I’m showing back up here because the Instagram account @socalitybarbie came on my radar this week (I know, it’s already old news in Internet Time) and I was so entertained/horrified/awed by its 14-week rise to 1m+ followers and the fact that it’s come up in my week like six times already that I started to think about it. A lot. And then decided to share with you my thoughts on why it’s so #onfleek / spellbinding.
But first. In case you are not familiar.
The genius of @socalitybarbie is that she calls out not only the practice of curating the aesthetics of your life into perfect little squares, but also the turning-into-cliche of words like community. Authentic. Connecting. Adventure. Do you read any of those and cringe? I’m particularly heartbroken over ‘adventure’ because it always was one of my favorite words. And I’ve been using it since high school, thank you very much. Ugh.
I’m not here to go into why the satire of @socalitybarbie is so brilliant. You know why the satire is so brilliant. And, as you may have guessed, a few other people had things to say on this subject. I’m here to talk about the language. The language! The loss of meaning! The ruining of sacred words!
The awful thing (well, one of the awful things) about all of these identical lifestyle-envy #PNW Instagram accounts is that they take moments that were so clearly staged and apply words to them that suggest something deep and true.
Authenticity. Being wrapped in a Pendleton blanket sipping coffee you made in a metal French press on top of a mountain overlooking the view is not an authentic moment. When you packed that blanket and that French press, you had that photo in mind. Authenticity is not a #picsoritdidnthappen mentality. Authenticity suggests something shining from inside of you, something imperfect and serendipitous and unique. Everyone has these qualities. Quirky individual style. A signature word that you use even when it kinda doesn’t make sense in context. A crooked smile that you flash 24/7.
Community. Oh, community. Community isn’t your friend who is as into having photos taken of herself as you are (so you can take photos of each other looking away from the camera in front of a white wall and pretend you had no idea someone was taking a photo and filter it and post it etc etc). It’s a church pulling together in grief and love after the sudden death of a pastor. It’s you and one of your best friends laying together in bed staring at the ceiling after eating too much Thai food and having some really real conversations about love and life and telling each other stuff you’ve never told anybody before. Community is raw, it’s vulnerable. It’s unfiltered. It’s the people you don’t have to filter yourself around.
Connecting. It’s not a follow. It’s not a wifi signal. It’s eye contact and listening to someone who is telling you their story without interrupting to tell them yours. It’s holding hands. Connection is selfless, it’s about giving. It’s a “You too? I thought I was the only one.” about something that was making you feel alone before and now you feel not alone. I guess if you were feeling alone in the woods teasing your hair so it looked windswept and leaning your phone against a tree branch and putting the camera on self timer, now you know you are really not alone.
Adventure. Adventure is what happens when your trip/day/life starts not going the way you intended and you decide not to get angry about it but to decide you’re up for anything. Adventure is inherently unphotogenic. Adventure is you and your boyfriend and his friend going on a 10 mile bike ride for tacos only to arrive 6 minutes after the kitchen closed and the friend decides to get drunk and hit on one of the townies and you’re a little hangry and then the 10 mile ride back in the pitch dark fantasizing about pizza and tots with him while she sings to her headphones and then on the exhausted drive home you get a call that her tire is flat so you go rescue her at a grocery store and might as well buy some puppy chow because hangry and you give her a lift and then on the exhausted drive home from that you get pulled over and ticketed because your tags are expired and finally you arrive home and heat up some leftover pizza and nothing has ever tasted better. Nothing about that (…obviously hypothetical…) situation is pretty. But it’s the unpretty stuff that makes a freaking good story.
So what are we to do? Those are powerful words with real depth. And now we can’t say them anymore without sounding like assholes. My suggestion, and my goal: instead of talking about community, go cultivate a community. Connect with someone during the time you’d spend telling us about how connected you feel. Have a real adventure: get caught in the rain on your hike, just watch the sunset instead of watching your phone watch your friend watching the sunset. Do something that is authentic to you, like, actually.
And this is also my thought: your life can still be beautiful. Your Instagram can still be beautiful. Trust me, I’m guilty as charged on so many counts of annoying photo styling. (I’ve tried to cut that out recently.) You might do something that @socalitybarbie satirizes and be thinking, but that IS authentic to me!!! For example. I own a red Vespa scooter. It’s gorgeous and just as photogenic as you would think. But when I bought it, it wasn’t because of the photographic possibility that Italian design holds. And when I ride it, I don’t ride it because it would enhance my Instagram. I ride it because it gives me joy.
So let’s seek joy. Whatever it is, if it gives you true joy, you won’t feel the need to make others feel like they’re missing out. You’ll want to include them. That’s connection, community. Authenticity. And it’s sure as hell bound to be an adventure.
Questions? Comments? Want to publish my article in a widely-circulated publication? Good, we have the same goals. Email wildernessandgold [at] gmail [dot] com.