To give a recap on a high school book, Jay Gatsby of The Great Gatsby throws massive parties every weekend. He does this in the vain hope of getting the attention of Daisy, the woman he’s in love with. Gatsby lives across the lake from Daisy. Gatsby creates as much noise as possible, sets off fireworks and invites strangers all over West and East Egg to his mansion, Pembroke, in an attempt to get her to come. Daisy is married. She never comes. Gatsby doesn’t participate in his own parties in his massive house, he watches and waits for her to come. Regardless, this is what I think a lot of people do on Instagram.
I believe people make a huge percent of posts on social media with the intention of getting attention from someone else. If not for one person, a handful of people. Rather than being shameful or embarrassing, I think it’s normal and standard. Confrontation is difficult. And want for praise or attention, especially from certain people, is universal. Wooing in the 2020s is Gatsbying.
Gatsbying Example One: Thirst Trapping
Thirst trapping would have no clientele at all if Gatsbying wasn’t standard. Thirst trapping: the act of posting a sexy or enticing photo online. Most who thirst trap do so with the intention of getting the attention of the people in their life. Often, this means romantic or sexual interests. I refuse to believe that people regularly thirst trap with any other intention. Sexually enticing photos posted online are the modern equivalent of laundering moonshine money, building a house across the lake from a woman you’re obsessed with, and throwing parties all the time so she’ll come over. When posting sexy pics, we are hoping for the attention of those that we want.
Gatsbying Example Two: Party Posting
I’ve never understood the urge to post the happenings of a party unless you’re trying establish you’re at a party. I highly doubt the average person who posts party stories is doing so with the idea of someone they never even interact with online seeing it. Unless I’m in love with someone, I’m not going to watch someone at a bar. I’m sorry, it sounds really boring. Even my close friends adventure at clubs, I don’t care about the posts. I don’t understand what is going on in most of them, they’re always blurry and people are screaming in them. Even going to bars or for drinks, I don’t care what you’re eating, unless I’m in love with you. I cannot be the only one who feels this way. I only post this stuff to monitor who is watching my stories, to see if my Daisy is coming to my Pembroke.
Gatsbying Example Three: Flexes in General
While I think that posting graduations, travels, promotions, births, weddings, and other mitzvahs are not necessarily Gatsbying, I do think that some flexes are just posted for the intention of certain individuals to see. New relationships, gym bodies, money, or what money can buy often seem like it’s posted for a specific person or people. The mentality behind doing well and therefore getting attention or praise isn’t unfounded. Seeing someone doing well makes us want to be closer to the person and the extra compliments from other followers or viewers is a great ego boost.
Us and Gatsby
Everyone at one point or another acts to impress or get the attention of someone they like. This is standard even outside the realm of the internet. Or, grab the attention of someone we’re trying to get back at, or get back with, or impress, etc. In the book, Gatsby wants Daisy because she is a representation of something unattainable that he wants. He wants the “old money” life that Daisy has, he wants to be a society man. Despite his riches, he doesn’t come from money. He works for his home and lifestyle, yet still feels empty. He thinks Daisy will fulfill this emptiness. Does Gatsbying on Instagram reflect the same sentiments? We believe that by presenting ourselves in a certain light, it will make us more desirable to other people. We post small fractions of ourselves because we believe our Daisies like that.
Gatsby believes that if he shows the old money lifestyle Daisy is accustomed to, she’ll fall in love with him. But, that’s not what interests her. Likewise, we believe if we show our sex appeal, social success, or blessings, we’ll emotionally move our objects of desire (or spite). Are we not, in a way, objectifying our Daisies down to one or two one-dimensional traits?
Beyond that, by thirst trapping, posting flexes, or even going to parties for the sake of getting the attention of the one we really think about, are we fulfilling an emptiness inside? If we post said image and we don’t get the attention we hope to get from it, what then? Reflecting on our own personal Pembrokes in feed form, do the mansions we build from posts not reflect inner emptiness and one-dimensionality we project onto ourselves? If our Instagram feeds fill or partially fill with pictures posted for the sake of gaining attention, where does that leave us? What does that say about us?
Gatsbying is normal and a reflection of things we do in real life to get attention, praise or admiration from a select few. Still, I don’t think it benefits to always act on the urge to try to woo someone’s attention. The Great Gatsby acts as a cautionary tale. Trying to fill emptiness through another person and squandering means to get one person’s attention results in heartbreak. Regardless, it’s so funny seeing other people noticeably Gatsbying on their own pages.
Featured image by Aven Saleh of UNSPLASH.COM