One would think, given the way the Internet often functions, that posting a self-esteem booster on your Instagram in the middle of an international social and economic crisis would be enough to get you “canceled,” if only for the extreme narcissism of it. But as this worst-case scenario has become our reality, one thing is certain: if a global pandemic can’t stop us from posting photos of ourselves, nothing can.
Not even a government-enforced lockdown, apparently, can relieve that familiar fear that you’ll disappear into the ether if you don’t post on social media to remind people of your existence. If anything, that dooming feeling seems to be amplified by the current circumstances—like your own family may not know if you’re O.K. unless you post a bikini photo from the other room. The excuses we invent as reasons to post pictures have always fascinated me, and during the pandemic I’ve seen these elaborate justifications reach new creative heights. Sorry, did I say “creative”? I meant redundant.
If a global pandemic can’t stop us from posting photos of ourselves, nothing can.
This is nothing new—redundancy has always been what social media thrives on. Anytime that anyone posts something that performs well, everyone else immediately hops on the bandwagon. That’s especially true now that there isn’t a whole lot to work with, conceptually.
And so, for my latest installment of Everyone Posts the Same Things, I share with you the Lockdown Edition …
The TBT Posts
Throwbacks are a classic, and like the boxes of pasta you panic-bought at the start of this pandemic, they last forever. Narcissists have hoarded photos of themselves since the invention of the front camera. It’s almost as if they’ve been waiting for a photographic drought, and now they have it. This is the throwback’s real time to shine.
TBTs are no longer scrolled past with an eye roll for the blatant attempt at posting a photo you’ve always wanted to post but never had the chance. All of a sudden, they’re a welcome format that “connects us” during this dark time. People really do have a reason to be “missing this,” and everyone is missing everything.
The gist of throwback captions remains the same—“Take me back!”—but there’s an added twist: Now they read, “Back when we could [Insert “touch,” “go outside,” “see friends,” “eat at restaurants,” “actually choose to stay in,” etc., here].” The “choices” are endless. Today, Take Me Backs aren’t just reserved for last year’s vacation pictures. They can be pictures of you in the bar down the street or even literally just you on the street without a mask.
The “I Got Dressed Today!” Posts
Wearing clothes is something all people have in common as it is a law. Yet, people have begun acting like it’s a phenomenon entirely singular to them, updating us constantly on how and in which ways they are dressing. “Felt good to get dressed today,” wrote every single person in my feed one recent morning. I am super-glad that felt nice for you. I’ll keep it in mind if I ever get sick of wearing comfortable sweatpants in my own home. I may be reading too much into the posts—these people may very possibly be dressing up specifically for that photo and to use that caption.
Making matters even worse are the people putting on crazy outfits for their posts. You’re not a six-year-old girl on her way to Disney World. This is not Halloween; this is quarantine.
Closely related to outfit posts are the What My Hair Looks Like Today posts: “This is my first time washing my hair in a week” and “I haven’t washed my hair in a week” are popular options, both used for photos where their hair looks so good even a Pantene model would be jealous.
The Hobbies Posts
I could feel the chaotic energy of people scrambling to think of new hobbies from my bedroom. What I didn’t predict when we were going into this was that most of the activities celebrities would post about in all their glory would be slightly off-brand menial tasks regular people already do to survive, like cooking, cleaning, and crafting their own C.D.C.-recommended face masks. Although it’s been really amazing to see stereotypes being shattered by models showing us that they do, in fact, eat and read.
People have been kindly recording themselves making smoothies, iced lattes, and cookies, in case you didn’t know how—making me consistently have to resist the urge to comment, You know we have YouTube, right?
There’s an ongoing competition for the quaintest hobby and who would fit in best in Little House on the Prairie. Those who aren’t good with their hands have settled for joining the race in “who can delude themselves into thinking that what they’re doing is entertaining to others.” I don’t know how we would get through this time without even more podcasts than we had before and acoustic sing-alongs via the horrendous audio of your Photo Booth video. I’ve seen multiple people actually D.J.-ing for people on Instagram. They play music so other people can listen to the music they are playing. They win.
To everyone who has downloaded MasterClass, I am so excited to witness your future empires. Your brilliance and motivation will help us impede this recession.
The Natural-Selfie Posts
Another mission people have bravely set out on is showing their followers how pretty and desirable they are despite home confinement. As if they expect us to be shocked that they look the same, and it’s a testament to their natural beauty that they haven’t morphed into some Shrek-like ogre. Natural Me In My Natural State selfies are taken in favorite corners of the house—the backyard, the bathroom, or the bedroom, always with an L.E.D. ring light set up—each photo serving as proof that they don’t need professional hair, makeup, or weekly injections to look as good as they always do. They can still look hot solely with photo editing.
The Disclaimer Posts (A.K.A. “I Know This Is a Really Scary Time and I Didn’t Know if I Should Release This, But … ”)
Regardless of how many of these posts there have already been, this person still isn’t totally sure if they should post this. They’re not sure, but they’re releasing it anyway, and they want you to be aware that they are aware that “this is a really scary time for all of us” and that “everyone feels crazy,” and I just want to tell them we know without their telling us.
The Unsolicited-Advice Posts
These individuals have taken it upon themselves to help the rest of us cope during this time. “What are you guys doing to stay sane in this time? Here’s what I’ve been doing,” “Love yourself a little extra today,” and “It’s okay to not be productive!” are just a few of the many insights flooding the Internet right now. Has anyone ever read advice from anyone on Instagram and been, like, “Wait, I should love myself a little extra today …”? If we decide to go outside, it will most likely not be because you captioned a photo that perfectly complemented your already perfect grid with “Go outside!” But I acknowledge the good intentions.
We do not want your playlists or your movie recommendations—or, rather, we might, but be honest and don’t just use this as an opportunity to curate some aesthetic you want people to know you by. And if you feel the urge to share your skin-care routine, please don’t. If at this point you haven’t already found your skin-care routine somewhere between the Vogue vids and the Glossier girls, then give up.
The Photo Dumps
Photo dumps have been circulating on Instagram for at least the last year. The idea is just to post whatever, but, like, it actually has to be whatever. The less context for the photo, the better, and none of these slides would have purpose without messy photos of you and your friends and one messy, eaten-off plate. Unfortunately for us all the trend that started with gross aesthetic dumps has now collabed with quarantine into the dumps from hell.
Every slide in the 10-slide maximum is used every time and is a compilation of every post I’ve psychoanalyzed here.
Jokes (and my unmanageable hatred for social media) aside, please keep doing whatever brings you joy during this time, and, most of all, keep posting. Without all the pictures of your quarantine hobbies, I would have nothing to fuel my only activity: scouring the Internet looking for anything to evoke any kind of feeling inside of me. The world is going to be different in many ways after this, but it’s comforting to know that, no matter what, our need for recognition on the Web will never go away. So keep doing what makes you happy, and I hope you carry your new, unintentionally eco-friendly ways of living into the post-coronavirus world with you.
Cazzie David is a columnist for AIR MAIL