I Love Your Crappy Content

Photo: Getty Images/Maskot

In non-pandemic times, my Instagram feed mostly consists of people showing off: Influencers flaunting expensive outfits and far-flung vacations, foodies devouring Michelin-star meals, celebrities being celebrities, and everyone else just trying to keep up. Now that many of us are stuck at home, though, we have nothing to tout but our own resourcefulness. The impulse to share every single minute of our lives remains, but for the first time in a decade, the clout market has crashed. Your currency is no good here anymore.

Of course, self-isolating looks very different for the rich and famous than it does for most people, but no one wants to see that right now. I don’t find Kylie Jenner’s wine fridge aspirational, or Chrissy Teigen’s cooking tips helpful. I don’t want to see the second home you’re quarantining in, or the cool people you’re chatting with on Zoom, or a “throwback” to the fun thing you were doing 14 days ago, before coronavirus stole your nice life.

I’m more impressed by those making something out of nothing — those who, when left to their own devices, have revealed themselves to be creative, funny, generous, enterprising, and outspoken. Let me be clear: I don’t expect anyone to become a star baker or a fitness buff overnight. I’m actually more entertained by the proud displays of mediocrity out there. Everyone is an influencer now, but everyone is also really bad at being an influencer. It’s unhinged, but also kind of beautiful. Who knew there were so many different kinds of toast?

If you’ve had a conversation with anyone other than your foam roller recently, you know there’s very little to talk about other than bad news. (Last Thursday, “Today is Thursday” was trending on Twitter.) Like most people, I’ve turned to social media for salvation, treading cautiously but optimistically. When I see things like a fashion PR director weight training with a bottle of Tito’s vodka, for example, or a designer fashioning themselves a tiny Purell bag, I feel like I’ve been given a surprise gift. Thank you, Tavi Gevinson, for gracing us with your presence again — this time with a lovely cover of Smash Mouth.

In her New York cover story about Instagram, Gevinson wrote that the internet was best when it was used to “move forward in time” (an abstract concept now) — to be creative in front of an audience that talks back. In many ways, this moment feels like a return to Internet 1.0. The creative energy is strong and positive. It feels almost primal, like a necessary outlet. Everyone’s just messing around, trying to make each other laugh, throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks. Instead of of being envious, I now find myself simply in awe.

One of my favorite things to spring out of this current moment is the Instagram account @wfhfits. It seemingly started as a platform for fashion insiders to show off their closets, but it quickly grew into an exposition of delightfully outlandish style from every corner of the internet.

The point of a “working from home outfit” is that no one sees it but you. You’re dressing to impress and entertain yourself, which means that you’re maybe willing to take more risks that you normally would, and wear what you actually want to, as opposed to what society or the algorithm has deemed trendy and correct. But if you’re having that much fun with it, why not show other people — not to stunt, but to share? This page serves as a reminder that style is best when it follows no rules, and is truly personal.

I think that’s what I find the most satisfying about this current micro-moment of Being Online: the scrappiness of it. It feels instinctive and genuine, less superficial. The swift and utter collapse of just about everything reveals how precarious it all was before — how hard we were all trying to maintain appearances and keep things afloat. To give in to this newly unearthed, collective sense of vulnerability is terrifying, but also maybe a little bit freeing. Your shitty smoothie looks disgusting, but you’re doing great, sweetie.

I Love Your Crappy Content