We are a society that brags through megapixels.

It's prevalent in that pair of bronzed legs stretched out towards the Mediterranean Sea. In the huddle of fruity cocktails geo-tagged at Shoreditch House in London. And on that iPhone weather app screenshot that details, "Sydney, Mostly Sunny, 35 degrees".

Sound familiar? It's probably half of your social media feed right now. And it's a complete sham.

Kiwis tend to view friends out in the big wide world with envy, even if we've done an O.E. and travelled extensively ourselves. "Take me back!" we think, browsing our social media pages, watching our international friends continue the time of their lives.

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It's easy to think our New Zealand environment un-stimulating and without exhilaration. We grew up seeing the world's biggest metropolises on television, and now our friends actually populate those cities. Almost all of them give us daily reminders of what we're missing out on.

Though we're not really missing out at all. Those bronzed legs are lonely on that beach. Those cocktails cost half a week's take-home pay. That sunny Sydney day is spent inside, up against a fan, because the slightest movement causes floor-mop-worthy perspiration.

We live in the world of the Facebook Facade, where neat filters and fun photos do lie. Social media has given much to the 21st century, but it's taken from it too. The lines between authentic and manufactured are so blurred we're now augmenting our own perceptions of reality.

The classic case of this self-delusion is Saturday night party photos. We smile, we look hot, we share the snaps online. Sunday rolls around and we remember not the fun we had, but the fun we looked like we had - captured with a Valencia filter and validated by Facebook likes.

The same goes for our friends taking photos of their vegan burrito in Brooklyn, and those who tweet about spotting Rihanna in LA. It's not that the experience wasn't enjoyable - it's just that half the fun is making that experience look better than it really was.

The phenomena of carefully curated images helps us create perceived privilege. The consequence - or perhaps intention - of this spuriousness is a cycle of envy. Our friends are drinking Negronis at Nobu and it fills us with both admiration and spite, and the natural response is to snap a sunset at Muriwai and filter it to perfection. "See! New Zealand is amazing too!"

Check out Rich Kids of Instagram and you'll see how enabled this cyclic culture is. Shoot and share yourself outside a large house in the Hamptons, in a pair of Louboutins, or in the passenger seat of a brand new Ferrari, and you'll instantly associated yourself with a lavish lifestyle.

Only you need to know you're just walking along a street in a nice neighbourhood, the shoes are still in the store, and the car is on display at the dealership.

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Pushing tongue into cheek with the tagline "If You Can't Make it, Fake It", two New York artists have even created a social experiment to encourage perceived privilege behaviour. They've called it Instasham.

"Digital photography and social media have amplified our ability to share our lives with the rest of the world," say co-founders Andy Dao and Stacy Smith, whose website offers downloads of Instagram-ready images of beaches, Eurotrips, and "cliques getting trashed".

All of these images you can pass off as your own, upon application of the appropriate filter, of course. "We are a society that brags through megapixels," Dao and Smith add. "It is in this insight that we saw an opportunity and Instasham was created."

Keeping up with the Joneses by continually evidencing faux-elitism is terribly tasking, and Instasham-style self-deprecation is perhaps the only thing that'll save us from our cycle of skiting.

But we, mere users, can't be blamed. Social media perpetuates this pressure onto us. It wants constant updates on our lives. It wants to see what we see. It just so happens that nobody's life is interesting 24/7.

When you feel a spark of envy come your next social media scroll, whether it's over an Eiffel Tower ascent or a Full Moon party, do remember that the experience can't be that amazing if there's enough time to photograph, filter and geo-tag whilst still in the moment.

And when you smell an Insta-rat, get cheeky by calling out your mates when you know something's fake. Nothing kills the potency of perceived privilege like the hashtag #Instasham.

* Follow Lee Suckling on Twitter here.

- www.nzherald.co.nz

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