S posts a spontaneously clicked picture of us on her Instagram yesterday and the strangest thing happened. A couple of people I used to know from Instagram days, people who stopped engaging with me for no apparent reason one fine day, reached out to her in response.
It’s nice to see Revati, they said.
*insert Revati’s confused face*
I’d dismiss it as pointless pleasantries. But it gets curiouser. S being polite S informs them that I’m doing good. And pat comes the reply, Good to know.
Why? How? What good could it possibly be for people who didn’t want to know how I was when we could have been in touch, to know I’m good? This, from someone who blatantly ghosted me when I reached out to them upon moving to Bangalore. All because I pulled a story they sat on for months without explanation, to run it with another more willing publication.
This isn’t the first time this has happened. It tends to happen when VC puts up the occasional picture of me too. Random people — who either ghosted me like above, or people who were never too warm to begin with, or people I was useful for back in the day — I am absolutely no longer in touch with extend extra warm, over familiar pleasantries.
I’ve always brushed it off as what people like to do online. Show each other just how much they know each other. It’s the oddest thing and I do think it’s peaked.
Does it have to do with social media visibility alone, I wonder? I mean I’m not even around there, so there can’t be too much currency in knowing me anymore. But I can’t be sure. More disconcerting though, is the extreme curiosity about why I got offline. And the conviction that it must have been compelled by something terrible. A life crisis, some colossal fuck up, something to hide from the world since everything is online and documented now.
So yesterday I wondered if the pleasantries and the Good to know I’m doing alright is probably a response to the default understanding that something terrible must have happened for me to get offline.
I don’t know when we get to this point where getting offline has come to signal something catastrophic.
This is just a single example of S posting a picture online. I cannot count the number of times I have either bumped into someone I used to know online, or I’ve heard from someone tangentially inquiring if everything is alright with me since I am no longer on social media.
All this conjecture might have made some tiny bit of sense if I were someone of importance or consequence. I’m not, because most people didn’t realised when I disappeared off social media until much long after. And why should anyone care, I always wondered. There was no explicit, single, large reason that compelled my departure. It was many things I really couldn’t explain. I also always assume I am completely inconsequential and ordinary being just like a million other people out there, so nobody would really notice, or wonder.
But, clearly I am mistaken?
Yesterday I got to thinking what must they think could have happened in the time I’ve been away? And then I realised this curiosity has absolutely nothing to do with what I think is my ordinary existence, or any of my measures of ordinariness. It’s the sheer idea that I am offline that’s extraordinary.
Which is meta level amusing and interesting for me, because offline, it has become my sole purpose and business to try and be ordinary. To just be good enough, even if I fail most of the time. To be alright on my own. TO do nothing exemplary. And whatever it is I choose to do or not do, to be okay bumbling on on my own, without showing it off or needing a universe of voyeurs to tell me how good I am. That I’m quite alright. Or great even. To the point where everything basic, every little mundane accomplishment warps and begins to seem unnecessarily larger than life and extraordinary.
Yesterday, thinking about the irony of how social media was the basis of so many of the connections I held and kept some years ago, I felt a pang of sadness about this person who clearly doesn’t want to have anything to do with me in real life, but felt the need to feign familiarity with me anyway. It’s a level of fake I have worked hard to slowly peel away from my life.
As usual, and once again, I received affirmation that something I did two years ago was only laying the path for where I am at now, and important work I am only getting to the crux of now. I didn’t know it then, but getting off social media two years ago was only laying the foundation for learning to be imperfect and all kinds of ordinary. Of allowing myself to be alright, even on my own. And two years on, I feel like I am only just getting started.
Writing this from my hotel room in Chandigarh where we arrived early this evening. We’re driving out to the hills early tomorrow morning, so I should finish posting this and turn in.
I am grateful for travel, for the expansive length and breadth of this country that is anything but ordinary, and that I have barely scratched the surface of. And for the ability to take off, pick up and go, largely unencumbered.