By the age of 20, some of us might’ve already traveled Europe pretty well.
We know, by heart, all the special corners in Paris or Madrid with the perfect selfie spots. The best part is that we’ve gained this knowledge without spending a dime. Besides, we also have about 50 angles for the perfect selfie in our heads – etched as an indelible memory. Thanks to the scores of ‘travel’ or ‘vacation’ selfies crowding our daily Instagram feeds.
Paris and Madrid are even ‘filters’ we can use for our Instagram stories. On Instagram, everything is ‘instant’: Insta beauty, Insta-fame, Insta-vanity!
Pisa’s tower rightly leans to one side to fit in our heads, if not more, into the frame. The algorithm for the perfect Instagram catch is our generation’s general knowledge. In short, our memories now exist for being validated on social media. Did those special moments even exist had we not showcased them to the world? Do we really even remember how good it felt to stroke the grass if we were not too busy posing for our ‘aesthetic’ Instagram pictures?
At times, we stalk absolute strangers and voyeuristically peep into their private moments. Be it our ex-boyfriend’s new crush or the actress who was cheated on by an upcoming youth icon, or the friend whose graduation gala we attended, we scan through everyone’s profiles.
It won’t be wrong to say that we have embraced a culture that fosters a strange competition of exhibiting our vanity. The better one fares, the more firm is one’s sense of identity. Our generation congratulates us for being ‘liked’. Our appearances, be that of our bodies or our lifestyles, are the ‘like-manufacturing’ tools.
A century is quite an achievement in cricket but in virtual reality, performers measure themselves in units.
Take, for instance, ‘fashion influencers’ on Instagram. While being quite popular, they also embody some of the innate insecurities and image issues of our times. Most of us have our feeds filled with posts from these influencers and Instagram models, but they only sell compartmentalised stereotypes of what constitutes the ‘perfect look’ or the ‘perfect life.’
The devil would be too pleased to hire them as their advocates. The devil, perhaps, has never found a more fitting form to embody modern day body image issues. Unconsciously, we are all party to this cult of worship – of glorifying an utter abuse of reality.
We, as a generation, are super obsessed with our images. We look for cameras with the highest resolution while purchasing smart phones. We look for the best editing and beautification apps that turn us into varying degrees of stylish Voldemorts with our noses flattened to non-existence, eyes turned to nutshells to fit the entire universe into and faces whitewashed like the country’s raging communalism.
Perfect and creaseless is the new motto in virtual reality. And to spend so much time giving audiences to our habitual abuse of the real! No wonder why absurdism is a product of modern civilisation.
With more and more fashion brands sponsoring our aspirations to plastic perfection, I often think of how virtual reality is the perfect place for making us the products that are sold to each that we buy. ‘Un-reality’ finds a healthy proliferation for itself through the virtual space.
We even appropriate the sights and sounds of the natural world for the perfect ‘instagrammable’ shot.
Every second place we go for a vacation, is right up there on our feeds. That lovely pinecone we find on the mountain trail. or the little white pony that we rode on at the flea market – all those curations of beauty are up for the grand Instagram sale. When, in reality, they should’ve solely been for some deeper, more personal pleasure.
We don’t feel validated unless we let the world into our deepest and most private moments. It’s almost as if our moments wouldn’t exist if they weren’t exhibited online.
I see people traveling solo only to create a simulation of a lifestyle – a neo-capitalist simulacrum of ‘the dream life’.
Today, we’ve all become travel and wildlife enthusiasts to satisfy the inner aesthete within us that seeks validation.
What is, after all, the point of taking that edgy picture sitting over the ledge at the crocodile park? Or of the kangaroo?
We do all that to increase the ‘like- value’ of our displays. The dream-travel lifestyle is a kind of hierarchical ambition for the millennial.
Commercialising the idea of ‘travel’ often almost buys our online fame and, at times, offline capitalist sponsors. Solo travels are the indicator of the ‘neo-independent free youth’, one you would really aspire to be like. Travelling with your significant other is the zenith of cohabitational bliss in modern life. We find users banking on these ideas of the modern day wanderer – the brainchild of capitalist nomadism – to garner virtual likes.
Also read: It’s Time to Listen to Millennial Reality
The virtual world shapes the ‘real’. Likes are for sale – literally or metaphorically. So, while wandering into the untouched wilderness, we – the most intelligent species on the planet – can have the decency to leave it untampered.
The reward of that selfie amid snow-laden peaks is rather a reward for the very tedious uphill trek. It’s all about letting the world know that without those likes, we would be half as inspired as with them.
Instagram, Snapchat and their virtual likes are the shelves for actualisation-needs on a modern day Maslow’s pyramid. It would be completely wrong to not talk about the wonderful art, photography, poetry, write-ups, news, doodles, comics and every other thing the platform gives us access to.
It is a medium for self-expression and, rightfully so, it should be. But in the midst of it all stands the cult of us millennials, who worship the unreal and recklessly indulge in vanity. To think of it, a pretty worrying thought for all of us.
Samriddha Dutta is a graduate in English, Sociology and Film Studies from St Xavier’s College, Kolkata. She likes writing short pieces of fiction, essays, and poems.
Featured image credit: Unsplash