For most of you, (assuming of course that “most of you” fall within the category which i’m addressing) it isn’t hard to see that social media of all kinds is absolutely entrenched into our daily lives. It is rooted so deeply, that it defines entire conversations, relationships, opportunities and much more. While i promise to make this not a “damn the technology!” sort of speech, i can’t promise that i don’t utter those words at some point or another during my week.
i left Instagram, and while i won’t bore you with the numbers of it all, i do know the numbers by which i was defined for the past few years, and it topped out at 605,000. Followers, a number of people, robots and businesses that “follow” me along on my journeys through sponsored posts, travel experiences, and personal relationships. In my head, i humbled myself as often as i could – not often enough truth told – but still, i drudged on through the cyclical process of, go, photograph, edit, post, observe. i could have a conversation with massive design firms and hear “We love your instagram” and a piece of me felt missing. i’d have random (and nearly always delightful) strangers come up to me to talk of how they loved my work, and a piece of me felt missing. i’d go home to my family where they would ask about my recent expeditions, and where Instagram had taken me, what i was working on, what, what, what, your, your your…
i was missing.
Though i could never have admitted it before, all the “success” drained me of my own ability to deal with the ever-growing problem: self-awareness, or the lack thereof rather. i believe ferociously that my intentions with social media has always been, well, let’s say about 60% good.
i’d write these longwinded, poorly reviewed words of hope and ‘off-the-cuff’ emotions that i was dealing with and slap it underneath a photograph i’d semi liked. This isn’t some cut at the crowds of kind people who followed and heard and really saw themselves in the truth of my work, it’s more an honest review of the darker side of what was going on while so many were clicking “like” and “follow”. While i was showcasing the tip-top, best moments of my life, i was tip-toeing around the shattered remains of my relationships (of all kinds) and pointing the blame at all of them, ever-fearful of stepping on something that may hurt me; honesty.
We have a word for honesty now, it isn’t really honesty, it’s just rebranded. We call it authenticity, or genuineness, and now these are words you can buy on tee-shirts, they come attached to people like me with glazed-over eyes to the reality of their definitions.
Authentic. If i had to honestly describe myself during the past few years, it would be: self obsessive, delusional, manipulative, cowardly, and oh does that list go on. And just before you reach into your pocket for change to throw at the beggar in the street i seem to sound like, let me tell you, these are not words of self-hate, just honest. They are not reflective of me now, thank God, all the same, we have our growth to go through.
It’s a lesson and i learned.
Now, 25, and Myspace, Tumblr and Instagram behind me, all things society would think i was ‘good’ at defined me for about 10 years. Some will tell you it’s not about the numbers, but really in this day of first world society, thats what it becomes. Actually, i’ll counter my own statement and say that social media is more about self-glorification. Ouch. Hard thing to hear, really though think about why you do it, why you Snapchat, or Instagram, or Tumblr, or Tinder, or Facebook.
I’d tell people it was about “sharing” and “i like to see what others have to think” and “well it’s fun to…” this and that and every other thing you can think of that would take me away from facing the hard truth of calling it like it is: self-glorification. Now of course, you can have a business from it, but if you’re not on there simply to make money, you’re on there to buy into it or yourself. There’s no other realistic explanation (well there might be, but i don’t know it) for why you would get on and write about or photograph yourself, it’s to see how others react. If you were doing it just for you, then you’d have no earthly reason to share it anywhere.
Christian Watson, “On leaving, Part I”. In 1924.US: https://www.1924.us/journal/onleaving