I’ve become a bit of an Instagram fiend in recent months (shameless promo! Hey, like books, trinkets, records and the odd selfie? Come, follow me). Blame it on the weight of work I’ve had to do. I have this weird inverse correlation with social media where, at times, the amount of deadlines I have becomes proportional to the number of tweets/ posts/ images I also post online. Not always. I’ve been trying to crack down recently. But still the desire to capture and publicise very small snippets of each day has certainly become more compulsive than it used to be…
There’s one knock-on effect that I would never have envisaged though. Since more and more of my ‘real life’ friends have begun following me on various platforms, (and vice versa), occasionally I’ll begin an anecdote, only for them to say “yeah, already seen/ heard about it on [insert form of social media here].”
Case in point. I caught up with a wonderful mate over the Christmas holidays. We hadn’t seen each other in a while. We were browsing a vintage shop together, and I made an off-hand remark about having recently bought a blue, velvet cape (the one pictured in this post). Her response? “Yes, saw it on your Instagram! I was discussing it with someone else. We’re both envious.”
It happened again the other day. I was with a close friend in a café, wearing a yellow kilt. I quipped that I always wore it the wrong way around, because I preferred the pleats at the front. Her response was short. “I know. You wrote about it on your blog.” We both laughed at the slight bizarreness of an observation like that even being possible…
And those are just the clothes-related incidents. It’s slightly more frustrating when you’re burning to tell someone a particularly amusing tale, but your own desire to get it up on social media first foils the fun of the anecdote.
Yet it’s kind of fabulous at times too, the obvious pleasure being that we get to share and talk about things with a much wider group of people, who we wouldn’t otherwise know or interact with. It’s another space for discussing thoughts and films and food and essays and, well, silk pyjamas.
Naturally, for every story or snap that goes up online, there are also plenty more I reserve for a select few people – hilarious or interesting instances that are perfect to share with a close circle, but certainly not the internet at large.
However, there are occasional unexpected results – like when the online leads to marvelous offline moments. A while back, I wrote a post on my favourite cafes and cocktail bars in Oxford. Among their number was Turl Street Kitchen (somewhere I still spend way too much time/ money, but you know, they play Kate Bush and the Velvet Underground occasionally, and you could stay there from breakfast to after-dinner drinks if you were particularly keen…)
At the end of last term I left the library for a much-needed break, and, as I was queuing in TSK, caught a glimpse of a face that looked slightly familiar. I looked away, looked back again, and found that same person now glancing at me with an equally quizzical expression. So I went over and said, “Umm, hi. Do we know each other through Twitter?" And indeed we did! We had a brief chat, and I asked what he was doing in Oxford (he was on holiday) and how he’d ended up in Turl Street Kitchen.
His response? “Well, partly to do with your recommendation.” Yes, really.
Turns out that he and his girlfriend had taken some inspiration from that post of mine on places for damn good coffee. Then, with the best timing possible, his girlfriend appeared, saw me, and fished in her bag – pulling out a printout of that same blog post! The moment of meeting a stranger and her unfolding my words and images out her bag was… really quite something. I spent the rest of the day walking around with a pretty big grin, and telling far too many of my friends about the delightful coincidence that had just happened.
Just one small story that wouldn't exist without the wonders of online life. So, I think I’m ok with certain revelations/ purchases/ experiences/ observations of mine already being old news to some friends. Besides, we all repeat ourselves and I’m not quite as bad as my dad with multiple retellings of stories from the past (although perhaps that comes to all of us eventually…)