May 24, 2024

The boastful new social media trend that sees people flaunting their quarantine privilege

What we should all be doing now is realising that very thing- how our situation compares to others. We should be thinking of the isolation gap before we post. What the global crisis has made us painfully aware of, is just how widespread inequality is at this time.

So we should remember that, while there is still a space for entertainment and humour on the gram; maybe keep your smusgsolation to yourself.

It didn’t take long. Just over two weeks into a global pandemic-induced national lockdown, and here we have it: the first new irritating social media trend.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you:

Smugsolation: (noun)

the act of quarantining oneself during a global crisis in an enviable location (penthouse, townhouse, mansion, villa, 15-bedroom ancestral country seat) with expensive foods, booze and/or adorable pets and outdoor space and proceeding to broadcast said situation on social media (see also: tone deaf).

Smugsolation is rife nowadays and, like most grating social media behaviour, it is largely the reserve of the influencer. I cannot scroll down my feed without some banal commentary on the ‘lessons learnt’ from Coronavirus, by someone shacked up in a multi-million pound pad, or idyllic second home, whose sole activity of the day appears to be making a TikTok video or telling me how to make a meal out of ‘essentials’ in my pantry (like, erm, wagyu beef and sesame oil. Also, pantry? ).

Now that travel posts have faded away with the last grounded flight, and fashion collabs and sponsored posts are on the wane, influencers have taken to making isolation instagrammable.

Elevating your own quarantine to some sort of humble brag feels enormously tasteless. Telling us all how self-isolation has “given you time to stop and look at nature” through the floor-to-ceiling sash windows in your bucolic Norfolk second home while you snuggle a terrier on a window seat, isn’t exactly relatable content at this time. Nor are posts about how it is giving you a moment to “appreciate the little things” when the little things are a 40 acre garden for you to take your daily exercise in.

Then there is the sudden proliferation of influencer cooking videos – pristine, curated kitchens with every latest culinary gadget at their disposal, where gourmet masterpieces are created with seriously expensive food deliveries, while I’m left wondering what I can make out of Philadelphia cheese and loo roll- the only things I could grab from my local Sainsburys.

Besides the fact that a lot of us do not have access to these ingredients- financially or otherwise, most who are working from home or home schooling children (or both) do not have the time to make a five course meal out of food you have to endure an obstacle course in Whole Foods to purchase. Moreover, please do not assume we would rather be making a homemade lentil and aubergine curry and practising handstands in Lululemon when we could be eating baked beans and watching Tiger King in our PJs like every other sane person.

We shall not be shamed for Netflixing and panicking at this time, thanks very much.

But crucially, what these smugsolation posts fail to recognise is the isolation-gap. Namely, that not all isolations are equal. Huge swathes of the population are self-isolating alone in cramped city flats, or in dismal flat shares, possibly with people they loathe. They do not have the luxury of TikTok videos in lush green lawns, nor a fully stocked Smeg fridge. Many are furloughed and panicking about how to get by on 80% of the savings, others are now unemployed or self-employed and out of work- meaning they are not doing yoga in front of the Aga but spending all day on the phone to Universal Credit.

Even isolating itself is a privilege. Think of those who are homeless, or those who must still go out to work- those key workers who are keeping the country safe and running. Think of the delivery men and women still out there, ensuring these influencers don’t run out of harissa and sea salt. Think of those around the world for whom isolation itself will prove impossible.

Coronavirus has laid bare the wild disparities of our experiences. Smugsolation posts show a tone-deaf attempt to turn this experience into ‘content. ’Yet that begs the question- what do we want to see on Instagram?

After all, the escapism of Instagram has value in itself. I have found myself searching for content on it that is uplifting and silly and which distracts me from the depressing reality of coronavirus. The key must, surely, be ensuring some sort of creative balance- making sure what is on the gram has self-awareness.

Because, of course; how far should we, in fact, be checking our own privilege? After all, many of us may not be cosied up in a palace, but are lucky enough to be able to isolate at all.

Now is the time to be counting our blessings, however small. I am lucky enough to be self-isolating at my parents house. No, it is not a massive pile in the country, but a semi-detached in London with a garden- a luxury in its own right. I am also lucky enough to be with family and with my partner at this time. We may not be cooking up a storm in athleisure, but we have each other, which is its own privilege.

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