What would it look like to see something and not say something?
Sometimes in life, one must draw the line.
A little over a year ago, I joined a club that everyone was already a member of. It’s a club I don’t need to name, rather I’ll describe it in flashes:
I just made the best dinner for my boyfriend. [insert photo]
[insert photo of many other meals because it seems we are a society obsessed with what we eat and documenting]
Who wants to see ___________ with me tonight? LIKE for a response back
LIKE if you LIKE me
[insert photo of abs, cleavage, couple kissing, new baby, new outfit, new haircut, new new new new________]
And what finally ended my membership to this not-so-exclusive club:
[Here is me meditating: Insert photo] And don’t forget to LIKE LIKE LIKE because look at ME; I’m MEDITATING]
There was a lot of hesitation involved when I joined. It felt extremely uncomfortable to look for friends or “request” them; wait for them to “accept” me, maybe even reject me. Some “friends” DEfriended me, while I did the same to others. For over a year, I became programmed to react on screen. When someone upset me, I sliced poems onto the screen. When I missed someone, I voyeured and searched through photographs it felt awkward to view without permission.
Hours spent scrolling down, self-loathing and getting sick off the fumes of narcissism all around.
I am of the Encyclopedia Generation. My family would get a new volume in the mail every month or so and it was quite an occasion to sip the photographs of parts of the world I’d never heard of. Through these books, I learned about leprosy, wild bush women and various weather patterns I never experienced in suburban New Jersey. Only now, can we just type in a few key words and see massive amounts of photographs attached to these words and learn every thing there is to know about it. Things are faster; no need to look through a lengthy index or wait for next month’s volume to be shipped out.
When I saw a great movie, I called up one of my three best friends (sometimes on three-way conversations) and we’d talk about it.
If I got a great haircut (or devastatingly awful), I’d head on over to whoever’s house and reveal. We didn’t have the Internet, no social networks. Birthday invites were through the mail or handed out at school. If you wanted someone to be your friend, you asked them. (Gasp) In person.
For years, when mention of this “club” came up, people would be shocked to hear that I wasn’t a member.
But….but…how do you keep up with your friends’ lives??????? How do you know what’s going on????????????
Then, I gave in. Put up some photographs. Promised myself that only a slice of me would be enlisted in this club. No personal things such as: how that job interview went or who I just had tea with or who I am sleeping with or a photo of that peculiar mole on my left breast.
Though on stage I have absolutely no boundaries; on screen, I needed them.
So, I advertised shows and performances. I thanked publishers who published me. I put up a line or two of poetry I was working on. I made friends. I learned about events that I wouldn’t have known about.
I lost hours, hours, hours of life that could have been spent straddling trees, weeping at paintings in museums, or learning how amazing people are in person right in front of me without a screen between us.
My friend count is less now. The invites will probably dry up. The world of FACES on screen like self-published BOOKS of our lives will still exist; I just won’t be a part of it.
I have done this before. Gone cold turkey from drugs, sex, certain people and other behaviors. There is that natural mourning period.
But think of all those poems that got locked inside me because I was mesmerized by some photos of a friend of a friend who isn’t even a friend of that friend’s baby or dinner date or new apartment or or or.
2013, I am ready for you. The year before you offered me some beautiful, unexpected sights and offerings. I got a whole book of poems published; I moved into a new apartment; I finished my graduate degree; I met the most amazing poets, music makers, listeners and lovers.
I lost myself in there. As a kid, I wasn’t a part of many clubs. I wasn’t invited to
many parties. For a little over a year, it felt kind of like I was a part of something. More specifically, I felt like I was one of the popular kids never without a place to sit and eat my lunch.
Now I know what it’s like. I can go back to being the red-haired wallflower poet. Still doing the same things, creating and exploring and loving……you are just going to have to ask me now to tell you about it.
Actually, not much has changed.
Wonderfully written. Thank you for sharing!!
Thank you for reading!
I’ve been thinking along theses lines as well. There is so much tied up in online identity. All it has done is created this space where we over-filter our human connections ( or are more awkward) and over share behind the safety of technology. I am one of these people. I could have written you a dozen letters with the time I’ve spent doing nothing but creep around online friends of friends of friends of family of friends. I think it’s time for me to disengage as well. Thanks for your words, poet.
And to disengage in one area truly leaves room to push introspection and attention elsewhere. So now more minutes/hours to poem or cook or walk or make music or make love or write letters……