On this day in 1990, Taylor Dayne’s “Love Will Lead You Back” peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. That useless fun fact was just an excuse to share this hilarity with you —
What’s the name of that thing that happens when something new erupts onto the scene and we all get so into it until it dawns on us that it’s overrated and frankly a bit ridiculous? You know what I’m talking about, pet rocks and acid wash. Regardless, I think we should do that with texting.
I see you’re laughing at me. But hear me out… (Oh you can’t? Because this is technically a textual message too? I can play ball, irony.)
When you hit that little green ‘SEND’ button on that fancy iPhone of yours, you’re essentially agreeing to throw a textual grenade blindly over the wall of physical separation into somebody else’s life. I know we all like to believe that when that person receives your text missile, they’re just sitting on comfy chair in the sun having just finished laughing at a great pun or taking a commercial-style sip of a refreshing Coke, primed for your chosen message to hit their brain waves and alter their mood in the fashion of your choosing.
Sure, sometimes we want nothing more than for those little guys to pile up in the “Messages” app. In fact, I used to get totally bummed when I would go for a long run and come back to a phone with zero missed anythings. I even managed to recruit a friend willing to blow up my inbox every time I shot him a “Going to run…” text. (Thanks, Tommy H. Owe you big time.) But more often than not, that is not the case. Life happens and is it fair to ask us to ignore those happenings to answer the call, sorry text, of 2013 communication duty? Like, maybe I just want to wallow in my own busy life and problems and not feel compelled to respond to that freaking GIRLS meme at the moment, AMIRIGHT?
Plus, some texters out there hold you do your texting track record, asking why you didn’t answer when they told you about their office party or the reason you haven’t texted them back in a while. And sometimes honesty doesn’t feel like the best policy… “I didn’t text you back because there was a chance my kitchen was on fire at the same time my dad was choking and that stress outweighed the need to respond to the comment your co-worker made about your skirt, Sheila. Okay!?” Not to mention the fact that since I don’t work for a hardcore traditional newspaper, my journalism degree — and the many grammar-based classes it required — have served primarily to set me up for a life time of mentally inserting commas into the damn texts.
Lately, my own phone has become the literal bearer of bad news. My poor homepage is currently relying on WitStream and Instagram to soften the blows of real life outside the iWorld and kindly dissuade me from shooting the messenger or, more accurately, shattering the poor guy. (So far, so good, iPhone. Breathe easy.)
When I was out for a few rounds of beer and karaoke with my latest writing cohorts, my phone decided to become a forum for my high school friends to fire off thoughts, prayers and memories regarding close-to-home suicide news. When I was happy and laughing, my phone decided to become a place to confront the immediate grim realities of that recent break-up and deal with those blurry communication lines head-on. And for more than a year now, it’s been the mailbox for all news and updates about a best friend’s boyfriend and his terminal cancer.
I’m certainly not complaining about the presence of those messages and the very real people, emotions and situations they represent. Quite the opposite, I’m very thankful in many ways, but I can definitely say this year will go down as the “Year of the Phone Call” for me. (Is that on the Chinese calendar?) It’s easy to shoot off Whaddup’s, and Whatcha doin this weekend’s and how are ya’s, but it’s a bit tough to really know for sure. And trust me, nothing answers that question more honestly than a giddy laugh on the other end of the phone or the break in a friend’s voice that says, “I’m about to cry so say something cheeky, yet understanding to make me feel okay about letting that happen.” (Well, that’s how I interpret that, at least.)
It seems like it should be about time for us to swing back around the “how we communicate” curve, right? We started with sending human messengers… then letters… then freaking tapping out Morse code (it was a weird time)… then phone calls… then emails… then texts… are we back to human messengers yet? Good news, we don’t have to train horses or form GPS-less caravans that take five years.
Bottom line is, whenever we’re all ready to be done with this epic 21st century thumb workout, call me.
Maybe we’ve never enjoyed looking at life exactly as it is, but when it comes to adding a healthy dose of delusion to our perspective… Rose is out. Lo-Fi is… or Nashville… or Brannan. And we have Instagram to thank for that.
Recently, a friend sent me a blast from the past name of a fellow high-schooler I should follow on Instagram. Why, you ask? “Her life just looks so cool,” she texted, “I think she’s a model now.” This insta-recommendation yanked me from my months-long social media-induced daze and forced me to take a good long look in the mirror (Okay, well the front-facing iPhone cam) and run through this line of questioning:
Well doesn’t everybody’s life look cool on instagram?
Isn’t that like kind of the point?
And then the horrifying thought —
Am I just trying to make my life look cool online?
(These are the types of big time existential topics my brain takes on during those 15 minutes of takeoff when you can’t have your iPod on.)
I mean, according to my Instagram feed, all I do is hop from one major American city to another and drink there in an endless cycle of happy hours. Oh, and sometimes I paint my nails. It all adds up to be a weird little summary of me as a person and not exactly the legacy I’d like to leave behind.
I can see the tombstone now —
“Here lies Christina Honan. Never met a cheese plate she didn’t like. Friend to all OPI polishes.”
The feeds we all cultivate summarize rather loudly and obnoxiously what stage in life we’re in and how freaking awesome it is to be there. If you’re young and hip, cocktails and appetizers forever! If you’re still in college, campus shots and beer pong pictures! You can tell I don’t have a baby or a dog, because of the lack of hundreds of photos featuring either of these subjects. In fact, my favorite sarcastic caption to use is “LOOK AT HOW MUCH FUN WE’RE HAVING” because isn’t that what we’re all doing with that app anyway? Scary to think that caption might come across as being a lot more earnest that I’d like.
I can’t decide how ashamed I should be at myself for partaking in this camera-crazed culture. Mostly because I never used to take pictures and now I do and I think future me will appreciate that in some small way. But I recently read a GQ blurb saying that friends don’t let friends insta-brag, calling all users to calm down with the “faux-humble” captions. While I’m not a fan of such captions, is there really any other way to do instagram without insta-bragging?
Nobody clicks “likes” the drab realities of day-to-day life. Anybody could take a picture of their alarm clocks at 6:30am on a Monday when their hair looks like Edward Scissorhands, but why not hold off with that camera until there’s an artisanal cupcake in front of you? Or at the very least, an artfully crafted cappuccino. We all have to admit that from babies to champagne, the finer things in life are downright photogenic.
I’d be careful what you wish for GQ, I just might follow up on these non-braggy instagrams you call for. But before taking that leap, let’s picture a world in which our instagrams are accurate and ask ourselves: Is honesty the best policy?
The Realistic Instagram Account
- 1. Midday PJ’s — Working from home? Congratulations! You found a job that doesn’t require actual pants! Move over fashion bloggers, it’s time for the new gratuitous outfit shot. Matching pajamas are out. In? T-shirts from high school paired with sweatpants from college.
- Instagram Filter Chosen: Walden
- Likes: 1
- Comments: One very concerned one from mom asking if everything is okay.
- 2. The Coffee Stain — All the world’s a stage and my best recurring role is “person who spilled coffee on her shirt while out and cannot change.” My character’s super power is the ability to go from “polished and put together” to “lazy and unreliable” in the blink of an eye! You may have seen my work in college, any major city or a Starbucks near you.
- Instagram Filter Chosen: Earlybird
- Likes: 3
- Comments: Aww, just change!
- Reply: Won’t be home for 6 hours. :(
- 3. Procrastinating going to the gym — this is the part where I change from pajamas to work out clothes. Long live elastic! But do I dress for yoga or a run or weights or… Nevermind, here’s the snack I started to eat while I was deciding!
- Instagram Filter Chosen: Nashville
- Likes: 8
- 4. NonFamous People Work — Does this filter make my job look fun? How bout now? You may be following a few national geographic photographers and famous actors, but I think this excel spreadsheet is just as important as the work that they do.
- Instagram Filter: Lo-Fi
- Likes: 12
- Comments: Nerds are the best!
- 5. The Hangover — Bradley Cooper not included. Remember all those fun cocktail pictures last night? I don’t! Here’s the aftermath! Even the Kelvin filter can’t save my skin in this picture. Advil, water and nearby toilet present, but not pictured.
- Instagram Filter: Don’t even bother.
- Likes: 18
- Comments: Yikes, bro.
- 6. Pissed Baby — Is your baby smiling and wearing an adorable outfit from J. Crew Cuts? Cool, mine is screaming and throwing peas at the walls in public. Check it out.
- Likes: Surprisingly, a lot.
- Comments: LOL
- Reply: Not funny yet.
- 7. The Cry Fest — I know I’ve been fake laughing in my last 18 pictures, but all I really want is a good cry and now that sad dog commercial is on and I can’t stop!! #NeedTissues!!
- Instagram Filter: Sutro
- Likes: 27 (they think you’re being artsy, not pathetic. Kudos)
- Comments: Why are you so gorgeous?
- 8. The Hospital/Accident Shot — This is a mashup of a few pictures including my totalled car and my bandages! Just got in an accident and had to get some stitches! So #blessed #thankyou #love #God #lucky #car #accident #safe #alive #hashtag #hashtag
- Likes: Too Many
- Comments: Ranging from “Really?” to “OMG, Thinking about you!!”
Maybe those cocktail shots aren’t so bad after all, GQ.