This post is dedicated to my sweet friend Tommie Marshell. When I get stuck in my writing I just pretend I’m writing her and that’s pretty much what this is. Thanks, Tommie! ❤
I reactivated Instagram earlier this week after almost four months off, and all of my creative juices have been put towards getting “likes” instead of doing anything of merit or deeply satisfying like completing a writing project. And wow.
I heard somewhere that Instagram is designed with the same addictive specs in mind as slot machines in casinos. Wish I could cite the source of that information. It could have come to me in a dream for all I know. God- that’s who I’m citing. God told me. No, I heard it on a podcast. But maybe God was the guest on the podcast. Or maybe God spoke through the guest. Slightly more feasible. Or maybe I dreamt that I heard the podcast. Whatever. Shit’s addictive is the point.
I kicked things off by posting a couple pictures from my recent adventures in the Great American Southwest with some wordy, expressive captions and before I even got a single “like” it was back on as though I’d never left. People asked where I’d been and were happy to see me. I got over 100 likes on one of my posts. I’m not, like, famous or anything.
What even prompted me to re-activate my account after spending four peaceful months living simply in the world right in front of me? Honestly? I don’t want to be that honest right now.
I wanted to reveal myself in a controlled way to a person I recently met. Ah, gross!
Man, when does being a human ever start to feel comfortable?
See, social media allows me to carefully curate myself, highlighting everything cool and interesting while diminishing anything unflattering just enough to seem nearly perfect but still relatable and admirably “real.” It’s so much safer than a fumbling phone conversation in which I might say something asinine and reveal how much I don’t actually know about anything I pretend to know about otherwise. I needed to solidify my place in this person’s mind as someone worthy of time and attention before blowing it by being myself, unfiltered.
And that’s when I perused my account, to make sure I was indeed presenting a likable person on there, and found to my surprise that yeah, I’m kind of cool. Or at least on IG I am. Do you ever find yourself surprised by how much you don’t hate yourself? I may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but on IG I am definitely my own cup of tea. Yes, I said that. Shoot me. No, seriously, shoot me.
I kind of loathe that I’m being so honest about all of this. Why am I giving away my secrets? Why do I feel compelled to come clean when I could simply stop without saying a word? Am I punishing myself? Atoning?
I keep talking about how I want to live a life of integrity but the more I learn what that means, the less I’m into it. I just want to live with enough to pass, you know? Can I keep my white lies and facades? My IG account? Please? I’ve spent a solid portion of my life trying to convince everyone I’m authentic and a good person, whatever that means. But in reality neither of those things are very fun or easy unless you’re Jesus or Oprah.
No, I really do want to live with all the integrity I can in every way that I can. For some reason. Though I’ve yet to collect enough evidence to be thoroughly convinced I have this idea that it will ultimately make my life better somehow. It’s just that I am so un-practiced at it that it’s embarrassing. I never realized how much I depend on being phony and low-key manipulative to account for what a regular old human I am before.
What makes my problematic use of social media somewhat difficult to address or talk about is that I don’t think I engage with it all that differently than most other than compulsively revising my captions throughout the day. From what I can tell it’s relatively common, if not the norm, to integrate social media into every aspect of your life, or rather- to integrate every aspect of your life into your social media. And whether anyone wants to admit it or not, the validation of receiving “likes” can be so fucking yummy. All that being said, normal use is not always equated with healthy use. Of anything.
But this is where perhaps I deviate from the norm.
I recently updated my iPhone and they’ve made it so you can limit your time on certain apps and what not. How nice of them. But does that work for people or am I a full blown addict? It worked for about an afternoon, part of a morning. You receive a reminder, a black icon of a hour glass, letting you know that you’re time is almost up. You decide in settings how much you want to a allot yourself on specific apps. When time is out, the icons for the applications you’ve selected for regulating are dimmed. If you try to open them a white screen pops up to let you know you’ve met your maximum but gives you the option of ignoring the lock-out for 15 minutes or, even better, for the rest of the day. How do you stop yourself from doing an additional 15 minutes and then eventually surrendering to the day?
It reminds me of when I would try to restrict myself to two glasses of wine a night. If I stayed within my confines I felt very accomplished and simultaneously tortured. Sometimes though I would find a work-around to my self-imposed limits like using my biggest wine glasses and filling them all the way to the brim. And I could still take pulls off the box-wine spigot all night, pouring it directly into my mouth like a frat boy with no fraternity because only the wine that makes it into a glass counted. More often than not, however, I would throw my hands up, say fuck it, and go for that third glass. And then a fourth. And so on. Control never worked for me, so I just had to give it up all together.
I’m a true blue addict, I guess. At least opiates were never my thing and I left OKC before I got too coked out.
Social media is not an entirely harmless addiction either, though it may seem that way. There are plenty of articles written on the topic so I don’t care to elaborate any further beyond sharing this excerpt from my last IG post:
“…It takes a lot of energy for me to function on a very basic level some days. (I’ve been crushing it the last few months!) It requires mindfulness, consistency and ever expanding self-awareness. Social media disrupts all of that and puts me in a dangerous place, as I have been prone -like every person in the Goddang First World- to bouts of depression and anxiety. Not anywhere near an episode but staying off here’s been key in my healing from a lot of crud. So anyway, rant over, I guess. This has been a fun experiment! XO-Cans”
I will end this by saying I am so grateful that I caught myself, and that I didn’t corrupt my blog by sharing it. Not that sharing personal work on social media is corrupt in itself. But for me I risk losing authenticity and writing for the wrong reasons in that environment. I don’t want to lose my voice and creativity again.
This blog must be kept pure. If I start writing for “likes” and instant gratification, it’s over. Yes, I still care about quality and will edit obsessively on some pieces, but the intention of everything I write on here is simply to get it out, to do what nourishes my soul, whether it’s worth anything in someone else’s eyes or not.