You're on holiday. You have a big hat, a cobbled alleyway and an iPhone. It's only natural; who are you to resist one of the strongest urges of our generation? Why, it basically runs through our collective DNA like apathy, avocado and the spoken-word intro to "Never Ever" by All Saints.
The moment we touch down on foreign tarmac, a neon sign activates in our brain. BE AN INFLUENCER it blinks, on and off, relentless. "But I only have 342 followers," you say. BE AN INFLUENCER. "But half of those are friends of my mother, I hardly think–" BE AN INFLUENCER. "But I mainly use it to post photos of dogs on the Tube." BE AN INFLUENCER. "But I never even hashtag!" BE AN INFLUENCER. "Okay," you think, because by this point you’ve had your first lunchtime spritz and the sun is gently coddling your brain like an egg. "Okay I’ll do it! I shall influence!!!"
Then you spend the next 10 days twitchy and distracted, constantly scouring for photo opps. You find you can’t eat an ice cream without first holding it aloft in front of a soft-focus beach scene. You read the same page of your holiday novel five times over, before giving up and incorporating it into a flatlay. You start to look for pretty tiles with the same enthusiasm you once looked for happy hour drinks deals. You have basket bag rash in the crooks of both arms. You are physically incapable of walking past blossom. Your favourite way to spend the balmy summer nights isn’t doing anything sexy or romantic; it’s lying on your bed under the ceiling fan and putting in a solid hour of ’gram time.
And when you return home, everyone you see will say exactly the same thing: "How was the holiday?" and then the accusing payoff: "It looked lovely."
Now of course, it’s not your fault. It’s society’s! But friend, I'm here today to tell you that quitting is possible. You can take back control. Sign up to this easy seven-step programme and you too could be cured of holiday Instagram wankery forever.
Step one: acknowledge that you have a problem
Be honest. Have you, at any point during a holiday, purchased a type of food you didn’t even want because its colour had the most grid appeal? How much of your phone storage is given over to near-identical pictures of the clouds from an aeroplane window? Have you ever stared for so long at a sunset that you thought you might actually have retinal damage? How many collective minutes have you wasted lingering around a tourist hotspot, because the elderly couple who took your picture did it from a chinny angle and you’re waiting for someone better-dressed to come along?
I thought so. It’s okay. It’s going to be okay.
Step two: cold turkey!
I’m not saying go on holiday and don’t take any photos. Of course I’m not; that could be physically dangerous. What we’re aiming for is a moderate level of amateur memory-making, instead of the debilitating need to art direct your vay-cay like a Vogue shoot.
Try a test scenario. Go to a nearby park or, failing that, a piece of scrubland outside a Nisa local, on a sunny day. Stand still. Keep your arms by your sides. Breathe deeply – pay attention to the sounds, the smells, the ambience. Then take a mental photo. Filter the mental photo. Up the saturation slightly. Mentally crop out that bin. Mentally write the caption. And then, mentally, delete it. If you’re feeling strong enough, delete it from your mental 'Recently deleted' folder. Now go home. You’ve done so well.
Step three: get over the wall
Or all walls, really. Cast your mind back to a time when walls were merely brick constructs designed to hold up roofs, keep out advancing armies, and illustrate metaphors by Pink Floyd. Focus on these humble functions as you practise walking past walls without pausing for an #OOTD. It’s best to start with ugly walls, perhaps stucco or pebbledash, before working your way up gradually to bare brick, brightly painted brick, and finally any form of candy-toned street art.
Step four: make amends
Now it’s time to make a list of every single person your holiday Instagram habits might have affected, and apologise to them each in turn. This could include, but is not limited to: tourists whose view you may have obscured; waiters you may have asked to take 24 pictures of your date night, both with and without flash; friends you woke up from their beach nap to "make the most of golden hour" and then told they didn’t have "a natural eye for aesthetics".
It might mean messaging exes, phoning your parents, and tracking down on Facebook a guy you met in a Portuguese bus depot in 2015. But once you’ve been forgiven for your delusions of influence by everyone they have wronged, you’ll feel so light and free. So unburdened. Almost enough to write a motivational caption about it! No, wait.
Step five: face up to reality
Or at least, face forward. Where the camera is. Stop contorting yourself into over-the-shoulder coy, 'Ooh what’s in that tree?' whimsical, or semi-dislocating a shoulder to copy the follow-me-to arm pull. Instead rediscover the comfortable joy of beaming straight at the camera like you’re happy to be there. See, fun right? Retro!
Step six: tell it like it is
No, wait, not five #brave paragraphs about the emotional journey you went on in the queue for the Uffizi gallery. I mean try telling it like it is the way people used to, back in the days of postcards. "Today we went to the local market. Same wolf blankets as back home! Tim bought some Savlon for his blisters and I saw a dog eating a frittata. Weather continues hot but muggy. Wish you were here." Everyone will adore your relatable content.
Step seven: buy a disposable camera
According to the kids, by which I mean an intern I met once, disposable cameras are so hot right now. True, when it comes to kicking your snap-happy habit they’re a little like giving up cigarettes only to replace them with a pipe, but there are genuine long-term benefits.
For one, being limited to a paltry 30 exposures will force you to be selective and discerning with your subjects. Two, winding the little wheel after every photo will give you a handy pause to contemplate how badly you need a third angle on that vaguely important-looking monument ("Is this a thing? It’s probably a thing."). Three, they come with an in-built filter. It’s called 'Archaic'. And finally, four: These days you don’t get the developed photos as part of the price of the camera (I KNOW). Let me tell you, nothing kills your influencer ambitions dead like opening a £7.99 envelope of real-life photos to find that in a reel of 30, three are nice, four are okay and 23 are just shadows and thumb.
Alternatively: just become an influencer
Might be easier.