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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

Observing life: You are judged by the profile you keep

I could fill hours scrolling through my WhatsApp contacts... and judging.

I’ve got a new habit. It’s called WhatsApp stalking. Wait – it’s not quite as bad as it sounds. I’m not harassing strangers or even people I know. In fact, I’m barely communicating with anyone at all.

I’m simply filling idle, Wi-Fi-less moments with scrolling up and down my contacts. And judging.

Look, I’m not saying it’s big or clever, but how can you post your status as “I’ll tell you my sins so you can sharpen your knife”, and not expect to attract sniggering derision?

I’ve divided my contacts into categories (try it). Among my favourites are the coded boast-by-association: the close-up of a new garish tattoo. The bulging muscles through (not enough) gym clothes. Or the pair of bare legs jutting out towards an infinity pool.

Yep, that picture holding a giant fish is ample proof of machismo. And you – it’s nice to see you in the cockpit, but I hope you weren’t flying without a licence.

Another genre is the perennial celebrity snap. Honestly, it’s great if you met said D-lister a few years ago. I’m not judging.

If it sounds voyeuristic, ­remember, this isn’t Facebook – these are the pictures people have chosen to represent themselves to the wider public.

Instead of a portrait, one “contact” posted an image of Atlantis’s underwater suite, the implication being that he/she could afford a night there.

The holiday-snap genre offers perhaps the greatest range for creative interpretation. A picture of your passport is never complete without a business-class ticket poking out and a bubbly glass in shot.

I love those who post pictures not of themselves, but of inspirational slogans. “When your heart is breaking and your pain makes you fail: remember, just remember.” I’ll try – but without a photo of your face, I seem to have forgotten who you are.

WhatsApp stalking is the gift that keeps on giving. I need only wait a week and check back for a new round of updated, adolescent laughs.

I discovered not only that one of my closest friends visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa – thanks to the obligatory selfie snap – but also that his Italian itineracy included visits to Rome’s Colosseum and AC Milan’s ground, because he kept changing the picture.

Also, as with many contacts, if my dealings with you are professional, maybe it’s not quite right that I’m exposed to a bikini snap?

Or if you’re a PR, a picture sticking your tongue out might not be entirely appropriate. #Justsaying.

And as cute as your wedding day/pet/baby is, maybe I don’t want to see it? We work together, remember?

Pictures hugging metre-tall liquor bottles by long-term GCC residents strike me as mis­guided, if not flat-out offensive.

What’s more, having been in the UAE a few years, during which many friends have lost phones or left town, I’ve also amassed dozens of pictures of people I’ve never met. And often, their families, too.

The profile I’m most drawn to, however, remains the snap of my (female) landlord brandishing a crossbow. Subliminal messaging at its best?

What gives me the right to be so cattily judgemental and ceaselessly superior, you might ask? What do I do for my profile picture?

I consciously object – it’s blank. Yep, I’m one of “those”. Go on, judge away.

rgarratt@thenational.ae