West London Psycho: The Instagram Likes

Welcome to West London Psycho, our new weekly column showing you what really goes on inside the minds of West London’s finest. This week, WSP is concerned about the quantity and quality of his Instagram likes…

I’m sitting on Poppy’s sofa listening to Poppy’s mother tell Marcus off for wearing his shoes up the stairs, and although I’m quietly thrilled about this (Marcus has always had a cavalier attitude to cream carpets and it’s about time he was cut down to size) it isn’t my main concern. As it happens, I’ve just uploaded a photo to Instagram, and, try as I might to distract myself by gently nudging Poppy’s blind dog until it topples over, my mind is firmly on the wellbeing of that photo. Before posting, I’d dropped a quick call to my sister (she works in PR, so it’s a no brainer) and given her a brief outline of the composition. “Sounds solid enough”, she’d said, before signing off with the enigmatic words “Yet on Instagram, nothing is certain.”

For the last few months I’ve been averaging 14 likes per photo. I decide that anything less today and I may as well “accidentally” drop my phone off Battersea Bridge again and forget the whole sorry business. And if the slings and arrows of outrageous photo-sharing have taught me anything, it’s this:  If those likes don’t come within 45 minutes, they won’t come at all…

16:15: Photo published. It’s a low-key affair: just me, two girls dressed as cheerleaders, and an illicit cigarette in a basement club: So far, so Thursday night.

16.16: Marcus receives a ticking off from Poppy’s mother over his muddy shoes. (Not strictly relevant, but quite funny.)

16.18: Like number one. It’s from a university housemate, Jamie, and is not unexpected: Jamie has liked every photo I’ve ever posted in what I’m beginning to suspect is an attempt at Insta-sarcasm.

16.19: Like two arrives just a minute later from a girl who only ever seems to wear bikinis.  This is easy: Instagram is in the palm of my hand, my hand is on the steering wheel, and the steering wheel is in a very cool looking car indeed. 

16. 23: Like three comes from Mr. Tufton, my old housemaster, and it’s a bit of a curve ball, to be honest: Tufton never once showed approval for anything I did at school, and I’m pretty sure he was holding in laughter during my expulsion meeting. But Instagram is a foreign country; they do things differently there.

16.24: A like from Darryl Crosby. Christ.

16.29: A like from my ex-girlfriend. “How the mighty have fallen” I think to myself, but I accidentally say it out loud, which causes Poppy’s mother to look at me with confusion bordering on disgust.

16.30: I have to put my phone down for a little bit now because Arabella has arrived and she has her new best friend with her and I really can’t remember her name, but I know she plays hockey and she looks quite nice with her hair up, so I say ‘hey there, hot shot’ before very quickly realizing that that’s a fucking stupid way to say hello to someone.

16.35: A like from my aunt, Helen. Not all likes are created equal.

16.38: Like seven comes from our old lodger, Peter Bayliss, which means we’re trotting along nicely now, and If you’re reading this, Pete, we’ve still got your deposit money, and do get in touch in general, it would be lovely to hear from you.

16.40: A like from Marcus. Slightly rude of you to be on your phone with Arabella and her new best friend here Marcus, but okay.

16.44: Three likes in very quick succession from some school friends. I’m touched, and then realize that this probably means they’re all hanging out together, and if so, it’s kind of rude that I wasn’t invited.

16.45: A like from a boy who has an identical twin, which is actually really stressful as I never know whether I’ve cornered the right one in the smoking area. 15 minutes to go and just two likes to acquire, “Plain sailing”, I think. “Or is it?”

16.46: “Yes, yes it is” I answer as another like rolls in, this time from an Italian Restaurateur. That makes 13, or as the Italians spell it: “13.”

16.56: Four minutes to go, and still this final like escapes me. In my head, I quickly run over the words I’ve prepared in case of failure: “tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther . . . . And then one fine morning—“

16.57: I consider whether I still have time to create a dummy account and like my own photo.  The head says yes. The heart: also yes. The ageing wireless router: probably not.

16.58: Still no fourteenth like, and my head is swimming. At this point I’m gripping the arm of the chesterfield so tightly that my knuckles have turned magnolia.

16.59: Grabbing Poppy’s phone from her hands with a “not now Poppy, this is bigger than you”, I quickly sign into her Instagram and like my own photo.  Cometh the hour, cometh the man posing as a girl on social media. Which in this case obviously isn’t anywhere near as bad as it sounds.

17.00: With the fourteenth like in the bag, all is mended:  The world around me appears as if through a rose-tinted filter.

Presently, Poppy suggests a group photo, because “when was the last time us guys were all in a room together” which is a really bloody stupid thing to say because “us guys” have literally never, ever been in a room together. Her mother takes it. We all check it afterwards: Arabella has pushed her cleavage together, Marcus looks washed out in that t-shirt and Arabella’s new best friend looks a touch thinner than she does in real life. And Poppy is annoyed because she isn’t in the middle, and it was her idea, guys, after all. And I say “God, don’t people take photos seriously nowadays!” as I up the contrast so that my jawline looks slightly better.

Next week: West London Psycho explains the rules of signet rings…

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