’. These are not to be confused with the once a year social activists described above.
So right after the yoga post, is the wisdom or what we call ‘Gyan’ colloquially in Bharat.
To give the wisdom you need the right picture. You really need the green of tree, the blue of the ocean or the varied hues of the setting sun. (That sentence feels quite full of poetry, maybe there’s scope for me to be a ‘Wisdom Influencer’)

If you don’t have those photos then despair not. You could make do with a picture of some steam rising above your coffee cup, a book, or better still any blurred awkward angle picture of any mundane thing around you. The rule of thumb is: the more mundane, the greater the level of enlightenment. Is wisdom really wisdom if it isn’t accompanied by the requisite slightly out of focus photograph?

However remember if it’s a book it can’t be a thriller or some top of the charts fiction. No sir that won’t do. It has to be a self improvement book or something esoteric. Always non fiction.. After all you are trying to appear intelligent here.
These folks give life’s little pearls of wisdom every other day, primarily to complete the picture of being Buddha reincarnated.
With all the little Buddhas filling up my timeline, I can just sit back and get enlightened by proxy these days. Who needs a Bodhi tree when I have Instagram right?

Then finally and by far the worst in my humble opinion, are the advertisements masquerading as real life experiences. At least back in the day I knew an advertisement when I saw one. There was a product, a model, a story, a jingle and a tag line. Clear as day.

Nowadays every Instagramer worth their salt is selling you something. The problem is that you wouldn’t even know that they are sales people. They don’t have the designation or the visiting card but let me tell you, they are the best sales force. Even though some might argue that what they do may be bordering on the unethical.
Let me explain.

So here I am happily scrolling through my feed and low and behold yet again I come across a friend or acquaintance who’s telling me about the superlative results of this magical cream that she just discovered or this magical property he stayed in. It could also be that 100% natural diet tea that’s going to take off those love handles, or that fabulous Vacuum cleaner that they are using (never mind that that the person has a domestic staff of 4 and wouldn’t know where the power button is on that appliance). Or maybe it’s the magical fat free, gluten free, sugar free, everything free protein bar they just ate.
It’s all magical and the magical truth they neglect to tell you is that they are getting a more than magical amount of money to say what they’ve said. In short it’s a paid promotion and the paid bit is often conveniently left out of the narrative.

It’s just so confusing to sift the wheat from the chaff. My mind becomes like sludge in the process.
It’s so hard to know the truth, the reality anymore.

It’s also true that every human since the beginning of time has always sold a version of themselves to others. That’s not a new concept. We have always put our best foot forward for public consumption. That’s human nature. However nowadays it’s not limited to putting your best foot forward. It’s creating a proverbial best foot. It’s constructing a persona that doesn’t really exist and selling it not to people in your life, but to an audience who you don’t know at all.
Earlier you wanted to impress people who you knew and whose opinions had an impact on your life. Nowadays you want to impress an audience who you don’t know at at all.

It’s life in reverse and I fear a whole generation will wake up someday and find that they aren’t real. That all they are is a set of pictures and a whiff of air. No matter, no substance and ultimately no real identity.
That is my fear..