So, comedian Bo Burnham has songs from his Netflix special Inside streaming everywhere now, and this morning my friend sent me this little ditty about a White Woman’s Instagram. If you haven’t heard the song, to get an idea where he’s going with this, look no further than the song’s chorus:
“Is this heaven or is it just a white woman’s Instagram?”
The stanzas are comprised of lines about the photos white women post to their Instagram accounts, photos of latte art, couples holding hands, and bobbleheads of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I was dying laughing while listening to the song until I started thinking about my own Instagram. “Shit. He’s talking about me.” It’s a little unnerving to feel so thoroughly seen and exposed by a man I’ve never met.
Yet, here are some selections from my Instagram:
Guilty as charged.
The song is, as most observations Burnham makes, dead on. The white women I know all have Instagram pages filled with artsy photos of cute puppies, flowers, birds, food we’ve prepared, and glasses of wine we’ve poured for ourselves. Middle class white women of Instagram, this is us. We couldn’t deny it if we wanted to. The evidence is ample. We’ve all done it, and now we’ve been called on it.
I started thinking about what it means. Why do we share carefully curated scenes that promote the illusion that we live perfect lives of contemplative beauty and genuine art? Are we that superficial and attention seeking? Is that what it comes down to? We also share shots of ourselves without makeup (to prove that we can be brave) and adorable photos of our significant others, children and pets (because we love them), but we’re careful about those too because the Internet saves everything. We are, however, less of a shallow caricature than our Instagram photographic snippets represent and Burnham’s song suggests. We know others will be bored with photos of dirty laundry piles, messy desks scattered with work, children mid tantrum, or groceries on the counter. And we don’t want to share photos that remind us of our struggles with money, marriage, family members, depression, anxiety, hormonal fluctuations, sleeplessness, disease, and death, because Twitter is where that crap should live. Besides, no one wants to be Debbie Downer with her measly 33 Instagram followers.
So, yeah, we play with our iPhone cameras on portrait mode and attempt to portray our white-women lives in the most idyllic way possible. It’s true, Bo. You nailed it. Our accounts are a bit canned, but may I suggest it’s because we’re uniquely positioned to document the positive little things, the things that make life beautiful and worth living despite the unending dirge about climate change, poverty, violence, political upheaval, and racial and social inequality?
I say keep posting those life-affirming-if-a-little-cliché photos of golden retrievers in flower crowns, fuzzy, comfy socks, and footprints in the sand, white-women friends. Put on your floppy sun hat and strike a pose on a quiet beach at sunset. Position your hands so to appear you are holding the Eiffel Tower. Photograph that damn glass of wine you earned at the end of a long, hard day. Remind the world that there is good out there. And, Bo, you go back to singing about straight white males because that is music to our white women ears.