Me, inventing the selfie with a disposable camera in 1995

Me, inventing the selfie with a disposable camera in 1995

I am an intermittent Instagram user.  And when I say user I do mean it in that drug addict kind of way.  And when I say intermittent that is because I've learned I can't actually handle having it loaded on my phone all the time; because it is addictive, it steals time from me, distracts me from my real work and many times it does not leave me feeling good.  And I know I'm not alone.

But lest we think this is a totally modern problem, please enjoy this little vignette from Sylvia Plath, the writer of perfect sentences, from her short story "Day of Success".  Even though now the orange-flower tea has been replaced by green juice and home-made nut mylks, maybe as we read this piece (that was written around 70 years ago) we will recognize ourselves and even more than that, feel a little less alone in our true responses to "social media".

"Thumbing through the smart fashion magazines in the doctor's office that afternoon, waiting for Jill's regular check-up, Ellen mused darkly on the gulf separating her from the self-posessed fur-feather- and jewel-bedecked models who gazed back at her from the pages with astoundingly large, limpid eyes.

Do they ever start the day on the wrong foot? she wondered.  With a headache... or a heartache?  And she tried to imagine the fairytale world where these women woke dewy-eyed and pink-cheeked, yawning daintily as a cat does, their hair, even at daybreak, a miraculously intact turret of gold, russet, blue-black or perhaps lavender-tinted silver.  They would rise, supple as ballerinas, to prepare an exotic breakfast for the man-of-their-heart - mushrooms and creamy scrambled eggs, say, or crabmeat on toast - trailing about a sparkling American kitchen in a foamy negligee, satin ribbons fluttering like triumphal banners.

No, Ellen readjusted her picture.  They would, of course, have breakfast brought to them in bed, like proper princesses, on a sumptuous tray:  crisp toast, the milky luster of frail china, water just off the boil for orange-flower tea..."

Be good to yourself, don't fall for too many digital smoke and mirrors.  All of that aspirational stuff out there might not feel how you think it feels.