A club lay before me. Painted in iridescent colours with a giant neon sign hung from above. The sign flashed out from pink to orange to pink to yellow to white. It read only a single word “Instagram”. Even from outside, I could hear the wild sounds from inside… cries of false compliments and swift nose exhales in reaction to outdated memes and visual comedy.
I peeled back the door and peered in. Immediately I was blinded by flashes of video, image and constant camera movement. It was as though the entirety of the youth population were battling constantly to work angles, master filters and gain false affection. The sound of fake compliments and slightly humoured reactions now was screaming out at me. I was utterly overwhelmed by this social behemoth and I hadn’t even placed a single step into the door.
There was an ocean of bodies and cameras dancing with angle and pose shifts. Lights would go on and off without any hint of a pattern. Dozen upon dozen of makeup artists and photo editors rushed through the labyrinth of people or “‘grammers” as they preferred to be known.
In the darker corners of the room, low hums would seemingly hiss through the air. Calls of discussion, debate and friendly conversation. These corners were built in booths each with a small gold placard labelling it “Direct Message”. From some of these strange entities, I heard harsher words called.
“Disgustingly ugly. Kill yourself”
“Put some clothes on”
“Worthless hundred follower kid”
I staggered backwards in shock. Under the bright lights and superficiality was a layer of pure evil and bitterness. I had expected the struggles to be noticed and the screeches longing for approval but this was astounding.
I drifted over to a young blonde slumped over, camera in hand with tears streaming down her face. I knelt beside her and brushed a tear from her cheek. She looked up and her sparkling sea-blue eyes met mine.
“What’s wrong?” I hoped this was the correct tone for sympathy… and that she could hear me over the constant noise of the room.
“I’m disgusting. It doesn’t matter how many filters or how much makeup I put on no one loves me” She let out a sob and fell into my shoulder.
“You know I don’t think that. I think you look cute. What I think is you’re too caught up in comparing yourself to all these models with big-budget production crews.”
“You’re just saying that…” She stormed away and I lost sight of her in the maze of flashes and bodies.
I was horrified as I scrutinised the area around me. There were countless girls just like her balled up and crying most likely for similar reasons. Unrealistic beauty standards had etched their effects in tears and in some cases harsh and hidden parallel lines. It was in some ways worse than the sharp words I’d seen in the booths. At least the targetted words could be controlled… kept in moderation.
I continued my journey through what was quickly becoming a faded illusion. What I was seeing was nothing like the exterior had made me imagine. No rainbows and happiness were to be found in the mechanical heart of this building.
A dark, graffiti-covered cavern appeared. The area was terrifyingly run down. Had I been driving and had this been a neighbourhood I’d have turned around and broken the speed limit just to get away faster. It loomed and a sense of mounting dread washed over me. Still, I pushed on into this despair out of morbid curiosity and desire to see just the full extent of what happened in this building. I prayed nothing would be worse than what I had seen with the young girl earlier.
It. Got. Worse.
Shady men crept around and every few seconds one would pause to flash his genitalia at a random young girl. Some of them would let out banshee-like screams begging in desperation for nude pictures. I winced before gagging in disgust. It was nothing short of harrowing to see. A few of the girls I saw being harassed couldn’t have even been of age. A fervent desire rose inside of me to stop this putrid and foul practice but I wouldn’t have even known where to start in fixing such an issue.
I sprinted away from the horror. I couldn’t bear to see another girl endure the torture.
I found myself shaking and exhausted in a void of recycled Tumblr posts and constant audio loops of “Deez nutz! ha gotteem” and “Mi name is Jeffri”. The place where memes go to die… a section of the club titled “search and explore”. Laser light effects pathed “#relatable” and “#dank meme” across the walls. A giant green frog crying was a pattern on the floor and obese unemployed men caressed it gently while moaning out repeatedly “Pepe. Pepe my love. All of the rare Pepes”. In some ways, this was even more horrifying than the sexual harassment that had come before.
I could no longer handle the club of “Instagram”. I charged through cameras and beautiful young women being terrorised to escape the hell I now saw this establishment to be. The true colours of the social giant had shone through the superficiality and lights. I got out and never looked back.