SUN, sand, sea and selfies – what better way to escape the grim reality of lockdown life than with a holiday – sorry, a business trip – to Dubai? The selfies transform it into work, you see, for those whose business is selling themselves.

Gone are the days when the likes of actors, musicians and models competed to be the “face” of brands then pouted and preened for a few hours on a film set or photo shoot. Now almost anyone can become the face – or torso, or buttocks – of almost anything, as long as they have a smartphone and a following. They are selling a lifestyle, and the whole world is their potential film set.

For these dedicated quay workers, what might look like a day spent lounging by the water is actually a gruelling shift of standing, sitting, reclining, adjusting sunglasses and having a friend – sorry, a co-worker – take photographs. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. But also don’t try it, because you might get arrested. Don’t stop mid-exercise session to take photos, even if you’re just walking round a frozen reservoir in Derbyshire wearing a puffa jacket and carrying a cup of tea.

One might have thought the global pandemic would have clipped the wings of these so-called “influencers”, but the city of Dubai – perhaps not the most obvious safe haven for unmarried pin-ups in thong bikinis – has welcomed them with open arms. OK, maybe not with open arms, given current conditions, but with warm smiles. The smiles are probably hidden behind masks, but someone’s definitely giving them free plane tickets and a socially distanced thumbs-up.

It’s a win-win for those trying to stretch their 15 minutes of fame into 2021, but the mere mortals who follow them online are not quite so happy about it. Those who once enjoyed the escapism of scrolling through photos of their Love Island favourites promoting fake tan, fake teeth and fake romances now find themselves trapped within their local authority areas indefinitely and unable even to browse in non-essential shops, let alone contemplate saving up for a designer handbag or luxury face cream.

For those stuck in an endless cycle of Microsoft Teams meetings, exhausted from home-schooling efforts, or permanently stressed about their front-line jobs, what were once enjoyable glimpses of “aspirational lifestyles” now feel an awful lot like smug chancers rubbing their freedom in our faces.

Watching someone downing shots with their friends on a rooftop bar just isn’t the same when you’re grabbing a quick break in between lessons in long division and worrying about your asthmatic mum being banned from Sainsbury’s.

In response to the backlash, Stirling-born Love Island alumna Laura Anderson has complained that people don’t realise how hard the work of an influencer actually is, but she could perhaps have worded her poverty plea better by not using the words “I ain’t a millionaire”.

However, even she managed to read the room better than fellow celebri-twit Amber Gill, who last month responded to the announcement of London’s lockdown by posting an emoji of a sprinter and the words “let me just collect my things real quick” followed by a series of pictures of her first-class seat on a long-haul flight. She later claimed she had been unaware of the new measures when she made the posts, despite literally including a screenshot of a news headline announcing them, then swiftly pivoted to hawking a quick-fix weight-loss plan to her impressionable young fans.

READ MORE: Dubai added to quarantine list due to spate of cases in Scotland-bound passengers

The Guardian this week notes that James Lock, formerly of The Only Way is Essex, has assured fans he and his girlfriend are “still grafting” while overseas, although the last time I checked, this term had been redefined to mean doggedly pursuing a romantic interest and I’m not sure HRMC considers cocktails, rose petals or prophylactics to be allowable business expenses.

When the newspaper contacted two dozen influencers for comment on the legitimacy of their trips abroad, following the announcement of isolation rules for those returning to the UK, Anton Danyluk’s agent responded by asking if a fee would be paid. I for one am shocked that a man best known for having his bottom shaved by his own mother has proved to be out of touch with what the nation considers tasteful and appropriate. The Airdrie-born fitness fanatic would probably consider it a compliment to be

called a tightarse, but he certainly isn’t using his supposed influence to challenge negative stereotypes about penny-pinching Scots.

One suspects the only people who are happy to see this vacuous mob flaunting their liberated lifestyles – and attracting critical headlines for it – are the management and players of Celtic FC. Their winter jaunt to a Dubai training camp went down like a lead balloon with fans and rivals alike, even before it was revealed a player had tested positive for Covid-19.

The concept of “living in a bubble” has taken on a new meaning during the past 10 months. Given an inch, Celtic took thousands of miles. These other “workers” are simply taking the piss.