Lifestyle writing is all about aspiration, which is code for making people envy you. In our series I Like This Bitch’s Life, the Cut admits that it’s working.
I have been to Portland, Oregon, and enjoyed it greatly. I subscribe to Kinfolk magazine and have modeled a picnic after one of their idyllic shoots. I sometimes imagine a life where my morning ritual is making pour-over coffee, smearing butter and jam on grainy, seedy bread from the farmers’ market, and tucking into the New York Times like I don’t have an inbox. I don’t camp very often, but I like the look of campsites. I once went on a hike and didn’t hate it. And I sense I would benefit from taking frequent foggy beach walks while wearing a knit hat and a flannel shirt purchased from an Instagram-based vintage curator.
I’ve never had the chance to put these theories to the test, because I live in Brooklyn and getting to a foggy beach is hard. I’m an indoor person who longs to be an outdoor person. And so, instead, I fantasize by hate-following the Instagram accounts of people who shamelessly post tableaux of the sort of life I just described.
Emphasis on hate.
Because even though I often yearn to live some version of dat #PacificNorthwestLife, the elaborately documented enjoyment of almond-milk lattes and verdant hikes makes me roll my eyes. You see, humans have souls that should ring a little alarm before they add their 11th hashtag to a ‘gram. When a person ignores that soul bell, I can’t help but judge them, no matter how doggone beautiful that sunrise is and how much I too would like to enjoy it from a lakeside campsite while clutching a tin cup of Chicory coffee. Blatant Instagram posturing requires a certain degree of shamelessness, which is hard to accept in a peer.
And this is the precise reason I’m so taken with Socality Barbie’s three-month-old Instagram. The account was created by an anonymous wedding photographer in Portland, Oregon: She wanted to spoof all the app’s overdone, slightly dishonest, heavily hashtagged lifestyle pictures, so she began staging an auburn, bespectacled, hipster Barbie in Kinfolk-esque portraits. It’s a satire account — the Portlandia of Instagram — but even so, it’s aspirational. I want this bitch’s soulless, plastic, perfect-looking life.
The best part about Socality Barbie (also known as Hipster Barbie) is that it doesn’t matter that she’s fake. For a doll, all that is insufferable about capturing carefree smiles in front of farmers’-market stands, on mountain hikes, and standing under waterfalls becomes endurable, enjoyable, even. At mini-scale those scenes aren’t oppressively perfect, they are pleasing dioramas that make fake life look even better. Socality Barbie is made of plastic and probably a little bit of rubber, not flesh and feelings, like me. So when she claims to #liveauthentic, nobody can question whether she actually is authentic, because she’s an inanimate object. She’s unable to experience hot, burning shame, so there’s no point in judging her. I can just sit back, release judgment, and enjoy her glossy-haired canoeing. Which I do, greatly.
Because here is my secret desire. Currently, my life on Instagram is lacking. Hardly anybody envies pictures of me doing weird things that are basically inside jokes with myself — a combination of self-awareness and living an unphotogenic life prevents me from earnestly sharing moments that are basically staged braggadocio.
But, if I were tiny and plastic like Socality Barbie, I’d have about 1 million Instagram followers and countless like notifications on my bitty Barbie-size iPhone. Someone would hike me up a mountain and pose me there, flatteringly. I could have the picture at the top of the mountain with none of the exhaustion that comes with actually climbing a mountain. Tiny fake me would always be getting caught unaware (literally) while draped over an Adirondack chair, gazing out over a big, blue lake with mountains in the background. Her tiny, shallow life is one I want to live. Her tiny, vintage Pendleton blanket the only one I can probably afford.
My soul for the chance to post a selfie with my perfect, content, sun-dappled face peeking from beneath a knit beanie and deadstock glasses, accompanied by an earnestly grateful (vaguely Christian?) message and about 400 hashtags. I’d sit back, collect the likes, revel in the positive comments, and reap a three-book deal for a cookbook, a memoir, and a follow-up guide to living an authentically inauthentic life.