If you’ve ever kept certain people visible in your social media feeds just because you loathed or envied them, or because you couldn’t tell the difference between envy and irritation, then Emily Flake’s New Yorker post is for you. In it, the talented cartoonist examines her unflattering insistence on following a certain artsy, nouveau-hippie family on Instagram who causes her constant side-eye. Flake is hilarious, and she’s as insightful in her drawings as she is in her writing. “There are so many ways to be a creep these days,” she says. “One of the easier ways is to follow people on social media toward whom you have feelings that are other than warm.” As she examines her pettiness, you might see yourself, as I have, in this snapshot of our cultural moment. But her attraction to this family is about a lot more simple envy.
My contemplation of the life of this rustically hip family takes on the “Is it this or is it that?” quality of those trick drawings: Is this an old woman in a babushka or a young one in a hat? Are the choices the hip family makes arrogant or inspiring? Stupid or brave? Maybe they’re both, in the way that my drawing is both, simultaneously. My side-eye at their neo-pioneer lifestyle is accompanied by a thrum of envy for the freedom of their life (Who works? Is there a trust fund at play here, or are they just that good at living off the land?) and a desperate, shame-filled recognition of the disparity between their towering competence and my obvious lack thereof. Who would you want to link up with in the coming apocalypse? The hot, fit, loving family who knows how to build a house by hand, or the tubby middle-aged broad who can’t even drive stick? Exactly. My ability to provide wry commentary about my own cervix is an asset useful only in a pre-collapsed society.