Being seen on the internet

Published on 2024-02-22

Late last December, I signed up for Instagram again.

I used to use Instagram a lot as a teenager. I always knew how bad it was for me, but it was addictive. You'd open it and all of a sudden it's three hours later and you have no idea where the day went. It's an unhealthy coping mechanism, and it took me a really long time to eschew it. But eventually, I did, and I never went back. At least, until fairly recently.

I wanted to write an article about it. My working title was "I want what Instagram used to be." I'd use Instagram for a month to get a feel for how it's changed over the years. I still want to write that article and I don't want this one to transmute into it as I'm writing, so I'll leave it at that. The point is, my plan was to use Instagram for a month for "research purposes," and then I'd uninstall it.

It's been about a month and a half and that hasn't happened yet.

It's strange. my biggest fear was that Instagram would remember all my algorithmic parameters from all those years ago, and having reinstalled it, I'd immediately get sucked back into their endless feed. That never happened. It doesn't feel like I've relapsed at all. Every few days, I'll check what my friends have posted, I'll go through their stories, and I'll leave it at that. Using the app isn't at all what's kept me on the hook.

On my new Instagram account, I post my art. Much like it did during the lock down, posting my art incentivized me to keep making it. It was the first time I ever made an active effort to broadcast my paintings to the people I know in real life. After I stopped doing Instagram, I mostly stopped sharing my art with my IRL friends, too. Today, I share most of my paintings under a pseudonym only like two of my friends know.

There's something very attractive to me about sharing that part of my life with others--about being seen. I think I'd like it if my friends read my gemlog, too. I see a lot of people on here who make an active effort to separate the version of them that exists in real life from their expressions of themself in gemspace. I sympathize. That was definitely something I wanted for myself in the past, but today, I want nothing more than to have the confidence to embody the person I am online in real life. I want to find a way to synthesize the njms of the Wired with the Nat of the Real.

I share a name with a real person

I feel like whoever that would be, they'd be a more honest, more holistic expression of me. And I think that's really valuable.

Personally, I find it a lot more easy to demonstrate who I am, than to just explain it. I rarely lead introductions by calling myself an artist, even though creating art is something I spend a lot of my time doing. Painting is up there with writing as far as "substantial ways I express myself" go. The writing part would probably be somewhat obvious to anyone who follows this gemlog because clearly it's what I do. The internet, though particularly the web and gemspace, does broadcast communication very well. That's like, it's thing. It's a really good tool for broadcasting who you are.

Instagram, for the worse, is the place where many people my age go to be seen. All my old friends are on Instagram. Many of my new ones. I've "reconnected" with people I haven't spoken to since I graduated high school. I see them, and they see me. They see me demonstrating a significant and otherwise unspoken aspect of who I am. That in and of itself is addictive in a way I had forgotten. Leaving Instagram means losing that. I'll have to eventually--having an Instagram account is kind of embarrassing given my politics. Facebook are genocideers. They're the beating heart of surveillance capitalism. But I don't feel ready to give it up just yet.

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