Take a moment to look upon the two posts below. Really take them all in. What do you see?
A surface level reading: These are two posts from Dr Alex George off of Love Island’s Instagram Stories. In the first, he is listening to a tune and he knows it, in the second he is recommending trying an iced latte.
Delving deeper: These are two of the most laughably uninteresting posts to ever exist. The fact that anyone, let alone a mild celebrity, thought either were worth the ceremony of sending into the ether is a complete insult to people’s data packages everywhere.
Deeper still: A standard ‘that feeling when’ (aka ‘tfw’) post is a simple composition of two constituent elements. The ‘feeling’ in relation to the ‘when’. Typically, the feeling is expressed theatrically, an exaggerated display of emotion - be it joy, or despair, or laughter, or disgust, or something. The ‘when’ is either a bit of relatable observational humour (being hungover in work, being left on read by bae, waiting forever for a bus), though it can also work as a hyper-specific anecdote (being so hungover and devastated that bae hasn’t replied that you’re unable to drive your bus).
Dr Alex’s ‘when’ is - listening to a tune, and knowing it. And ‘his’ feeling, as far as is perceptible to the naked eye, is - blank indifference. A generous reading might suggest ‘vague contentment’, but if we’re being completely honest his neutral expression conveys a complete absence of feeling. He tried to relate one of the most universally shared experiences known to man - listening to tunes - and managed to get it, somehow, wrong.
He was listening to a tune, knowing it, and felt so moved as to take his phone out and record himself in the act. He reviewed his footage, thought “this is what listening to tunes looks like!” and sent it to his 1.3 million followers. He saw the popularity of tfw posts, didn’t quite understand them, but tried to join in on the act. It’s almost endearingly inept.
Keep digging: I’m not telling tall tales when I say that Love Island is an incredibly popular show. As such, the majority of its contestants parlay their appearances on the show into lucrative partnership deals, hawking club nights and charcoal toothpaste in sponsored posts across their social media. With only one year until the next batch of contestants come along and consign you to the Wikipedia footnotes of history, you’d be a total fool not to maximise your earning power while you can by turning your Instagram into a billboard of wall-to-wall #spon’d posts.
For his part, Dr Alex has got in the act, for example driving a BMW around with the glowing recommendation that it didn’t cripple his back, but this iced latte post… It’s not sponsored. There isn’t even a label on the cup or a location tag that might serve as a subtle under-the-table paid promotion. He’s not recommending that you try a specific coffee shop’s iced latte, but iced latte in general, the single most Instagrammed drink in existence.
This belies a sweet naivety, perhaps. Let’s say Dr Alex wasn’t a big Insta guy before Love Island, and had never encountered let alone tried an iced latte before, and the taste blew his mind and changed his game. He thought he’d stumbled upon a secret that he couldn’t keep from his 1.3 million followers. He wanted to change 1.3 million people’s lives. That’s beautiful.
We’re below sea level now: Dr Alex joined Instagram in February, 2014. He’s been on the platform four years. His first post was of a Nespresso. He knows iced lattes exist. He observed a competent ‘tfw’ before.
To most, listening to tunes is an activity that often moves you one way or another. Be it pleasure or revulsion, it should make you feel. To Dr Alex, listening to tunes empties you of emotion. His response to music is: nothing. He’s playing with the form of the tfw meme to express his anhedonia. His post is a howl of anguish into the void. If you yanked his headphones out, you’d hear this.
Dr Alex is ridiculing the conventions of Instagram. He’s subverting the cheap relatability of tfw. He’s sending up the naked cravenness of sponsored posts, and the tone in which influencers pretend to be your dear friend making a recommendation, and not someone cynically exploiting your consumer suggestibility. We think we’re laughing at him, but he knows. He’s laughing at us.
It’s getting hot now: Does he know, though? He might do? But there’s a good chance he might not? I keep tearing at layer after layer, and still the package refuses to reveal its contents to me.
We’re at the Earth’s core. We are ash and soil. We are at one with everything: Dr Alex is the most essential follow on Instagram. I live for his posts. I have retreated from my normal life. My loved ones are concerned. I cannot sleep. I know only the glow of my phone screen and the downwards movement you have to make with your thumb to refresh someone’s Insta page. I do this for hours and hours until I see his profile picture illuminated in a pink circle once again. There is a new post. I am temporarily sated, and then I go again.
Doctor Alex George should not have been on Love Island.
Love Island is a show where the country’s foremost masters of the chirpse get detained in a villa for two months to play a game which ends when they’re all coupled up, or ejected for not coupling up. I don’t understand how - after presumably quite an extensive screening process, given the sheer Oxbridge-shaming volume of applicants - how the producers did not pick up that Alex absolutely should not have been on Love Island. There should be an Ofcom investigation into how Dr Alex was let on Love Island.
He was meant to be a Hugh Grant-esque adorably awkward posho, but cracked on like he was struggling on a foundation level Duolingo course “Do you like cars?” “I like Youtube. Do you go on YouTube?” “Do you support football?”
He was on a show called ’Love Island’, but was so singularly bereft of game that the rest of the villa had to effectively teach him where the lips go when you kiss someone. He was, apparently, a qualified doctor who seemingly didn’t know how to apply suncream - or else deliberately didn’t because on day one Hayley told him she preferred men who could tan and he said he thought he could, despite being ginger, and so potentially gave himself skin cancer trying to prove the medically impossible. That last one might be besides the point, but still, he shouldn’t have been sent to Spain for two months to compete in a show which mostly takes place outside, under the Balearic sun, especially when that show is Love Island.
His stint as Britain’s most sexless lothario resulted in him becoming a national laughing stock. But not before he immolated pretty much all his remaining goodwill as the Frank Spencer of shagging when, after being rejected twelve times (every original girl in the first coupling, then Original Laura again, Samira, Megan, Ellie, Grace, New Laura), he inexplicably binned off Alexandra. A girl who could not only stand his interminable chat, but found it actively attractive - twice, the second time mere days before Love Island’s finale. Before revealing that the slightest potential of leaving the show in a relationship (a show specifically about singles getting into a relationship) was taking things “too fast” for his liking.
In an electrifying scene, Alexandra dismissed him as “pathetic”, and the nation’s luminaries, from Paul Chuckle to Stacey Solomon and Claude off The Apprentice, queued up to stick the boot in. He didn’t just embarrass himself, he disgraced himself.
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And now, via his Instagram account, he may have redeemed himself.
If I was Dr Alex, and I spent two months on Love Island assuming the general public loved my “oh hell” boy-child-meets-Victorian-dandy schtick, only to be greeted by the avalanche of jeering that was blanket across all media, I’d do this: I’d look up feared mob bosses, march straight to the police station and testify against the biggest kingpin going, send them down for life, and then the police would have to erase me completely, providing me a new identity and a new life. I’d leave the extremely public-facing profession of ‘being a doctor’ and hole down in Nicaragua or somewhere.
But Dr Alex didn’t do that. He did the opposite.
Here’s Dr Alex in a car telling fellow contestants Jack and Josh that he’s on his way for a beer. People like, nay respect, Jack and Josh, so publicising that he’s going for a beer with the pair bolsters Dr Alex’s credentials as ‘one of the boys;’ and as a boozing legend. It’s nearly a well crafted post.
And then he goes: “oiiii!”
Dr Alex listened to himself going “oiiii!”, heard his own voice trail off timidly as if worried his parents might overhear and send him to bed, and he still posted this video. It’s an “oiii!” that sounds like it’s being yelled by someone as they get booted beyond the horizon. Nobody has ever committed to yelling “oiiii!’ less than Dr Alex does here, in his own car, on the internet, in front of millions of people.
My theory here regarding “oiii!” are “ahahahoi!” is that they were evidently catchphrases that Dr Alex came up with while still on Love Island, and ones that he doesn’t realise the editors completely omitted from broadcast. It’s a trademark that never existed.
It’s his personal ‘fetch’ and he’s valiantly trying to make it happen. The most crucial thing Dr Alex seems to have failed to realise about “ahahahoi!” is that: it sounds… rubbish.
A well delivered “oiiii!” is a primal sensation, it’s a release of the uncontainable energy that burns within all of us in the throes of a great night out, it’s a conch that draws our fellow revellers to us. “Ahahahoi” sounds like something a tricksy jester in a cheap medieval RPG would exclaim after jumping out from underneath a bridge and asking you to solve a riddle.
It’s not even fun to say. As undoubtedly annoying phrases go, saying “yaaaas” and “wazzaaaap” are like nicotine. You can’t help yourself. It’s impulsive. By way of comparison, “ahahahoi” is like a vape filled with dog faeces.
And yet, for some reason, Josh (who had, for my money, the best banter during the series) has allowed himself to be dragged into Alex’s schtick.
Look: he’s gone for dinner as a fifth wheel to Josh, Kaz, Charlie and Ellie, and they’re all doing it. And he’s even got them clapping along to whatever this “beerio” shtick is - presumably another bit from inside the villa thankfully left on the cutting room floor.
Imagine going on a nice double date and tolerating a weird tagalong guy doing his primary school teacher routines. And yet, there’s no reluctance in their faces. They’re loving it. And, even stranger still, I think I’m loving it.
I think they all know it’s a sphincter-curlingly embarrassing bit, and that is the bit.
I don’t even know where to start with this one. Again, if we were to read it generously, this is Dr Alex not-so-subtly attempting to wield his influence into getting a car manufacturer to gift him whatever model car this is. But it’s so odd.
Which manufacturer would align themselves with a 27-year-old man affecting the manner of a doe-eyed toddler tugging on the hem of their mum’s sleeve? He barely even gets a good shot of the whole car. Whizzes his camera around for all of a second before whipping it back to himself for his Bambi-ish “please.” I know nothing about cars, but you’d have to be a serious petrolhead to identify it as being anything other than a maybe purple(?) nondescript car.
So is he talking to someone in particular? We know he doesn’t have a significant other, so maybe his own actual parents? Does he really use his 1.3 million follower platform to ask his parents to buy him a car? No.
“I’ve been a really good boy this year…” This is a knowing wink. I’m convinced of it. We all watched him on Love Island, and we know Dr Alex hasn’t been a really good boy this year, and he knows that we know.
He’s alluding to an inherently unfair reward system of television villainy, whereby you become marketable the worse you behave. He’s playing with the trope of an entitled man who doesn’t believe he’s a bad guy because he makes a belligerent point of being supposedly ‘nice’. He must be. I want to believe.
If you go through Dr Alex’s timeline pre-Love Island, it’s… normal. It’s boring, but in an entirely normal way. He, like many people, took a lot of often badly-composed snaps of things it wouldn’t be unreasonable for most non-photographers to think were moments worth taking pictures of. Meals with friends, views across the Thames, (several) meals with his mum up the Shard (like, five), holiday sunsets, embracing his colleagues in A&E. The only hint of his current ~weird~ incarnation is his last post before actually going in the villa, which is, inexplicably of him posing in front of Kingdom of Sweets in (I think) Victoria Coach Station.
During Love Island, his account was managed on his behalf, and was virtually indistinguishable from the other contestants’ output.
Post-Love Island is a completely different ball game.
Dr Alex is active on his own Instagram account. We know this. He has a Twitter, too. He’s been online. He knows what people are saying about him, how they react to him. One sensible social media strategy would be to attempt to mitigate his patter-less persona by posting legitimately funny or interesting things, perhaps with the help of a team. Or just not posting at all. But Dr Alex has stoically committed to his unique brand of anti-patter to a degree that is, frankly, admirable.
Think about it. He must get thousands of notifications a day from strangers telling him that “ahahahoi” is terrible banter and that he’s a boring weirdo, and so what does he do?
He does a poll on whether he should get a meal deal.
He absolutely, 100% knows what he is doing.
He sees what his former villamates are doing, he gives their orthodox postings his blessing, and then goes his own merry way. He laughs in the face of expectation and annihilates genre convention.
He has constructed a character that is parts (1) a pensioner gifted their first smartphone and struggling to work out the buttons, (2) a sheltered posh lad trying to ingratiate himself during freshers week by modelling himself on Neil Patrick Harris in How I Met Your Mother, (3) Britain’s most relentlessly normal man, (4) an anti-humourist to rival Andy Kaufman and (5) maybe none of these things, maybe just uniquely Dr Alex himself.
During his time on Love Island, Dr Alex made a point of not shagging. Not just by being acutely awful at convincing anyone to smooch him, but swore off doing it on telly. “It’s not me,” he said - and fine, fair enough, prude - but then he also ended things with the only girl who wanted to see him after the cameras stopped rolling because that was too much. He was neither on the show to do bits, nor to find love, so why was he on it at all?
Truth is, I don’t know what the truth is. I don’t think anyone does, besides Alex.
I think the most shameful feeling - more than being rejected by the love of your life; or catching a glimpse of your reflection in your laptop screen seconds after a sordid act of self-romance; or receiving the I’m not angry, just disappointed treatment from a beloved relative; or a combination of all three - the most shameful feeling is: realising a stranger has just watched you take a selfie.
In that moment, everything wilts away. They’ve seen behind the curtain, the framing, the filter, the caption. They see you for all your grubby little engagement intentions. They see exactly how you want to people to see you, and they see you exactly how you didn’t want to be seen. Offline.
I think one of my most enjoyable feelings is ruminating on the precise opposite. Seeing some online activity - a comment, an upload, a retweet - and trying to fathom what was going through the person’s head irl in the moment they posted it.
Some posts are obvious. A meal in upscale restaurants intended to flaunt how well the taker must be doing to afford such a classy treat. (See also, holiday snaps from non-tourist traps.) A flex in a gym mirror to evidence dedication, and perhaps inspire lust. A deliberately crudely framed shot of a bin-bag or a discarded old boot or a sarcastic selfie-pout or something else knowingly squalid, as an ironic display of misplaced superiority over other users on the platform. Blah blah blah.
Look: you all know the insta tropes, and the intended impressions you’re supposed to glean from them, and that feeds are carefully curated facades. After a while, it becomes quite banal and saddening to observe all these things. Even being able to employ the very basic deduction needed to realise the intent behind each post seems dull and trite in of itself. The vanity and vacuity of social media users has been parodied in exactly the same way for the best part of two decades now. We all get it.
But every once in a while, something new comes along. Something different. Something you’ve never seen before and can’t comprehend.
I can’t even fathom a guess at what might be going through Dr Alex’s mind when he commits his works to online, whether he thinks they’re legitimately good posts, whether the intoxicating bathos is all an elaborate satire, whether it’s a combination of both, or none of the above. I don’t know. And that’s exciting.
Dr Alex is taking banter to strange new places, as yet uncharted realms. He marches to the beat of his own drum. I don’t know where he’s going. All I know is that I have to follow.