It’s only been a few days since I departed from the potentially, most secretly toxic relationship I’ve ever held. It ate away at me daily, for years, piece by piece, negotiating my peace for a piece of high that this addiction offered to my lower desires, but never fulfilled. A pornography of the heart, the mind, a social touch masked by digital codes and encrypted with public statistics, I tuned into this feed and fed demons of lesser quality than my true character, my castle being infested with habitual activity, flooding my eyes and mind during the times I needed myself most.
Everyone engages in a unique relationship with themselves, and with any social apps one may use, however Instagram has a uniformity to it that fits us into squares, and lets us feel in control by sizing adjustments and contrast intensities. Maybe if I make the photo a little sharper, it will look more professional, and not from my outdated iPhone. Maybe if I do a little contrast, it will emphasize the shape of my face, the outline of body, maybe I will stand out more, maybe I will receive more likes, more approval.
My instagram journey started innocently about five years ago, my cousin and I opened up accounts while in florida, and posted images of sandy beaches and pink sunrises. I maintained a healthy distance, a nurturing mystery that kept my social life, my private life, my name, my personal activities, work, relationships, off the gram. Instagram became a place of sharing information, spiritual insights, great artwork, and sidestepping the quietly growing narcissism that became aware that selfies received more likes than any cool “repost”, that an even slightly provocative glance achieved more attention, and a shirtless selfie brought in a larger audience. Cool….the monsters liked the taste, and a hunger was awakened. The perfect outlet to feed anyone’s psyche in the aspects of feedback for one’s “voice”, even when that voice is auto-tuned to the perfect pitch and sweet spot, not too thirsty, not giving a fuck, an almost effortless “whoops” pic that spawns an interest in tapping fingers.
While studying yoga, and in an intense karmic relationship (caused by both of our insecurities, brought to light by the presence of each other), my need to love, for healing, for validation for my emotions turned towards the gram. I started sharing my poetry, my words, my emotions on my page. Hashtagging followed. While my audience grew, along with positive feedback, so did the eyes of family, fans, unknowns, and my personal work of writing was now tagged with my face, my name. I felt that this unmasking of my heart was necessary to be bolder in what I felt, how I felt, even if it was only for myself (and still put on display for everyone). But imagine the irrevocable awkwardness of having my mother, my ex, my aunts, cousins, college mates and anyone else with internet access, the viewing of my most personal poetry and process of “spiritual discovery”, posting a deeply personal poem, a shirtless image, with the bright screens of a fake world, clutching a piece of equipment, while in reality I lay in the dark loneliness clutching my own flesh for comfort.
Posting too much spiritual / philosophical content cost me one audience group, while too many selfies made another uncomfortable. I couldn’t please anyone, I couldn’t please myself. I felt like a failure at social media, and the ritualistic repetition of posting, checking, reviewing, enforced this into my subconscious, broken with the dilemma of disbarring contrast, a conflicting world within myself, aiming to please admirers, family friends, strangers….what do they want from me? What do I want from myself?
Years of sharing followed, a steady audience grew, and my single life became engaged in a relationship with the gram, with the feedback, and I became tied to it, that my poetry had to be shared there, because “this was my audience, my market.”
While having lunch with an “instagram friend”, we talked about instagram marketing, branding, and techniques to build an account audience. The listed topics make me squirm, but with a growing leadership of instagram gurus, we are taught that branding is cool, that marketing towards a target audience is effective, that fixating oneself into a method of optimal engagement with a niche market is smart and the best way to “make the gram work for you,” Can someone please inform me how this is not synonymous with selling one’s soul?
I started to find my inner “rebel” lash back, upset stomaches, uneasy belly, conflicted mind….something was wrong. Something was always wrong. I always felt uneasy posting most selfies, most shirtless photos, avoiding my mother’s reminder of how I was raised and that “this is not the type of person you are, you have so much more to offer, why are you stooping to this hype?” Uneasiness became the norm of my instagram experience, followed by the relief of ease when the likes stopped rolling in on a photo, and I can measure its worth. Did I break 100, did I affect people, did this photo expand my expression to unseen heights…..am I growing? And by growing, I don’t mean from an actual perspective, but am I giving off the perception that I am growing, becoming better, stronger, gaining muscle, gaining self love and integrity, with the belief in the image for myself, funded by the social merit of enforcement likes. I believed in my own bullshit, while drowning in it behind the screen.
While most of my life has always been off the gram, my angst bred with the self doubt that I must not be courageous enough, or believe in myself enough, to market myself thoroughly. I looked down on myself as I saw others sharing themselves aimlessly, and receiving hundreds of thousands of followers for it. I wondered why I am not going out there and sharing this amazing self that I am, that I must be a coward, that I must be lazy. I must not have the balls to express my freedom so boldly.
The ideas that my success of my “message”, my “art”, my “voice” depended on instagram actually stifled my message, diluted my art, and sequestered my voice.
I’ve been spending the last few weeks being “sober” of stimulants, and by that, I cut out dairy, gluten, caffeine, all smoking, drinking and pornography. During this time, I figured, I’ll be able to sink deeper into what’s real, what’s true, and be less wavered by the ups and downs that power the carousel of insanity.
I found myself researching on instagram strategy, which boiled down to finding a mission statement that included a purpose and goal. I realized that I had several conflicting purposes, several different goals, and thought the only way would be to open up more accounts and divide my social media pursuits. Fighting fire with fire, gambling with more gamble, seeking sex to fill empty voids with more empty experience, so to speak.
This focus, on “what the fuck is my instagram for” struck me. My closest friends aren’t on social media. Social media has become a motivator for negative personality traits within me. The decision was instant, immanent…I cut the cord.
I felt a gust of cool air enter my body, a web of nerves fell to the ground, my head lifted, and I felt that quiet thump of my heart in my chest.
Instagram had been my glass ceiling that I’d been trying to break with every post, a futile attempt that was backwards, ironically engulfing in its ability to tire me in circles and drain my psyche.
The glass ceiling kept “friends” in “touch” without having to reach out to me, kept admirers fed on images but hindered dates, kept poetry and art in a digital box, and out from living in the real world through my actual self.
“Photographers” love instagram, because their work exists in boxes. Real artists of the lens revel in the art of photo-creating, the integrity and rawness of a shoot, the beauty of capturing spontaneity. Instagram is a trap, a feigned art that lures even the best intentioned souls.
My mental energy is released from this, and an unprecedented amount of energy, power, and time is now available for my life, available for my family, my friends, my art, my goals, my growth…my time is now available for me.
For my beautiful social-media family, whether you lurked silently from shadows, or actively engaged in my content, I will return on terms that work for the peace of my heart, without negotiating the piece of my soul.
I hope the best for you, and stay tuned for more Mushakka by Mikal 😉