It would seem, according to those I follow on Instagram, that pretty well everyone in the world is either (a) a model (B) a blogger (c) a gym and fitness fanatic, or PT (d) a photographer (e) a traveller, (f) a Lifestyler or (g) an influencer! The latter absolutely intrigue me, as it appears to be someone who gets a whole lot of goodie bags of “stuff”, and through whatever means influences others to buy it, or tells them what they should be wearing, or where they should travel to! In my day, this was called marketing…but then – I’m old! I sort of feel sorry for people who lack the individuality to decide these things for themselves. A bit like the young royal wives stepping out in a rather plain outfit…and suddenly it’s copied, then snapped up by all those with no imagination to dress themselves!
Now don’t get me wrong – as a gay guy (or some would say an old queen…yet others that I’m a dirty old man) I’m only human, and get a big thrill out of looking at all these buff, toned, six-packed, shaved smooth men in their sweaty gym gear, Speedo’s, or Calvin Kleins (even the odd occasional tight, naked rear). Let’s face it…I’m not going to get there…not at my age!
But this does raise some questions. Reading some posts, I’ve detected some calls for help…depression…and have to wonder if this platform is a healthy place to be if you suffer from depression, or problems of self-esteem. There is a certain eroticism, hedonism, exhibitionism, egoism, even megalomania on Instagram. Photoshopping is rife! You just know that a lot of the guys…and girls…on here, given the opportunity, would get off on being naked. Amongst men, the image of the undies/swimmers clad body beautiful, and the buffed guys who live in the gym and happily snap themselves posing their bulging muscles, or at the cable machines present an image of health and happiness that few of us can ever hope to gain. Again, I have nothing against a healthy lifestyle, nor guys staying fit – I am a vegetarian, and do fitness Bodyweight training at home 2-3 times a week – but when we are saturated with it, when this is presented as the norm on social media platforms, in fashion and health magazines, in television shows, it has an unhealthy knock-on effect! Those who don’t have the body type, or the access to gyms, or the monetary resources, or just the addictive inclination needed to be constantly working out in gyms, start thinking there is something wrong with their bodies, that they are not up to scratch, are unable to fit into this mould, so start out on a cycle of self-destruction, self-harming, eating disorders, self destructive thinking, and low self-esteem. This in turn can lead to depression, and even suicide.
It is time to have more balance in how we depict both men and women, and like the death of the man-bun, and the hoped death of every man wearing a beard…even one’s who don’t suit them…it is time to move away from the over buffed body that requires an unrealistic amount of time to maintain. It would be interesting to know if these guys who pretty live in the gym, and can talk about nothing else, have looked forward 20 or 30 years and thought…is this lifestyle sustainable in the long run! It is time to push a model of attainable fitness, and a healthy diet that has more than chicken and lettuce in it. There is also a dietary model of veganism being “fashionable” at the moment (caused by Influencers, perhaps…), and though there is nothing wrong with the vegan diet, it is an extreme (though the advocates will never admit it). It’s like healthy people eating gluten-free…you are not doing yourself, or your body, any favours.
But I guess the question that all these models/photographers/bloggers/travellers/influencers raises is…who the fuck is doing all the hard work! Whose policing us? Putting out fires? Sweeping the streets? Being builders, electricians and plumbers? Car repairers? Are they all on another social platform? Are they all on Facebook, with their overalls around their hips, flexing with their greasy spanners? Looking uber butch in their King Gee shorts and footy socks and boots? I guess in 20 years, when everything just falls to pieces, we’ll find out!
I love Instagram. My way of counteracting all this blatant sexualism, is to post selfies. I want guys to realise that there is also a sexuality in getting older, that it is not something to be ashamed off, or hidden away, or denied. I am proud of being my age…I’ve done a lot to get here! Okay, you are not going to see me naked, or flaunting myself in my Hanes, but you are going to see my wrinkles, my graying hair, my white goatee and moustache, my chooky neck. I am what is a life well lived! The most disturbing part of this is the number of young guys who “like” my posts! I guess if one can be easily flattered…then, believe me…I am! I also want to show that extraordinary lives are lived in ordinary places, that disabilities are not disabling, and that self care doesn’t have to be an extreme!
Live the life you want to live, not the one you think everyone else wants you to live! Be proud of your individuality, your creativity, and striding outside the square. You can be an Influencer of a different kind, one who, just by being themselves, demonstrates the true beauty of a human being!
Tim Alderman 2019