Once upon a time, summer holidays were a time to relax.
You could shut yourself away in a remote villa somewhere in the South of France, eat cheese till the cows come home and roll in the sand like a feral animal to your heart’s undocumented content.
But in 2017, what happens on holiday doesn’t stay on holiday.
In fact, it happens again and again on your social media feeds, leaving no mid-morning Aperol spritz unturned.
Social media harlots are bad enough in the big city, but in environments were sunsets and bikinis are the port of call, they thrive like a pig in filtered sh*t.
From lashings of lunchtime rosé to perspiring iced lattes, to flamingo floats and hot dog legs, it’s no wonder that there are 83m posts under #holiday on Instagram
The uninvited Insta-guest makes itself known as soon as you reach the terminal: a scrupulous Rita Skeeter spirit, eagerly waiting at passport control to possess the bodies of fertile holidaymakers with the urge to hashtag.
The worst part is that the obsessive drive to document isn’t even constrained by data roaming charges, given that you can now freely use data abroad in Europe.
“It gets to the point when it feels like your friends are primarily there to get a fab beach shot, as though that’s the point of the holiday,” explains Billy Rainbird.
“When pool side discussions revolve around likes and captions, and photoshoots are going on left right and centre, holidays can become competitive vanity projects,” the 23-year-old student told The Independent.
As with most exorcisms, defying the Insta-guest is no easy feat.
As someone who recently returned from a group holiday where followers and filters were discussed more than tanlines and Trump, here are the various ways through which a relaxing holiday can transform entire cattles of human beings into raging narcissists.
The “edits” chatter
One of the most grating things is the idle tattle that social media perpetuates. Instead of “where are the Magnums?” and “why have we run out of prosecco when we bought six bottles?” it’s “which filter makes my cheekbones look better?” and “does this lighting show off my abs?”
It doesn’t exactly make for riveting poolside chit chat, and that’s before you’ve taken into account the great debates surrounding captions.
As all the pros will know, the editing saga far extends beyond the bounds of crops and filters. Modern day manipulations involve a smorgasbord of apps that my friends (and probably yours) are using to fashion themselves as Victoria’s Secret models. You can make your legs look slimmer, your bum bigger and your breasts the size of melons, if you like.
Who said The Sims was dead?
The “likes” chatter
A close runner-up to its manipulating counterpart, the mind boggles at how much time and attention people pay to the number of likes on a single photograph.
If your average “like rate” is around 40, shortfall is like a stab in the hashtagging heart. “I normally get more likes when I’m the only one in the photo,” one friend whispered after someone complained that the bikini shot featuring her and two pals (which took about 40 minutes to capture) only racked up 87 likes when her average is 121.
One morning, in an attempt to steer the conversation sideways and gain a better understanding of this unchartered territory, I asked this friend if she considered herself to be a feminist.
“Nah, I don’t think women are better than men,” she replied.
When multiple photos are taken against the dazzling mountainous backdrop, featuring a few chipper holidaymakers, the question of who uploads the all-approved shot becomes a matter of great political volatility.
Bobby: “Let me do it because I have more followers”
Lisa: “But I have better engagement than you!”
Joanne: “Well, I have an entirely different set of followers so I’m going to upload it anyway”
Bobby & Lisa: “FFS Joanne”
Is this why people take so many selfies?
The innate snobbery
Don’t think this is an exclusively “oh woe is me and all my social media-addicted friends” kind of a rant.
The high and mighty abstainers are no better. Yes, you might be less concerned with likes and Valencia filters than the rest of us, but your incessant “I’m too alternative/busy/cool” jingle is no less commendable than it is believable.
The whole privacy thing
Now this is where things get a little complicated.
When you’re on holiday nowadays, it seems that you automatically waiver any right you had to social media solitude, as just about anyone and everyone can and will post images of you on their accounts without your permission.
As the days pass and everyone wises up to the artifice of posed shots, attempts at atmospheric “candid” snaps might see you getting papped.
For example, I was blissfully bopping on a unicorn float in the pool sans bikini top (#freethenipple) to the infectious sounds of Justin Bieber, when I suddenly spotted my friend filming me on her iPhone.
Minutes later, I was the subject of her Snapchat story: dancing topless for her 100 followers to see.
“Don’t worry about it, you don’t know any of her followers” said one friend, as if that was supposed to reassure me that my tits being aired to the worldwide web against my will was no biggie.
But I do worry about it.
I worry that Snapchat allows these kinds of videos to remain on their platform for 24 hours. I worry that anyone can upload anything of you on social media whether they like it or not and I worry that my nine year old sister started using Snapchat before her eighth birthday.
Now that the summer is over, I will personally rejoice as the Skeeters migrate for winter.
Thankfully, thermals and flannel PJs are far less Instagrammable than unicorn floats and infinity pools.