Last November, ex-Love Islander Maura Higgins and her boyfriend Chris Taylor became the latest of many influencers to fly to Dubai to escape the UK’s pesky coronavirus restrictions – just in time for her 30th birthday.
The rest of us may have been locked down, approaching the first anniversary of the last time we saw our friends, but we didn’t have the immunity bestowed upon us by an all expenses paid trip to Mallorca two years ago, did we? Bad luck.
Maura and Chris weren’t the first to flee, nor were they the last. Almost every British reality show had sent a contingent to the United Arab Emirates apparently, from Geordie Shore’s Chloe Ferry to TOWIE’s James Lock. Celebrity Big Brother could only dream of such a line-up.
While Sophie Ellis-Bextor was hosting full-blown discos in her kitchen, influencers tried to tell us that it was apparently impossible to sell suspiciously cheap bikinis anywhere else than within 10 miles of the Burj Khalifa, and along came the performative laptop pics to prove it. Though some didn’t even bother doing that.
Like many of their followers – now locked down like responsible, well-meaning chumps – I had previously explained away my consumption of their content as simple escapism. But as I watched the veneered superspreaders cross the line from vacuous nonsense to unconscionable tone deafness instead, the shiny, distracting hubcaps had come off.
Suddenly following them felt superfluous – I didn’t need to be sold new clothes for parties I’m not going to, and any gossip gleaned had ceased to be relevant over a year ago when the last message was sent in my Love Island groupchat.
I unfollowed all but two of them and found I didn’t much miss anything anyway.
Fortunately, there was solace to be found elsewhere on Instagram and this time, no one had to risk contagion to deliver it.
Following Stacey Solomon, for instance, has been the best decision I’ve made during this pandemic and I chose not to cut my own hair last April so rest assured, the bar is high.
It may seem banal (what isn’t in a lockdown?), but it has become an afternoon ritual for my mum and I to watch along as Stacey posts her daily routine, which largely consists of crafting often deranged, but always charming, homemade tchotchkes and doing her chores.
As Love Islanders continued to pass their trips abroad off as work (a disguise not unlike the humble fake moustache in terms of effectiveness), Stacey was reaching four million followers with nothing but a friendly smile and glue gun, a far cry from the alluring hotel sun loungers others were claiming as essential.
Thank goodness for the Instagrammers like them who found fun in the mundane, at a time when mundane is now the only option
It’s not just celebrities like Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Stacey Solomon getting me through lockdown, influencers like Stacey’s friend and cleanliness expert Mrs Hinch and make-up artist Katie Jane Hughes have likewise been keeping me entertained without having to step outside their front door.
While Stacey was busy making Christmas decorations from pieces of bark she found in the woods, Katie has been delivering a different make-up look daily from her apartment in New York, showing us that – whatever ex-Love Islanders say – glamour is far from dependent on location (though, obviously, what we’d give for hers).
She talks her followers through skincare and eyeliner hacks, dancing to her own personal happy playlist – aptly named KJH’s Happy Playlist – that’s just as essential to her content as a bold eyeshadow and dewy glow.
Swipe right after that, and elsewhere, Mrs Hinch is showing us her cleaning cupboard. Somehow it’s no less enthralling.
The cheap rush of dopamine when you selflessly help her clean her house by tapping through her stories or when you watch her pour fabric softener into an unnecessary and glossily-labelled jar is better than anything I ever got from watching blokes with bad tattoos prat about in a swimming pool.
Between her and Stacey, barely a surface is left unlabelled in Essex, and there’s something altogether calming about the order of it, until all of a sudden, you find your drawers are tidy too, as if they themselves have tricked you into it. In doing that alone, influencers have achieved in a few weeks what my mother hasn’t been able to in two decades.
Perhaps I’ve been unkind to those influencers who jetted off to do photoshoots by the pool – the escapism offered by the stay-at-home influencers is a lot different to that. A lot of it is about routine.
At a time when we’re traumatised by the endless cycle of bad news and longing for a human interaction where we don’t have to fear one another’s breath, it’s comforting to watch others muddling through their day as usual, especially when they do so with unbridled enthusiasm and humour.
Despite having houses I’d happily eat witchetty grubs for, and the daily motivation to actually tidy and not pretend to do it on a celebrity’s Instagram, what they represent is the achievable dream. They’re not leaving their followers behind, but bringing us with them.
Thank goodness for the Instagrammers like them who found fun in the mundane, at a time when mundane is now the only option – unless you’ve got a convenient #sponcon deal to sell, of course.
Frankly, who needs images of twenty-somethings frolicking at a brunch bar in a 10 quid crop top when you can order calligraphy labels for your cupboards?
Mine arrived in the post yesterday. I’m living my best life and it was never in Dubai.Credit: Original article published here.