In the silent moments of the last few days, I’ve been introspecting about what I really get from social media. After having been completely off all forms, and a pretty strictly enforced daily 12-hour Whatsapp downtime for three years, this year I returned to Instagram. Purely for the sake of work. And it has been a useful and good way to step out into the world again. However, covid times, the lockdown and consequent see-sawing of my mental health has inevitably landed me back to the place where I spend an inordinate amount of time on Instagram. It is still within my daily 1 hour limit, but the fact that it feels like a lot and definitely adds a lot of unnecessary chatter in my mind has made me want to step back and question it a little bit
Some changes are necessary and in order, I think.
And once again it has brought me back to the realisation I had in 2017. That what social media inherently demands and draws us into — certain primal needs and patterns of wanting to be seen, heard and patted on the back — is totally at loggerheads with what I am trying to attain in my personal, emotional, inner exploration.
On the one hand, my therapeutic journey takes me closer and closer to placed where I have to examine the ways in which I curate my identity, how I make facets of myself palatable for the world, and what that costs me. Then, I have to work bloody hard to confront and undo them. And on the other hand, on a daily basis, my existence on Instagram needs me to “build an image”. A certain kind of image, whether unidimensional or not, serves to make myself palatable.
The two states are diametric and opposing ends of the spectrum. One requires me to make a habit of taking myself less seriously, be open to seeing the ways in which I can mess up, open up to the dark sides within me, the problematic shitty parts and get intimate with them, even. And the other requires me to keep those very sides hidden, projecting an image of being a sorted, mature, together person.
These days, as I contend more and more with the many ways in which I can be problematic, with notions and opinions that I sometimes find unbearable myself, I feel more ready to allow a softening to accept how much I am yet to understand, as well as the fact that none of my opinions should probably ever really be cast in stone. Because that is a fine way to kill potential for change and growth.
My politics have changed drastically over the years that I spent off social media. And the biggest gift of those years was that I didn’t feel the need to cling to any one side on anything. Being offline really taught me that I didn’t need to immediately (or ever) have a strong opinion on anything. That there were many things I didn’t even have to lend my voice to. That there were many things I was better off learning quietly, observing, reading, imbibing and not necessarily offering up proof of that anywhere.
I discovered the beautiful middle ground that gave me so much room for exploration and constant growth and WIP. Ascension. Of understanding that there is no singular truth, that everybody has their version of it and everyone has their right to believe wholeheartedly in it.
There is simply no space for this on Instagram, the way I see it. I find it impossible to inhabit that middle ground I feel within myself, online. Or at least I have not found a way to. I find most things I see on Instagram are either too shrill, fixed, polarised, and just way too sure, or I find a rather dilute idea of vulnerability that is in itself a performance towards building an image.
I am seeking a soft space where I can combine the self-assured comfort of vulnerability I feel within myself, but also find in myself sufficient self-consciousness to also put that out into the world, even as a part of the work I do.
Many things about the platform have changed since I quit in 2017, but fundamentally many things remain. I am honestly confused about the place it has in my life. I knew this day would come soon. And here I am.
I know what I enjoy about it, and I see what purpose it serves. But I also sense that I need to course correct my usage to suit my current headspace. I will continue to share weekly readings, words of inspiration and direction, and try and abstain from the rest that was spilling over into my stories. This is the draw. The lure of having to constantly show (not internalise, not imbibe, not quietly do the work) of how much I know, where I stand on issues, and how I feel about everything at large.
In my inner world I have been working hard to get closer and closer to knowing myself in a quiet, unshakeable way. A process that comes with nearly zero adulation. I was getting very comfortable with that necessary work and doing it anyway. And in the last few months of rampant Instagram use during the lockdown, I have felt it slowly slip away.
I find that in offering little bits of my soul, in this way, up for strangers to make assessments of me, I get slowly drawn into the cycle of forgetting who you am and waiting to hear and feel what others think I am.
I want to slowly move back to a place where I know and love myself just the way I am, in whatever condition I am. Falling apart or put together. I want to focus once again on what’s happening within, than the noise without. I want to return to honesty in the way that I was, before I got lured into this dance of making an image to make the numbers count.
Many more thoughts about Instagram, the Internet, and our personal stories are thrashing around in my head and I will unpack them slowly over the coming days.