This article originally appeared on VICE Germany.
I hate the beginning of every new year. I never know what to do with myself—with all these blank months stretched out before me, mocking me for not having a plan for them yet. It makes me feel like I'm trapped in a video game, stuck at a level that I don't fully understand. Should I be collecting coins? Beat up an enemy? Just wait it out?
During these uncertain first months of the year, I have found some solace in closely following that one segment of society that always seems to have its act together—professional Instagrammers. The kind of people who don't just live—they lifestyle. They consistently look radiantly beautiful in their selfies, raising their glasses of Moët & Chandon to a "new year, new me! Many exciting projects to come!" I might be a bit of a vlogger myself, but the only "exciting project" that I have lined up for 2017 is to learn the complete Thriller choreography. Which is exciting, but not the same thing.
Life, I suspect, is better when you're living the kind that attracts followers on Instagram. People always say that Instagram isn't real and that it's toxic to compare your life to that of others—which I'm sure is well-intentioned advice but also very boring. I happen to love comparing myself to others—and if others can do it, why can't I fill my life with #goals and filters that make every captured moment more meaningful? It might just be the only thing to get me out of my extended January blues.
I went to an event for bloggers and social media influencers once, which turned out to be just a presentation of electronic household appliances. I did socialize with two food bloggers there, who told me that puréed chickpeas taste exactly like cookie dough. So with the wind of this experiment in my sails, I decided to start my week by making chickpea cookie dough for breakfast. I have all the ingredients in my kitchen cupboard already—chickpeas, milk, sugar, vanilla and cocoa-nibs. Call me Gwyneth.
When I'm done mashing chickpeas, I get into bed with my laptop and a fashion magazine because that seems the most Instagram place to consume my questionable breakfast. I caption this moment in my mind with a heartfelt "Breakfast in bed!" and treat myself to the first bite. I quickly realize, however, that puréed chickpeas do not taste like cookie dough at all. They taste like deception. Everybody knows that food bloggers are the most dastardly of social media influencers, but I didn't expect them to outright lie to me. Something tells me this will be a very long week.
After yesterday's disappointment, my day didn't exactly take a more Instagram-y turn. So today, I am determined to try harder. After lunch in a restaurant, I force my boyfriend to take an outfit-of-the-day picture of me. I've spent 45 minutes putting my outfit together this morning and have brought my SLR camera to lunch, just so we can perfectly capture how casual and spontaneous I look today.
Mid-shoot, I realize that I need bare ankles to pass as a style-conscious Instagram star. I take my socks off and leave them on the pavement just out of view. How style-conscious Instagram stars survive with bare ankles when it's freezing outside is something I haven't entirely figured out yet. When we're done, my boyfriend and I select a picture out of the 50 he shot—one that says I'm #workingit.
Popular people on Instagram do yoga, that's just a fact. None of them seem to do it to relax, though—you'll usually read a caption like, "I was in a meeting, then rushed home to do some yoga." Why not just do some breathing exercises while taking it easy on your way home, then? Anyway, I manage to squeeze in a 20-minute yoga session today.
I decide to do it with the help of a yoga class on YouTube. The instructor tells me to imagine that I am "inhaling a golden string through my nose." If I were actually inhaling a golden string through my nose, I would absolutely have a panic attack, but I must admit that the yoga exercises really are very relaxing. So relaxing in fact, that I fail at taking a proper #selfie while doing it. And if I haven't posted a photo of it on Instagram, did I even do any yoga at all?
It might have been the yoga, but I wake up at 6 AM. Like a spider in his web, ready to attack an unsuspecting insect, I wait for my boyfriend, Dominik, to wake up so he can take a picture of my back while I pretend to be asleep.
It sounds simple, but it takes Dominik about 5 minutes to make sure I look casual and relaxed while fake sleeping. After he's perfectly positioned my limbs and takes a picture, we have breakfast. We go to a place that I've seen pop up on Instagram a few times, that serves something called "acai bowls." The bowl itself is alright, but I struggle to take a proper picture of it. The lighting in this place is a nightmare for influencers like myself, to be quite frank.
As if that wasn't bad enough in itself, I realize that I've spent four days as a professional Instagrammer and still haven't been invited to some kind of promotional event with other Instagrammers. This is unacceptable. My sudden rage drives me to invite my most beautiful friends to a trendy bar for drinks and finger food. Some of them show up, but when I try to explain what I'm doing, none of them seem to care. They don't mind taking a selfie together, but when I start discussing what hashtag we should all be using here, I get some extremely blank looks. Not much later, we share the bill, and then I hurry home to do some yoga.
As much as I like making fun of professional Instagram stars, I have to admit that being one for a week is exhausting. It's not easy to constantly try to find little moments in everyday life that could potentially be interesting to share with other people.
And on top of that, wild monkeys have taken better photos of their everyday moments than I have of mine. Whenever I try to make a flatlay (when you're shooting items from directly above), my hands start shaking. I now have about 52 shots of an acai bowl stored on my phone, which keeps giving me notifications that there's "not enough storage space left on device." The biggest help this week has been my boyfriend, who I'm exploiting like an intern at a fashion magazine. But whatever—my life looks amazing, and everything's going really well for me right now. I'm in a really great place in my life.
If I'm going to have a successful and prolific life on Instagram, I need to give food another try. I decide to bake vegan, sugar-free blueberry muffins.
Although it's not mentioned in the recipe and nobody I know is gluten intolerant, I choose gluten-free flour for my muffins—I'm not sure it'll count as pure Instagram baking if there's gluten involved in the process. When the muffins come out of the oven, they taste absolutely awful, but they thankfully look fancy enough to use as a prop in my attempt at a #flatlay above.
Today is the last day of my experiment, and I seem to have the whole thing down. I wake up early, prepare a healthy breakfast, and go for a jog—mostly so I can then post a picture of myself in my jogging outfit. My followers seem to appreciate the plan—I'm racking up likes even before I've left the apartment. It's freezing outside, though, which is unfortunate. Since I'm one of those people who open their mouths widely while jogging, a bit like a golden retriever does, after a few minutes, my throat starts to feel like I've swallowed razor blades.
I go home—it's been five minutes, but my followers won't know. I do feel a bit guilty, so I bake some more—cookies this time. These ones are made with 400 grams of sugar, no sign of chickpeas and packed to the brim with gluten—but at least I've actually made and ate them.
Life as a professional Instagrammer isn't as easy as it seems—and, coincidentally, life in general isn't as easy as Instagrammers make it look. It's possible that my real life is just too boring to be followed by a bunch of strangers, but I suspect I'm not alone in that. I just really don't like dealing with the pressure that comes with pretending life is always well-lit and that there's an inspiring lesson to learn from every mundane moment.
Oh well, I try looking at it this way: Chickpea cookies are to actual cookies what Instagram moments are to actual, spontaneous, wonderful moments in life. And that thought alone could just be enough to beat my extended January blues.