A few years ago, I heard this little gem in a bar: “It’s the best time to be a social scientist, the worst time to live. I am not a nihilist. I am an optimistic misanthrope. These days, social scientists are, of course, busy studying the correlation between lockdown restrictions and social media use. Here are some categories of Instagram accounts in our Age of Lockdown.
The animal speaks
I’m as much into anthropomorphism as anyone else: I’ve often found doorknobs staring at me pleadingly and unfriendly chairs with their backs to me. But I stop before putting words in the mouths of these inanimate objects. That’s no hurdle for pets on Instagram, though. All around me I find puppies and kittens speaking in human voices, like ventriloquist dummies. They even talk in their sleep, under soft blankets in large baskets. They sulk, judge, languish, preen, chatter, boast. Most of the time, they complain about quarantine and relish trips away from home. Ah, modern humans, doomed to truly express themselves only in the guise of beloved pets.
Want to live
Living in an episode of Black Mirror for the past two years has taught us all to appreciate the little things. I don’t know about you, but I joined The Cult of Small Things with chilling enthusiasm. Like others of my sweet and slightly pathetic ilk, I compulsively post pictures of everyday joys like flowers and sunsets in an effort to stimulate a community transmission of joy. From pretty book covers to stained glass, these Insta accounts show more enchanted items than the average Harry Potter movie. It’s a life-affirming treadmill, from corny Reels to transcendental poetry. *posts a photo of this column’s handwriting while sipping a cup of tea with soft sunlight falling on your face*
If aliens intercepted the cellphones of a cross-section of humans and hired decoders to make sense of our words and images, they would conclude that the race spends all its time on two activities: naughty chatter and photography. culinary. The pleasures of the former are too obvious to be stated here; the second fixation is more difficult to explain. Sharing images of cinnamon-dusted French toast and perfectly textured dosas has become a lockdown obsession like no other. In a time when icebergs are melting and hearts are freezing, cooking, serving, serving and eating offer both control and consolation. “The way you make an omelet reveals your character,” said witty and wise Anthony Bourdain. If cooking and photography leave you cold, you can always try analyzing people based on their food posts. Productivity Parade
Salute all doers! Exalted species who not only honor their professional obligations with rare and admirable zeal but also seize every opportunity to explore interests that nurture the soul and Instagram. Type A all-rounders start the day with yoga and perfect, followed by essential reading and grooming activities. When a busy day of Zooming agony, creative outpouring and Excel sheet trawling is over, it’s time to dive headlong into a 5,000-piece puzzle of a medieval painting. With that done, it’s time to conjure up a masterpiece of molecular gastronomy while catching up with the latest OTT sensation, simultaneously tuning the details of WhatsApp chats with inspired GIFs. A state-of-the-art mindfulness routine leads to sleep punctuated with Emmy-winning dreams.
There’s an army of Insta quotes that have the right word for every occasion. Shakespeare and Rumi are the usual culprits, but there are plenty of Oscar Wilde, Ghalib, Nietzsche and other oft-quoted men of varying extraction. Frida Kahlo and Virginia Woolf do a valiant job of tackling the sex ratio as a skewer, with Rupi Kaur occasionally adding her disturbingly vapid voice. Inaccuracies abound. I particularly cringe at the injunction “Write drunk; edit sober. No, there is no evidence that Hemingway actually said that. And even if he did, he might be the last person you should ask for advice. One of my favorite quotes comes from blues musician, Tom Waits: “The world is a hellish place, and bad writing destroys the quality of our suffering. Now all that remains is to find the perfect photo to accompany the quote.
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From HT Brunch, February 6, 2022
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