I was the child who would look at you as though you’d just stabbed my mum in the eye when I was asked to donate a crisp from my 80%-air packet of ‘Natural’ Lays. I would then proceed to carefully handpick the most minute slither of demure potato known to man and begrudgingly contribute my tax to the compulsory Sharing is Caring bank. And, if I’m being honest, I still very much am this child, just with longer legs and more of a keenness to have friends. So why do I now – of my own volition – decide to share my pizza virtually with 1800 people three times a week? Why does snot-eating Arnold from primary school need to witness my orgasmic burrata? (Why does snot-eating Arnold still follow me on social media…) I think I have fallen into the oversharing addiction trap, facilitated by one-click-away Instagram. Did I feel neglected by my friends and just generally men yesterday? Click. There. Now you have to see me. And my pizza. I am having a good time.
But I don’t think it’s always so black and white, because most of the time I am having a good time. This is not a question of façades, or a discussion about fakery or deception. I think this actually runs a little deeper – almost like an unspoken tradition. But I am a firm believer that all traditions must be revisited every so often. (I am glad that when I go to visit my family in Holland, I no longer see blonde little white children running around with brown-painted faces). This one’s a tradition that I just can’t seem to shake.
Adults tend to have very strong opinions on the ‘social media’ phenomenon. They come at it from various angles and all seem to feel an urgent need to express their often passionate opinions. You have the expression of, “oh you youngsters on your phones, you forget to see the actual world and look around. Look! There! You just missed the most stunning windmill I’ve ever seen”, which eventually becomes background noise. Then you have the more aggressive take that “you’re all slaves to a metal box”, and here you’re momentarily intrigued, but then swiftly look back down at the three dogs in your metal box humping each other and proceed to share them to the VIP instagramoids: the private story members (the select few that have the privilege of experiencing even more of you and your carefully crafted oh-so-witty inner monologue.) Equally, there are the Opposing Adults. They vehemently defend us and our metal boxes. “Oh, give it a rest Mike, they have every right to do what they want with their phones. If they want to post a selfie on Facebook there’s no harm in that. Selfies are cool! It’s like a self-portrait! I take them too!”
Forget Highlight reels. I have even taken to sharing the kiddie plaster on my disgusting toe. However, I did not abandon the ‘sipping pink G&Ts on a boat by the Seine’ highlight in doing so. It’s not one or the other. The Shrek plaster and the boat are not mutually exclusive to me. It’s highlights and lowlights alike. In turn, the content is doubled. Basically, it has kind of just become a Chanel Fashion week show wherein behind Gigi Hadid and in front of Cara Delevingne there’s a balding hairy-backed man strutting forth, cherub hips shaking like there’s no tomorrow. Anything and anyone can strut down my Insta runway. In a way, it’s inclusive. A completely unfiltered reflection of life in all shapes, sizes, and hairiness.
But it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more I want to express with ‘ironic’ undertones my awareness of the oversharing tendency, the more I overshare in doing just that. And it’s getting a little out of hand… Would I not be a more intriguing and mysterious specimen if I left more to the imagination? But no! I must show you all that I am currently sitting in front of the Eiffel Tower eating cake with friends.
It’s telling that we call them ‘stories’. The word ‘story’ says it all. Because it’s true, it is a story. No one really knows why you’re telling it, and neither do you, but you tell it anyway. Like when you hear yourself telling an overtold anecdote you know half the group already knows and don’t quite know why your mouth is yet again emitting the recycled tale. “Let me put that on my story” – it’s like pinning an experience to the wall or adding a magnet to the fridge. And every new person you meet is a new character – subject to your flash. Essentially, it’s a way to perpetually exist somewhere in everyone’s world.
So, will I stop imposing upon you all four of my cheeses? No. Will you suddenly stop seeing my laughing friend, who soon after was sobbing near the toilets about her emotionally unavailable boyfriend? Absolutely not. You will continue seeing her little face with her arm held up high, dancing to ABBA. So, have I really resolved anything here or come to any conclusion? Probably not. Perhaps merely that I am aware of this addiction and that maybe, as I meander through my 20s, I’ll wake up one day and suddenly no longer feel the need to bombard the world with an excessive amount of Me. I would be lying if I were to say this will be any time soon. One last thing I will add, as I do not want this to get confused. I may well offer to share with you my truffle pasta, but this does not give you the right to stick out your greasy little paw and take any. It is but a figure of speech. A purely humorous, rhetorical conceit. A polite “no thank you” ought to be your answer. And I’ll spare you your mum’s left eye.
Image Credit: Marco Vech/ CC BY 2.0 via Flickr