Is It Any Wonder?

By Alison June 5, 2024 6 Min Read

It started with one tiny reel. I watched a woman line her lips and then paint them a beguiling shade of pink, and before I knew it, I found myself watching silent Japanese ladies do the same thing over and over again, in ever increasing segments of the frankly ridiculous because shoving a whole lemon in your mouth in order to draw a line around it not only looks demented but makes for the most ridiculous of pouts when it is removed.

Next I saw a woman cover the tops of her feet with an entire tube of toothpaste. No explanation. She was just standing there looking down at her minty-fresh tootsies. Then I sat through five whole minutes watching actual paint dry. No really, five frankly enthralling minutes watching chalk paint fade into dusty soft colour, swiftly followed by two minutes watching a pair of flip-flops being adorned into abomination, and a few seconds of being lectured about my abject failure to use my feminine wiles to trick men into buying me the diamonds I don’t want, because us women apparently have black magic tingling in our fingertips. Sorry, what was that? You didn’t know either? Well apparently all it takes is a little abracadabra and frankly some shamefully toxic, misandric gaslighting, and lo and behold a trip to Dubai in a private jet will be yours for the taking. So yeah, On it like a Bridgerton bonnet.

Hmm. What was next? That funny lady who reminds me daily that if it ain’t cheesy, it don’t go down easy. And the “Sensational” six foot seven man who sings the praises of all women’s bodies and overshares his kinks along the way. Thereafter twenty-nine thousand ways to cure the cystitis I haven’t got and ten ways to spot madness in women who have mistaken their purple hair for aesthetic preference and a giddy little adventure in the hair dye aisle when really it is proof, according to the whims of a VERY ANGRY man, that they have lost their marbles and need to be avoided in Tesco. (Rude). Then five more Japanese ladies applying lipliner, a girl hiding an entire lipstick in her mouth so she could sway into an imaginary exam without her imaginary teacher noticing, a man shouting in his car about heaven knows what, an Irish kid swearing his tiny socks off and a partridge in a pear tree.

And I breathe it all in as if it is the very oxygen I need to survive. As if more, now, again, will satiate something I do not know I am yearning for. As if I will not be whole if I do not watch that cute little Russian man in the bow tie try out every life hack on the planet, or start my day screeching in joyous delight with Frances Bourgeois because the train of his his dreams has just choo-chooed on to the platform. So. Much. Content. In a world where we have quite forgotten how very valuable our time on this Earth is, and more pertinently, how very quickly it slips out of our grasp.

I want to tell you that I have the answer to what is a sort of mass numbing of our our once vibrant senses. But I don’t. I am probably worse than you are, because as my anxiety ebbs and flows so too does my need to anesthetise it with things I need to know. All those things I find myself enthralled by, bored by, irritated by and disgusted by, in equal measure. Not so much an addiction to the reels themselves, but to the emotions they inspire me, the sense of curiosity I have long nurtured through the written word, but now satisfy with an endless stream of who knows what’s coming next (oh how addictive curiosity can be!). When frankly the algorithm knows EXACTLY what is coming next and is currently serving me a rather unedifying diet of boats and compost loos along with a never ending stream of things to do with cottage cheese and cats who won’t swallow worming tablets. Too much fun is going to kill me don’t you know?

Back in my art school days, radio was strictly banned in the studios because it was, we were told, spoon-fed and spoon-fed culture meant an absence of choice and discernment. We could, if we chose to, play tapes we had brought in with us while we worked, but under no circumstances were we allowed to pop Steve Wright in the Afternoon on and get on with fashioning Madonna style pointy bras from reams of coiled crepe paper. Spoon-fed entertainment was common, apparently, in fact, somewhat beneath us and it spoke of lazy, uncultured minds and a failure to make authentic choices. And because I am a girl who likes to do as she is told is the rightful way to do things, I have not listened to radio since.

So I think what I need here is for someone to pop along and say ENOUGH, already! Or an arty looking type in a linen blazer to stand at my shoulder and frown upon my dubious cultural choices. Enough with shouty men and lip-liner! Enough with all those absolutely irresistible kittens and puppies! Enough with the recipes you are NEVER going to remember to make! Enough with that Irish man your sister sent you, who makes you howl with his mock outrage and enough with that pretty little girl who despite being surely only about twelve has lived twenty lifetimes of heartbreak and spins it all into poetry she speaks directly in to the camera. Because I am no better for listening to poems and knowing how to fashion pancakes from yoghurt. I find no solace in listening to forty-three different teenagers earnestly explaining everything from ADHD to angle-grinders, and if I hear Beyonce tell me This Ain’t Texas while I’m watching another woman draw foundationy stripes on her face, I do believe I might just go viral myself, contoured cheeks, clouting stick and all.

Once upon a time I read constantly. I chose what I read, what I learned, what I consumed and I think I was better for it. For a mind quiet but for that information I picked like daisies, carefully making sure it enhanced the posy that is my life. I think, I could hear myself think then. That I could hear my own thoughts, in my own voice, without a running commentary provided by those in my imagination viewing my life in a so-called “reaction” video. I think I knew more then. Vast seas of stuff I treasured knowing, not snippets that spill like marbles: in one ear and out the other. I think I was a better person, because I trusted my inner voice and did not take to Instagram whenever I found myself with a problem, in order to have my instinct verified by random pop-psychologists and memes I hoard like precious stones ready to chuck over the heads of the sorry and the sad. Life had purpose because I was always carving my own path, not sitting on a bench waiting for life at its maddest and most irrelevant, to pause before me and inspire a “reaction”.

I’m tired of it and I don’t know how to step off the gravy train that is the relentless consumption of the carbiest of “content” – a veritable feast of sugar and spice bloating my brain and nulling original thought, and worse, making me feel shy because I don’t want to add to the noise despite it being my actual job to create my own symphony of sorts. Damnit… there are no easy answers, but I do believe we may need nothing short of a revolution to overturn the insidious temptation of an endless round of so called “content” served up not by creators but by the digital answer to “dealers” selling us stuff more addictive than crack, because in the process of cultivating our own addictions we grow to hate a little bit more of ourselves by the day.

Is it any wonder we aren’t quite what we were? Food for thought. Toothpaste for toes.

Skip to content