So you’re cruising down the highway, whatever highway, and the windows are cracked and new HAIM is playing (because it’s finally summer!), and you’ll be at the lake house in like, 25 minutes according to Google maps. You press your arm against the sun-warmed window. You’re wearing jorts. Someone in the car is Juuling. You whip out your phone, open up Instagram, and press your thumb down on the record button. Life is good, right? Why not post about it?
Here’s the thing: Now, more than ever, nobody wants to watch a 30-part Instagram story about a summer getaway. Life is absolutely, actively not good right now for any American with a sliver of a conscience or even a hint of financial instability. While it’s hard to begrudge anyone their coping mechanisms in this moment, it’s a good time to reflect on the rote patriotism that circulates every year on the dot. Proud to be an American? In this economy? With this rate of COVID-19 resurgence? Maybe not.
Right now, celebratory Fourth of July content is the normie equivalent of Kim Kardashian’s tweet about her daughter’s new fleet of sleek, black fairytale horses.
It’s tone deaf, it’s tacky, it’s like, where’d you even get 14 horses right now—except the 14 horses are a stand-in for the audacity to plan and publicize the fact you’re on a group vacation in the middle of a pandemic.
Social media’s role in our lives is more complex than ever. We’re at a crossroads, in which people are blending their personal lives with calls to action for the many in need. It’s confusing, sure, but it’s also productive. It’s heartening to see racism assumptions exposed and interrogated on Instagram Live, funds to improve Black trans lives signal-boosted on Twitter, and bail funds maxed out through a system of “Who’s next?” donor receipt chains. In many ways, this is the platonic ideal of what social media can do to connect us and make us more aware of the world outside ourselves.
Still, it’s hard to let go of the impulse social media is designed to stoke: navel-gazing, self-aggrandizing, and proselytizing on things we might not actually know about, like the American empire. Obviously, it’s a free country. (Ha HA, get it?) Nobody can stop you from Posting Cringe: God Bless America Edition.
But seeing as we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, and economic crisis, and a nationwide uprising against the American law enforcement system, don’t be surprised if people talk a ton of well-deserved smack about your staunch refusal to read the room.
That Boomerang of Jen in her flag bikini jumping off the dock while she shotguns a beer? Leave it in your camera roll. That vague but touching paragraphs-long tribute to “America the beautiful [one hundred emoji]” in the caption of a sunset photo? Save it to your drafts. That photo where you’re pretending to deepthroat a hotdog? Actually, that’s kind of funny. Post it. Just don’t put anything about our troops in the caption.
If you absolutely, positively, must post, throw it up on your ‘Close Friends’ story. At least they probably already know what they’re gonna see when they click that little green circle.
Follow Katie Way on Twitter.