‘Not a bad day in the office!’ says the caption, under yet another sidedeck sunset photo. Scrolling through Instagram I feel a bristle of irritation. After a good few years in yachting, a large proportion of my friends on social media are yachties and I wish I had a fiver for every time I’ve seen that post.
Why does it annoy me? Am I just an Insta-grouch or is it a smug-step too far? Because that is the word that I would use for it – smug, and who likes smug? None of us would like to think of ourselves as a self-satisfied horror, but yet ‘on the socials’ it seems to be an acceptable norm.
Maybe it’s a bit harsh to blame yachties and their sunset shots (to be precise it’s the caption not the pictures – there is nothing essentially wrong with wanting to share a beautiful bit of scenery) when most of social media - Instagram in particular - is people bragging/humble bragging about what they are doing, what they look like or where they are going. Intolerable smugness is certainly not exclusive to yachties.
The thing about yachting though is that there are so many opportunities to boast on a photo/video based platform, because if there is anything you can say about yachting, it's that it gives good visuals – it is one hell of a photogenic industry. The locations are beautiful, the yachts are impressive and the people are usually a fit, healthy, youthfully tanned lot. However, the day in day out reality of working on a yacht is anything but glamorous, and I can’t help but find this perpetual pretence that we are somehow living the yacht-guest dream not only irritating but a bit self-indulgent and potentially damaging.
Who are you really posting for when you share the ‘not a bad day in the office’ shot? Or the ‘Wooo look at me with my day-off magnum of rosé at the exclusive beach club’ photo? (Usually after an entire month of polishing winches or scrubbing skid marks off an Oligarch’s underpants). It’s not really for other yachties, since they are all staring at their own sidedeck tropical slideshows/beach clubs.
So is it for your friends and family back home? The ones sitting in, oh, actual offices? And how does it make them feel? I’d take a good guess that apart from thinking ‘oh good for so-and-so, how lovely’ that quite possibly there's a wave of envy, or sadness as they stare out the window at a rainy car park. Along with a lot of Insta-nonsense, it smacks of vanity and the need to be impressive which social media has fully sanctioned.
View this post on Instagram
Imagine, a few years ago, pre internet narcissism if you had insisted on carrying your holiday photos around with you and just spontaneously held them up and said things like ‘look how much nicer my Italian hotel was than your local camping trip’ or ‘don’t I look thin in this one’? You’d be regarded as insufferable! But now, since the dawn of the selfie, the evolution of the ‘humble brag’ and the relentless barrage of other people’s edited highlights it’s just fine to be constantly boasting about how much better/prettier my life is than yours.
Sometimes we get a #blessed thrown in. Please insert imaginary vomiting emoji here. This is the faux-gratitude wheelbarrow that showing-off is carted in on nowadays. I think the theory is: if I gush on and on about how grateful I am to have this beautiful life, you can’t accuse me of being an annoyingly smug bore. Even better if I can shoe-horn in some cartoon spirituality. How many pouting stewardesses have I seen rambling on under their photo about serenity and mental health and god-knows-what, when we all know they’ve posted the photo because it’s a flattering shot of them in a bikini? As the oft-reposted caption says: ‘It’s a mirror selfie Sharon, don’t drag Gandhi into this.’
Being away from home a lot, if we'd like to claim that by posting pictures we are keeping our nearest and dearest up to date on our life, should that not include more photos of vacuuming the main salon, a sweaty six hour washdown or a generator service? I can’t say I’ve seen too many photos of the 1am pantry still piled high with washing up or the capping rail sanded back for the umpteenth time?
I mean, I get it to an extent, I have no desire to post photos of my bedraggled ‘charter face’ (much to everyone’s relief I am sure) but isn’t reality actually a lot more interesting than this edited lie so many of us insist on showing each other? How riveting is the ‘not a bad day in the office’ sun and sand photo really? How fascinating or entertaining or funny is that selfie where your nose looks small and you’ve made your abs flatter? To be blunt, they are actually quite boring.
View this post on Instagram
Yes, dolphins playing at the bow is stunning, and yes our friends and family at home probably do love to see that. Dolphins would cheer anyone up. But next time you go to share the ‘sucking in your stomach on a St Bart’s sunlounger’ shot, maybe think again and post up something that actually tells the story of what your life is really like. Think of the people you love, do you want them to feel a bit crap that they’re not sitting under a palm tree, or would you like to make them laugh with your toilet brush in hand?
The world has been a heavy place this past year, many of us have friends who have worked on covid wards, who volunteered at vaccination centres, and did all manner of helpful and challenging things, even just home schooled their kids whilst furloughed from jobs they never thought of as unsafe. Do they really need your fake glamour and Insta-smugness right now? Or do they need a laugh or an honest insight into a world they don’t know?
There is a saying that comparison is the thief of joy, and there are many studies that show people’s happiness levels and self-esteem are lower after scrolling through social media. If you continuously insist on posting deceptively edited highlights, are you not simply adding to the problem?
If you really don’t want to share a photo of your hair looking like Doc Brown from Back to the Future after making up 16 cabins, and can’t hold back from sharing that photo of your boobs looking pert in Tahiti, then maybe we could at least start the campaign for honest captions? Instead of ‘Sun Salutations on the sundeck blah blah blah’ #spiritual #yoga #blessed, how about ‘HERE IS A PHOTO OF MY ARSE LOOKING NICE DOING YOGA I HOPE IT MAKES YOU THINK I’M HOT’.
Or, instead of ‘not a bad day in the office!’ (sunglasses emoji, palm tree emoji etc etc) how about ‘I’VE GOT SUNSCREEN AND SWEAT RUNNING IN MY EYES AFTER PROVISIONING IN 40 DEGREE HEAT AND I’M QUESTIONING MY LIFE CHOICES RIGHT NOW’.I’m pretty sure they’ll be more entertaining and less irritating than your faux spirituality and ‘gratitude’ any day, and your mates at home might actually like you just that little bit more.