The Egg Came First

The Egg Came First
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The most liked photograph on Instagram makes for the perfect retort

HOW CAN ONE not be happy for the egg? An egg is a truly wonderful thing, and early this week all the universe heeded its majesty. An unremarkable stock photo of a quotidian freckled egg has become the most liked photograph in the history of Instagram. Make no mistake, this is no polka-dotted Easter egg nor some bedecked Faberge egg; this is the egg of your fridge, the egg of your frying pan, the egg at the end of your fork. It is special, only because it is universal.

But to rewind a bit, here is what happened. A picture of an egg was posted by a verified Instagram account called @world_record_egg on January 4th. The caption under the picture said: ‘Let’s set a world record together and get the most liked post on Instagram. Beating the current world record held by Kylie Jenner (18 million)! We got this.’ Clearly, this wasn’t a hippie egg, it was an egg with a mission at hand. As of January 17th, the egg has garnered 46.7million likes. (That is close to Delhi and Beijing’s population combined.) And @world_record_egg, with just one post, had 7.3 million followers.

Jenner is naturally not too pleased. How could her photo, posted in February, revealing the birth of her first child, a baby daughter named Stormi with rapper Travis Scott, be pipped by an egg? She sought revenge, the only way she could, by frying an egg on the hot tarmac and smirking, “Take that little egg.” But the egg still had the last laugh, as now most of the recent comments on Jenner’s baby post read, ‘#egggang’.

Jenner’s rage can be understood. After all, her world record-holding photo was complete with a manicured female thumb being clutched by the new-born baby’s hand. It is a photo that evokes a thousand awwws. It tells of birth and motherhood, it reveals strength and fragility. It is perfect. Perhaps, too perfect, and that is why the egg won.

An egg can be many things, but a raw egg can seldom be pretentious. And in the world of Instagram that can be the the greatest respite. In the record- breaking photo, it is just an egg, it reveals none of its potential. This is just a stock image of an egg, it is not even an egg collage trying to prove its many avatars; fried, boiled, poached, curried, steamed, scrambled, beaten, whipped, etcetera etcetera.

Now, many will lament that the victory of the egg is a sign of the stupidification of our times. But that is taking it too far. The worst the egg can be accused of is that it gave free rein to the puns of journalists and editors. And that’s hardly the fault of the egg.

The best that can be said of it is that it gave us a moment of levity and lightness. It gave us a blip of rest and pause. As an article in Frieze mentioned, ‘The egg exposes a fatiguing power of images in a culture that trades on resonance… but the support for the blankness of the image also represents a communal defiance of the recognisable brands that are the Kardashians, Cristiano Ronaldo, Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.’

The ridiculous success of the egg tells us that at one level we all need an antidote from this culture of celebrityhood, and obsession with images. Of course, it is all a bit of fun, but when the internet throws up such large-scale surprises, an investigation is not uncalled for. In the egg, we see the victory of the authentic over artifice, the natural over the beautified, and the simple over the superficial.

Like all things on the internet, the egg will soon be forgotten. Even while the world-record egg- posting account, has hinted that more is to come with the line, ‘it doesn’t end here,’ and ‘we’re only just getting started.’ But that is where @world_record_egg risks getting it wrong. It made an impact because it realised that less is indeed more. If it makes a comeback, it will be just another wannabe Jenner, and what a pity that will be. With a single post, it gave us a laugh, and a retort, and for that we heart it.