Article by Beth Dobson
Dwelling quietly in an upmarket café, I experienced the wrath of a new subspecies and a revolution in middle-aged humanity. The instagran. Often hunting in packs, their eagle-eyed scouts spy out the very best grammable locations. Adorned in chic attire, they professionally practice their signature pose whilst their post-menopausal pals direct them encouragingly. Pensive, glamorous, aloof, ecstatic, they can do them all. Flash after flash, pose after pose. Then once the photoshoot has come to a reluctant close, the editing begins. An hour or so later, with a polished tagline and appropriate hashtag, one solitary, filtered image emerges on social media for all to see. The flurry of likes begins and the cycle of the instagran continues.
My first experience of the instagran was in the most unsuspecting location of Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown. Stumbling in from the aromatic street, five Chinese ladies requested a table and swiftly ordered a spread of coffees and morning pastries. Wearing a uniform of broad-rimmed, white hats and kitten heels, they were dressed for an occasion far beyond the casual ambience of the coffee shop. They chatted for a few moments and one or two of them applied a further coat of lipstick, an unusual activity before consuming a hot beverage. The lady in the broadest hat of them all, removed her jacket and pulled another sage, silkier version from her tote bag. I watched on bemusedly as they flicked the wall lamp on and unashamedly released the window blind. Sunlight dazzled through the café and all of the required preparations had been made.The stage was set, the models were preened and iPhones were eagerly at the ready.
Insights into modern day retiree
What followed was an illuminating insight into the modern day retiree. Each woman appeared to have a five minute slot to pose. Utilising the pastries as props and the café interior as a cosmopolitan backdrop, the charade of flash photography continued. Finally once each lady was sufficiently satisfied with her frozen depiction, they flooded back out into the street, pastries half eaten and coffees merely sipped.
Casting my mind to my own dear Gran, such behaviour would have seemed peculiar at the least. Often firmly behind the lens instead of pouting in front of it, even the suggestion of a family photograph was an idea to be huffed at. She was much more comfortable as the photographer, often with her finger over the flash and the peachy blur of her thumb featuring in the top left-hand corner of any snap. Even on the rare occasion that Gran was coerced enough to make a reluctant appearance, she scooted behind the closest cousin and her distorted face didn’t reach the “ee” bit of “cheese” before the flash lit up the room.
It appears, like the snap-happy youths, the older generations are vastly becoming more image aware. Perhaps there’s an element of intrigue in the unrestrained self-presentation of millennials. Perhaps once an experimental baby boomer dips their toe into the crazy world of social media, they’re just as likely to get mercilessly sucked in as the rest of us. Then there’s the pressures of ageing and the expectation to “grow old gracefully”. For those less naturally graceful, the prospect of an enhanced, honed and flattering image of yourself blooming on the newsfeeds of your ex-classmates would be pretty satisfying. In a world full of unfettered photoshop, isn’t it a free for all anyway?
Is any sub-category of humanity free from the alluring grasp of Instagram and its social media counterparts? Perhaps in a few years time we’ll be overrun by a swarm of glamorous grandads and who knows, our most favourite, followed influencers may be those who also receive a free bus fare.
Beth is an avid writer known for her creative articles and short stories. Along with her passions for travel and art, she loves nothing more than expressing the quirks of life through the written word.