I'm back at home after four amazing days in France surrounded by friends. We ate, we laughed and we talked. We talked, a lot. Sometimes we had unimportant chats about football leagues (snooze) and fake tans (barf) but every once in a while we struck conversational jackpot and picked out subjects worth a thought in the early morning hours.
Amongst the philosophical rhetoric, a conversational subject woke me up from a midday red wine and baguette haze; why is our generation so obsessed with social media?
Now, I know this subject has been overly abused in a multitude of pedantic Guardian articles but I think its importance excuses my bringing it up again. After all, this new craze forms part of my everyday and the possibility of this becoming my only vice scares me.
I must admit that at my age and with a modest but present intellect, I am absolutely and irrevocably addicted to social media. Yes, I am past the interminable Facebook status about what's in my panini and why I think Eurovision was fixed this year but I suffer with chronic scrollingnitis and my recent rediscovery of Instagram has me staging idillic scenes of foamed up lattes and pink perfect peonies. Why? Because I get a thrill every time some stranger double taps me. Can anything be more egocentric, mundane and empty? I know the answer to this but already I am planning my next episode.
Back in France and sat at the beautifully set picnic table, I looked around in search for my friend's mobile devises. Most of them were present. Most of them already owners of the frozen image that was at that moment before our eyes - all it needed was a touch more contrast and a suitable filter to satisfy the hungry wolves of Instagram.
We asked ourselves how many pictures of the trip we had already captured. Between us, enough to fill the first floor of the National Portrait Gallery. Then we asked ourselves, why? Were we likely to forget each fleeting moment if it wasn't captured on our phones? Would the pictures lose their value if they remained unseen by our virtual friends? What's more, would the jolly vacation be less meaningful if the people not present on the day had no idea it had happened. Shamefully, we agreed, it was probably the case.
I believe our brains have been remoulded in the past couple of years. A reality scientifically unappreciable but socially, the change can be cut with a knife. Think how many teens you've seen in a shopping centre bathroom, caked-up to the nines, pouting and bending gymnastically in order to get a good shot of their bright nail polish and Starbuck coffee cup combination. Admit to the quantity of 'bad pictures' it took for you to nail your latest Instagram post. Count up how many images of bacon and pancakes you have presently saved in your phone. Now, for a second, imagine yourself as a kid again. As a teen in the 90s, an adolescent in the 70s and see this new truth through your pre-social network eyes. Does it seem blurred and bizarre yet?
This change, for me anyway, appears to be rooted deep into the nature of our endemic personas; who we are as a community in this precise time, and I have decided we have shifted from innies to outies in the last 10 years.
I recently picked up The Consolations of Philosophy, a great and very consumable read by Alain de Botton (hehe, bottom) which touched lightly on Socrates' compulsory suicide. Isn't it wonderful, I thought, how a man can be so sure of his identity, so secure in his own morals, that even at the gates of death, he chooses to down the poison rather than backtrack on his beliefs?
It hit me that Socrates must have been a very internal man. Blind at times to the outside world in benefit of the sighted possibilities of his riveting soul. How beautiful.
Annoyingly, I've also picked up on the fact that very few people nowadays have that knack for inner wisdom. Few people see past their jobs, beyond what they'll be drinking at the weekend or even (and of this I am guilty) what shade of red matches their colouring better.
This awe in which we view material things has us starved at the heart. We put so much pressure on staying wrinkle free, so much hope on that new pair of jeans that will make our bums look smaller, that we lose track of what's going on inside of us. Our thoughts are drowning in loud music and Netflix, our heads have become mere vehicles to carefully crafted hair-dos and oversized hats.
The innies, great lovers of privacy, unspoken camaraderie and theoretical likelihoods have given way to the outies, obsessed with tucking in tums and the refresh button. We no longer worry about being beautiful because we can be photogenic, instead. We don't have the pressure to form our own opinions so long as we share the right kind of post. And by God, if the noble idea is any longer than 140 characters, I don't want to know about it!
Later on we'll realise just how well our superficial dreams crumble, but for now, let's decide on a hashtag that will entice the following masses.