I have spent the last week fleeing from reality, like a child from the monster under his bed. This is a trait I employ whenever anything threatens to get too real. It’s a trait that’s necessary, redundant and embarrassing. When I feel like this I am rendered unable to explore the world beyond my flat. Bed ridden through events out with my control, and a week that was perhaps filled with too much alcohol, I glare into oblivion in the form of my phone screen. On these ‘sulky’ days I whittle away my time on social media, something that never really makes me feel better. At its best, Twitter and Instagram serve up a joyful reminder that I am part of world full of beautiful things. It allows me to feel as though I have high-fiving friends and sharing drinks from the comfort of my bed, which I’ve spent the last several hours sinking further into. At its worst, it’s made me a spectator; jealous of parties I don’t want to go to, and of people I don’t want to meet. Instagram allows me to peep through the window into other people’s lives, only seeing what they want me to see. They dawn haircuts and style exclusive to their personality; sporting looks I’ve spent the last twenty years striving for. I see people with cool friends, with gap-toothed smiles and racially ambiguous looks. I could spend hours just looking at the life of others, abjectly observing people with qualities I’ll never poses, that live lives I’ll never lead. I feel like a slave whose servitude is confined to his phone screen.
All this does is make me hurt more, because I am not out living my life, because I don’t look like that, because you can’t grate cheese of my abs. I should be out soaking up the joys of life and socialising, not contemplating smothering myself with my pillow. My determination to burst out of this funk is becoming more aggressive. I want to call someone, a girl friend, the guy I’m dating, I want to tell them I need cheering up; more so that I need distracted. Yet I can’t. So instead I try and gravitate myself toward familiar comforts. Favourite movies and TV shows I can watch, or books I can read. But today I feel like that even re-watching seasons of my favourite shows like Buffy become a nauseating chore.
I go back to Instagram, sinking deeper into the waters of other people’s seemingly crystal lives. I stumble upon someone that I can only describe as enthralling. An arresting face with bright eyes, a sharp, defined jawline, and washboard abs welcome me to his page. His looks, his life, his possessions; he is the psychical embodiment of a life I can only dream of; he is, to quote, ‘goals’ – he is my White Whale. His page is littered with moody-yet-innocent pictures; risqué topless photos exposing an inch shy of too much below the waistline. I want to be this person. His complexion is flawless without the need of an app that makes his skin look cartoonish and childlike. This sort of perfection makes me believe that I don’t know what real humans look like anymore. There is one picture that particularly lures me in; He’s sat on his pedestal of perfection, striking a pose that is equal parts natural and prepared. The photo shows him in white Calvin Kleins that perfectly complement his bronzed skin. It makes me so envious I can barely breathe. He’s flying across the world, while I struggle to leave my room – despite an almost worryingly forceful urge to make cheese toast, I am in this bed forever. But then I snap out of it, like a child from a tantrum when he’s been given back his toy. I know I am only gaining a tiny glimpse into this guy’s life; I know nothing of his soul. This Instagram subculture of ‘perfect’ people with alter egos only exists on the internet. How can I be so engrossed with someone if I don’t know who or what he is? It’s hard to separate the Instagram aesthetic from reality. These people, these Gods of Instagram, use filters and fancy cameras to create the illusion of perfection. I don’t want to feel this low, down, depressed anymore. I don’t want to be sprawled across my bed in a way that’s only acceptable after multiple surgeries. But what I am feeling is real. It’s shit and I would trade it for happiness in a second, but it is real, its potent and it’s serving as a reminder that nobody’s life is that great; that nobody always looks that beautiful. Why am I beating myself up for not mirroring the content of these cropped counterfeit snaps? Because when I am depressed my perception of self is warped. I hate my looks, my figure; I want to throw out my entire wardrobe. But in three or four days, although I may feel sad, I won’t hate my looks (as much) because I will have spent time with real people, in the real world, living a real life.
There, in the dim-lit light of an iPhone screen at 7am begins my mission of self-realisation. Being shown carefully plucked snippets of other people’s lives can alter how you see your own life, particularly if you’re feeling down. Who wouldn’t feel ten times worse about their body image if they were glaring into a screen that is currently being illuminated by a presence of demi-God? I will return to these profiles and pages, sometimes it’ll leave me demented and screaming, but others times I will just smile. I am glad these strangers are doing well, because someday reality will explain to them that they are part of the generation that will rebuild this world; as I am; as you are. Real life cannot be connived through several picutres.