This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
Ah, Instagram stories. The little film clips we post about ourselves. Our own mini reality shows. The window to our souls. The vehicle through which people can watch us, and we can watch them watching us, and they can watch us knowing that we know they’re watching us, meaning everyone can keep tabs on who’s watching who, and how quickly. I can’t remember how we got to this point, but here we are and it’s happening.
There are plenty of reasons people post IG stories. Maybe you look fit and need to share your perfectly contoured face with others. Maybe you are legally contracted and need to hit a certain number of swipe-ups to a fast fashion store from which you'd never actually buy anything yourself. Maybe you're feeding a small furry animal, and it feels right to share the experience. Or maybe you just want to check if the people you recently banged are still interested, so you upload something innocuous like a meme, and wait to scan the list for names.
Really though – like your style of clothes and choice of haircut – the IG story is an extension of your identity. It lets people know exactly what sort of person you are; what you do behind closed doors, what your mates look like, what sort of food you eat, what you find funny. This is who we all are:
CONSTANT SCREENSHOTS OF SONGS FROM SPOTIFY
“Guilty pleasure!” you write, in the scrawly neon font, a few raised hand emojis over a screenshot of “Circles” by Post Malone. “Completely underrated!” you write in the next clip, over an American hardcore album from 2005. “FINALLY!!!” you put in all caps, over some Cardi B that just came out. Stop screenshotting Spotify for one single second and just listen to the music. Either you aren’t aware that no one cares, or you don’t give a shit. See also: distant, blurry gig footage, inexplicably for about five videos people have to tap through.
IN BED WITH A FACE MASK, CAMERA ZOOMING IN AND OUT ON YOUR OWN FACE
'This isn’t depression, this is self care!' you think to yourself, after spending the fifth consecutive night in a row in your bed with a face mask on, occasionally taking breaks from doing Buzzfeed quizzes and astrology deep dives to post yet another vid of you staring blank-faced into the camera void. If only you'd paid attention to the ingredients list and clocked that putting both parfum and glycolic acid on your face for five days running would wreak havoc on your skin for the next week.
HOLIDAY PICS OF SUNNY BEACHES, A BOOMERANG OF YOU HOLDING A COCKTAIL SOMEWHERE (ITALY?), AEROPLANE WINDOW SHOTS
You are in your late twenties or thirties. You have a career, possibly own a dog. You seem content, almost as if you… have your life together? There is simply no other explanation as to why you use Insta stories in the way previous generations used disposable cameras.
AN ONSLAUGHT OF MEMES
What this says about you largely depends on the quality of memes. If you are just screenshotting whatever @poundlandbandit made that day, then fine, yes, you too like to have a laugh. If you are posting meme after meme of niche and funny material about depression, astrology and/or Communism then you are obviously a legend and the reason I haven’t thrown my phone out the window.
There are endless types of thirst trap. The dewy, glowy no make-up ones. The casual, before bed, small amount of tit on display ones. The ones you take in the mirror just before you go out. Whatever the case, thirst traps are the best type of story because you’re basically saying “look how fit I am, give me attention” and that’s an existentially radical way to behave in a world that constantly makes us feel like shit.
ART GALLERY TRIPS, HEALTHY LOOKING PLANTS, A BLACK COFFEE NEXT TO A CASUALLY PLACED COPY OF THE ARGONAUTS BY MAGGIE NELSON
You are essentially who I think I could be if I wasn’t always broke, borderline alcoholic and could be arsed.
CONSTANT OVERSHARING ABOUT SEX, DRUGS, MENTAL HEALTH, MONEY, FAMILY
“I’ve been sleeping with this guy and he literally just msged to say he has herpes even though we’re not poly WTFFFF??” you write over a close up of your unimpressed face, before uploading screenshot after screenshot of the Whatsapp conversation, with annotations. When people reply, you upload those too, with hand clap emojis. You’ve been this way your entire life, but the only difference is now technology has evolved enough for you to be able to do it constantly, without interruption, forever.
RANDOM SHIT, LIKE A CLOSE UP OF A LEMON OR A DISCARDED TROLLEY AT THE SIDE OF THE ROAD
We get it. You did Fine Art at Goldsmiths and don't like people.
YOU SEEMINGLY ALWAYS AT THE CLUB
These stories always start off innocuously enough. A few mates on a sofa drinking cans. Maybe someone dancing to Lizzo on a kitchen chair as it approaches midnight. Fast forward six hours and the story bar at the top resembles a tiny row of ants. Every clip is bodies on a dancefloor, techno pumping in the background. It's the ones at the end which are truly haunting. There’s a blurry pic of your flatmate’s tit out. Is that someone doing coke, ‘2h’ ago? It is now 9.12AM. I have no idea how you manage to hold down a job so you can afford to do this three times a week, at least.
JUST PHOTOS AND VIDEOS OF YOUR DOG
You're a rare pure soul who doesn't need superficial validation to make yourself feel good – you just use IG stories for sharing the things you love, which is your dog. Occasionally you might post a pic of your roast dinner with "YUM!” written at the top, or some nice shells you found at the beach. It's semi annoying having to constantly swipe past yet another video of you throwing a ball at this little dribbling beast, but then I remember that the world is dying and you're just out here, enjoying life's simple pleasures.