The Christmas lights are up, advent calendars are in the shops and you can feel the air on the inside of your nose; ladies and gentlemen, the holiday season is upon us. As many of us settle in for festive hibernation, a chunk of the population will be jetting off to sunnier shores in a bid to avoid the dull drizzle of the British winter. This temporary mass-exodus will leave most of us feeling jealous and cold, a sensation only to be compounded by the inevitable inundation of braggy holiday tweets, snaps and statuses seeping in from every corner of social media.
Call it what you will, Insta-bragging, smoasting, selfie-obsessed, there is no escape from its envy-inducing clutches. Whether it be the sepia-tinted sand between a colleague's toes, a ruggedly framed landscape or a sun-kissed duck-face, Brits are among the most prolific snappers in Europe. According to a study by T-mobile, 51% of Brits post photos to Facebook or Twitter during their holiday, while a survey by Photobox on European holiday-makers found that the British take the most selfies on their travels. Indeed, 'selfie' has been awarded the lofty title of 'Word of the Year' by the Oxford English Dictionary editors following a 17,000% increase in its usage this year.
For those stuck behind their desk, the incessant updates accompanied by smug hashtags of '#bliss', '#30degrees' or even '#sorry' (you are so not sorry, stop saying sorry), can make for a pretty bad case of the Mondays. But seethe not dear pale ones, for that is what they want you to do! Of those surveyed by T-Mobile, four in ten update Facebook or Twitter with a view to annoying those at home and 15% said they do it to spark jealousy in an ex-partner. What's more, one in three admitted that they stage holiday photos for social-networking to try to appear as happy as possible.
So instead of screaming bloody murder at your screen, maybe you should feel sorry for the gloaters. While you bask under the florescent lighting of your office, dreaming of greener grass, your travelling online-associates are raining on their own parade. They are wasting their time in #paradise by making sure that you at home know all about it. By screening themselves from the views in front of their square- shaped eyes, they are missing out on what's really there. They are choosing to watch a pixelated version of the splendour of life.
The chances are, the majority of those who read this will have partaken in a spot of boastful like-grubbing themselves at some point. Don't worry though, it's not you, it's them. More specifically, it's the media.
A 'time is money' mantra is whirring around all that we consume in the Western World. There is a pressure to achieve and accumulate. Swapping quality for quantity is the action de rigueur, so it feels more efficient to conduct friendships online. Adding your weird neighbour's dog on Facebook doesn't make you a sad loser, it just brings you one step closer to the ever-out-of-reach optimum friend count. That is the crux of the matter right there - it is never enough. No matter how much you edit, enhance and promote your online social c.v. there are always a few more likes to be had, always a better, more envy-inspiring picture to be snapped and as we pursue this digital dream, we're missing what's happening in the here and now.
Getting caught up in the world of selfies, legsies and hashtags may seem like a social activity but through the digitisation of our organic urge to congregate and converse we are managing to do the exact opposite. When we shield our views with screens, we put technology in the way of real life. The urge to digitally document every moment is preventing us from taking the moment in. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Vine (to name but a few) have instilled a need in us to mediate. Instead of stopping to smell the roses, we are consumed by thoughts on how best our camera/phone/tablet could capture and enhance them.
What's more there is a need for validation that the phenomenon breeds and feeds. Once you have uploaded your fun-fest, part of you is left wondering about the popularity of the post. Will your self-worth swell with a flurry of likes or will you be left with low selfie-esteem due to a lack of them?
And yet it is too easy for the onlooker to curse the phenomenon, it is afterall, a past-time reveled in by millions. I do believe those who say they upload photos as a way of preserving memories. In an age when the world spins fast, and moments to sit and reflect are few, it's a wonderful thing to have an online scrapbook of your adventures available for your perusal from almost anywhere in the world. And maybe it does the onlookers a bit of good; providing us with a daily dose of motivation to get outside and join in.
Perhaps it could all just be a generational thing, frequented by those whose lives have not been technologically saturated from the start. The generation of jealousy uploaders have lived through the anguish of developing a roll of film only to find a series of photos varying from over-exposed to badly lit and just plain hideous. So wanting to shout it from the rooftops when they get a good shot is understandable. I'll cross my fingers that with time the deluge of singing, nae, tweeting one's own praises will lessen, but I won't be holding my breath.
In the end though, it's annoying. So, ladies and gentlemen of the internet, consider this when you are next blinded by the sunlight shining from your screen as a boaster bleats about how #heavenly their holiday is; it's an awful lot darker when you look away from the sun than it would have been if you hadn't looked at it to begin with. Block those show-offs until they cease and desist with all the self-congratulatory yabberings. Quit your self-imposed data entry job. Stop willing your here and now away. Get outside into the beautifully bleak British weather, throw your phone into the grey heavens above and start dancing in the rain.