We’ve all imagined what it would be like to be famous. Having a chauffeur driven Mercedes to cart us around town, designers lending us Swarovski encrusted creations for award ceremonies, enjoying endless white sandy beach holidays, getting photographed in our sweat pants at the corner shop, posting selfies without fear cos we know we’ll get 1 million likes anyway, and so it goes on…
When we trudge out to work each day and wait for our bus to arrive, we wistfully scroll though Instagram and check out that ‘other’ life we could be living. The one of Gwyneth Paltrow and her work commute… In the back of a (presumably) chauffeur driven car, she recently posted a serene selfie saying: ‘At a red light on this beautiful fall sunny California day, on my way to set for day 4 of #planetoftheapps. @garyvee @jessicaalba and @iamwill are having so much fun.’ (Our bus arrives at this point, spraying us with puddle from last night’s downpour.)
We scroll through to Kendall Jenner and see a snap of her recent journey – onboard a luxury jet with smooth leather seats – captioned, simply, ‘@jetluxlife #JetLuxLife’. We shuffle onto the bus only to find that, as usual, there are no free seats. Dripping with mud slosh, we choose the only other option available to us: clinging onto a side rail, with our noses pushed into the armpit of a neighbouring passenger who appears not to have washed since the Nineties. We feel frustrated and angry. So what do we do? We take out our phones, open Instagram, and snap a selfie. We caption it: ‘Kendall does #JetLuxLife, I do #WetBusLife’. And then we post it. And wait – for all those likes to come in.
By the time we’ve reached Hyde Park Corner, we have 23 likes. Tom from uni has commented ‘LOLS’, Anna from work wrote ‘Same!!!!’, our sister has posted a series of hearts, and some spam account has written: ‘Do you want to get more likes? Follow @LikeMeLikeMe for more info’.
Instantly we feel better. Our hideous journey has turned into an amusing talking point that has humoured 23 friends and strangers. (24 now, we gleefully note – thanks Dave from school.) We aren’t nobodies who narrowly avoided getting stuck in a commuting quagmire. We’re hilarious entertainers whose every day life experiences are fascinating to others. By lunchtime we’ve amassed 52 likes and we’re riding the wave of ‘I’m OH SO FUNNY AND COOL’. In our own little worlds, we’ve become like Gwyneth and Kendall. We now have a fan base interested in something totally banal, like how we travel around.
I strongly believe we post on Instagram to make ourselves feel famous. We want our friends – and/or strangers if we have open accounts – to be intrigued by what we’re up to. It gives our lives purpose, which can otherwise seem very mundane.
Posting things we do to Instagram also means none of the effort we put in is wasted. When famous people make an effort – dress up to go shopping, say – their efforts are snapped and viewed around the world for people to see and admire. When we go shopping…. It’s nothing. If a stranger comments on our outfit it’s a bonus. But with a sneaky Instagram snap, lots of people see it – and like it. It wasn’t all for nothing. In that way, we’re experiencing a little of what it’s like to be famous. And we like it. So we continue to do it.
Fame, as OED explains, is the ‘state of being known by many people’. As Instagrammers, we want to be known, which is why we allow others exclusive access to our lives. Fundamentally it’s about wanting to have standing. We all want to be seen – and to see ourselves – as someone special. In a world of 7.4billion people, it’s frightening to think we’re solitary ‘1s’ in that figure - just individuals the world will eventually forget. However, if we factor in 3,000 followers, or 10,000, or 100k, we automatically propel ourselves to the realms of ‘less likely to be forgotten’. As the number increases, the greater the chance we’ll leave a mark on the planet increases too. We are someone after all!
Instagram also allows us to enjoy some of the perks of fame, without the parts of it we wouldn’t like. We can get praise for looking ace on our way to a party, sure, but there’s no one uploading snaps of our make-up smeared faces as we, blurry-eyed, tried to order an Uber afterwards. We can post pics of our excellently toned tums at the gym, which is duly admired by our fans (err ‘followers), but no one sees our bloated bellies as we fall out of Nando’s on a Sunday afternoon having consumed an entire chicken and chips plus brownie. It’s all win-win with Instagram.
All this is why people who genuinely have no interest in being famous eschew Instagram, and indeed, all social media. They don’t want to be recognised and ‘followed’ at all, ever. They want a private life. Of course though, in this Big Brother society where everyone wants to know everything about everyone, not having access to someone only makes them infinitely more interesting.
For the fame hungry amongst us, it’s something to think about...