I knew I was someone’s kooky aunt the first time I leaned over to a stranger in a restaurant and asked what he was eating. I didn’t end up ordering the meal; I just wanted to know what it was. When I stopped feeling embarrassed over these kinds of interactions (asking strangers what they’re reading on their Kindles, asking anyone with a good-looking iced coffee where they got it) I feared a bit for what other filters might drop. Would I take to singing loudly in public? Chime in on conversations happening in public bathroom stalls adjacent to mine? Develop a strong craving for red reading glasses with polka dots?
Perhaps. Once the self-diagnosis of kooky aunt begins, the symptoms reveal themselves slowly, steadily and one-by-one. But where it manifested the strongest was in my urgent, impatient need to know what absolutely everyone is wearing at all times on Instagram.
I was spoiled by bloggers. I don’t follow many, but the ones I do tag their photos with diligence. Crease-free hair tie down to toenail polish, they show their cards, palms open. I also appreciate that they tag locations — plus other important things that I might need to know in the case of an emergency. I began to count on the fact that I could tap a photo (lightly, so that the tags appeared, but not so intentionally as to like it, god forbid) and be provided with a dossier of information. Information that I could use, or not use. Like the diner’s meal I inquired about, I just wanted to know what the deal was.
Habit fully formed, I found myself pressing photos of my friends, colleagues, adversaries and non-friends whose pictures appeared on my discover feed, in search of answers their lack of accompanying copy failed to reveal. Everyone was too sly with their captions: too vague, too pun-y, too reliant on emojis. Their words told me nothing and their tags didn’t tell me shit. Great selfie and clever line, but who makes your earrings? Where did you wear them to? Who makes your lipstick? Who designs that couch? Who’s in that photo with you? It’s rude! True, in theory, I may have few qualms about asking you but in reality, I have even less time; I’m scrolling! This is my lunch break. To be a civilian eating a meal without a sign on your forehead that reads “chicken marsala” is one thing. To post an intriguing style photo with titillating content and zero context is quite another.
“But I am not a blogger, Amelia. It would be weird if I did that.” You are a human, human! Have some decency. What if I want to buy the shoes you’re wearing? I don’t want to twin any more than you do, but shopping sucks for everyone. Together we could make this easy. To not tag is unhelpful, not to mention borderline stingy. It is the equivalent of withholding a pie recipe because you don’t want anyone else to have it. Save us both the trouble of a DM-slide and just tell me!
Now, do I follow my own rules?
…Not always. But like I said, I haven’t yet lost all my filters.