LIKE most people, I check my social media once or twice a day, sometimes more. It’s become as much a part of our daily routine as teeth brushing and showering.

But now the virtual communities we step in and out of without much thought are in the spotlight again.

First it was yobbish football "fans" hurling vile racist abuse at England players after the Euros final, then it was Instagram star Em Sheldon complaining that she and other young female "influencers" face daily attacks online from middle-aged women.

I’m certainly not a follower of these – mostly young and good-looking – influencers, who make money out of posting pictures of themselves in silly poses to promote brands on Instagram, in return for a fee or blagged items. It’s an industry estimated to be worth $6.5 billion and is advertising by another name, peddling fantasies to sell stuff you don’t need or want.

There are those who abuse the system and don’t declare they are promoting a brand, which is why the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee was listening to Sheldon.

But really, advertising has been selling glamorous lifestyle fantasies – so well spoofed by Joan Collins and Leonard Rossiter in the Campari ads – for decades, so the likes of Em Sheldon don’t bother me. And with 117,000 followers, I’m sure she doesn’t give a Prada handbag if I’m not one of them.

What really gets my goat, though, are the social media posts by ordinary people, depicting idyllic scenes of family lives – mothers who cram their tots into vintage-style outfits à la Duchess of Cambridge, and "casual" holiday snaps worthy of a Boden catalogue.

It’s particularly sickening this summer, now that the great staycation is here, and aspirational parents want to give the impression that two weeks in an over-priced cottage smelling of mildew and despair up a rutted track is just as wonderful as relaxing by the swimming pool while the kids play in the reliable heat of a foreign holiday.

Nope, I don’t buy it, even though Scotland has some of the most breath-taking beaches and landscapes in the world, it can still catch you out in a sudden downpour.

People can post all the Swallows and Amazons photos they like of families kayaking on a loch or clad in wetsuits and surfing together in Cornwall; none of it tells the whole story.

The reality, I suspect, is often quite different and certainly never documented – the tantrum that precedes the gorgeous toddler pic, golden curls ruffling in the wind, which is really whipping in off the sea and freezing everyone to death. (There’s a good reason that windbreakers were such a feature of childhood trips to the seaside.)

Let’s also draw a veil over the fights in the car on long journeys, and the cries of "what is there even to do here?" and "is there Wi-Fi?" from bored, older kids.

One family I know posted a picture of them all looking sickeningly outdoorsy, rugged and joyous on a sailboat. It was their one outing on the waves, but gave the impression they’d just sailed around the world.

Another woman I know posted pics of her idyllic family holiday (#blessed) when I knew the couple loathed each other and were on the brink of divorce. They split up shortly after.

It rankles because it makes me feel bad about my own less than perfect family life, even though I really am blessed, without the hashtag. It's just another version of keeping up with the Joneses: not "look at my new car" but "look at my perfect children and our perfect marriage on our perfect holiday".

It’s showing off and makes people whose lives don’t live up to the fantasy feel diminished by comparison – and that is perhaps the aim of the posters/poseurs.

Don’t get me wrong, I like getting a glimpse into people’s lives on social media, seeing the flowers in their gardens, the views they capture on holiday or walks, news of happy events, snaps of their children, and even of their cats – as long as it’s a slice of real life and not a carefully curated lie.

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