The great new scourge: Instagram envy

There is apparently a substantial swath of society that stares through the Instagram looking glass every day, desperate to be in someone else's pictures.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read
A scene from Margherita Missoni's Instagram. She has more than 37,000 voyeurs. Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Do you feel inadequate?

Do you look around and wonder if you could have been a contender? A contender for most interesting man or woman in the world?

Do you believe that, if a court case had gone your way, or if you hadn't been a touch tipsy when you met the heir or heiress to a substantial fortune, you would be living the life of your dreams -- and, importantly, posting pictures of it every day?

Some who feel this way are, apparently, resorting to living vicariously through society's latest mirror: Instagram.

The New York Times Style Magazine -- whose rapperish name is T -- tells me that "Instagram has created a new kind of voyeurism -- in which you can look into the carefully curated windows of the rich, famous and stylish."

This seems to be more than merely passing by the window of your local Ralph Lauren store and balefully wishing that you, too, could afford a $150 deep blue polo shirt with a large horse on it.

Instagram, it seems, represents a whole new level of envy. As T (w)raps it: "What is the new Paris, the new Manhattan, the arcade in the age of digital reproduction? It is Instagram: the app built to make you covet your neighbor's life."

I confess that I never knew this. It had never crossed my mind to follow famous designers on Instagram to see how they have redecorated their balconies or touched up their toilets.

But there are people who do.

T explains that just one visit to fashion heiress Margherita Missoni's Instagram engenders gaudy feelings: "A small and square and semipermanent display of Margherita Missoni's balcony that makes you wonder if an antique rocking horse isn't the outdoor seating solution you've been waiting for, although you do not have a balcony, or even a patio, and cannot in fact remember the last time you were outdoors."

Surely you can sympathize. Outdoor seating solutions must plague your life too. Do you go for the wooden bench from Home Depot or the plastic deckchairs from Lowe's?

The truth, though, is that you secretly have higher aspirations. You wish that you could afford the finest things, bought from the finest places. T knows this and interprets: "Instagram is the many-windowed splendor of a younger Bergdorf's, showing all we possess or wish for, under squares of filtered glass, each photographic pane backlit 24/7."

I'm not sure about that. For me, Instagram is a chronicle of what a few friends felt bothered enough to photograph because it made their own lives look a little more exciting.

T, though, insists that these famous Instagrammers, envied by many, actually design their photos with aforethought.

It reveals: "All elements must be carefully staged to look happenstance. Only the crassest Instagrammer snaps a new pair of shoes in a box, or plainly on a floor."

You have been warned. T might think you crass.

So here's what you're supposed to do to be admired and coveted. A chic Instagrammer makes "a display of the shoes, arranging her feet on a shabby-chic desk next to a Grolsch bottle of daisies atop a stack of French translations."

The effort seems painful, the results uncertain. But you have to understand that, these days, every piece of socially networked self-expression doesn't merely say something about you. It is you.

As T helpfully warns: "These are technically still lifes, but in spirit they are actually the new self-portraiture."

We at Technically Incorrect exist to warn you of the techno-psychological pitfalls that you might dive into during your daily life.

So, if you have found yourself succumbing to Instagram envy, please be sure that there is a cure.

It's called: "Unfollow."