Showing posts with label social media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label social media. Show all posts

boring explainer is boring


The only thing more annoying than a nobody blogger announcing an impending hiatus is a nobody blogger feeling she needs to explain a return from one. And I had no intention of doing so, because I'm not so arrogant to assume anyone notices or cares--but a few people have knocked gently on the door to make sure I'm okay here in my room.

I'm okay here in my room.

Few things going on, as to why I've hardly blogged the past month. Just gonna come right out with them, as straightforwardly as possible.

1) I was so, so, so hurt and disappointed by the lackluster response to the fundraiser I posted about. Other than, randomly, one Instagrammer I had just started following, the only readers who contributed are also actual, real-life friends of mine. That's it. No one else. And...I've been doing this a long time. Some of you have been reading me for years. I've always put my very best into this blog. Thoughtful, considered writing. Heartfelt, deeply personal sentiments. Totally free. I never once asked for anything in return, until the dance marathon came up. I guess I expected people would chip in $10, as thanks. Expectation is a killer.

Whether or not my disappointment and sadness was justified--well, that's subjective. Whether or not I had a right to expect financial reciprocation--that's a complicated question with lots of variables. But it doesn't even matter. It's what happened. And that was it for me. I was like, Fuck this. Why am I putting so much effort and honesty and feeling out there for these people. Yep, you guys became a "these people" to me. I was really, really bummed. After a clumsy attempt to get my feelings out, I decided to take a break from blogging and think about how--if at all--I wanted to come back to it. One thing I knew for sure is that I would return to withholding all information about my work life. I decided not to share what I'd been working on since last fall--the business I'd been working on. That to me is the most personal and vulnerable information, and always has been. Writing about love, depression, my relationships? No problem. That comes easy. But opening myself up to judgment about matters career and financial? Terrifying. So, as a way to get a boundary back up that would make me feel better about things, I took it off the table.

I'm not "mad" anymore. I've let it go. And I get it. You don't really know me. And you certainly don't owe me thanks, or a penny in thanks. But that's part of why I've been absent.

2) The situation with Terence has been difficult, and I just never know where to draw the line in talking about it. We get along...until we don't anymore. And while writing has always been such an important source of therapy for me, I still want to respect the rights and privacy of those in my stories. Terence and I made the decision years ago to be public with our relationship. We linked up social media accounts, tagged and tweeted at one another. And though fairly quickly down that road I realized that probably wasn't the best idea, it was important (read: really fun) to him so I kept going with it. But now the cat can't be put back in the bag. His friends and family and work associates and potential employers can get here, if they so desire, in a matter of a few clicks. And Terence asked me when we broke up to be considerate of that. So I've tried to. Even when I was in a state of bewildering anger and hurt, I refrained from writing posts about him and what's going on. Now we're down to final weeks, and I've moved on so much in my heart that there really isn't much left to say. But that's part of why I've been quiet, too.

3) I just don't know how public I want to be with my personal life anymore. Not just for my sake, but for the sake of others. For one thing, if I was dating a guy and found out he had a tell-all blog? Oh hell no. I'd run. Unless he was amazing, and then maybe I'd say, Hey, I like you...but keep me off your damn blog. 

And the fact is that in the past few months, I have met some guys. I've had some nice experiences. Not exactly dates, but interactions that have made me feel like, Okay. I can do this again. Heart bruised, but not destroyed. I know how to meet and mingle and flirt and feel those things again. There's someone right now, too, sort of. I don't know what it is, but it is a thing. And it's nice.

And these are all things I once would have told you about in a heartbeat--but the circumstances with Terence are so bizarre, and I'm trying to tread lightly with that. And Elliequent's boundaries are, if not necessarily evolving, at least undergoing deep consideration right now.

I'll probably keep sharing about my romantic life, but with absolutely no real names. No specifics. No social media references. Anonymous Person of Significance type thing. Because while I can decide for myself to be open to derision, scorn, or stalking--that's not my decision to make for anyone else.

So, again, figuring all of this out--that's part of why I haven't blogged.

4) There's also my work life. And yes, now I have an actual work life. I got a job. Quite recently. It's part time, and I'm looking for a second job. But my boss? Extremely private. The very nature of his work demands it, actually. So that's a non-starter. I can't share anything about it, other than I work in Beverly Hills and am thrilled to have something to think about all day other than my damn self and problems.

Which of course raises the question Wait wut? I thought you were starting a business?

Well, I was. And I got right to the point of pushing through the door and announcing it...when I realized I don't want to do it. It's a great idea--that I stand by. But the work itself? Mind-numbingly tedious and isolating. I'd be alone, all day, every day, doing the most mindless, un-stimulating actions ever. It would be toxic for my mental heath. It has been toxic. I've desperately needed to get out of the house and just go somewhere every day, be around others, be part of something, be focused on something outside of myself--for YEARS. The business I'd planned on dedicating myself to would do exactly what Rainy Day Templates did: make me a shut-in workaholic. It's just not the right path.

That's what's going on. Lots of change, lots of indecision about my blog's purpose and direction. I expect I'll keep at it, because it does make me happy to write. I just need some of the dust to settle, I need a little more time to get some distance from my last relationship, I need to feel established enough in my job(s) to feel that I can spare the time for blogging again. In the meantime, you can always find me chatting it up on Instagram.

I'm sorry if anything I said up there made you feel bad. I'm nothing if not honest, though. It's why you love me, maybe? If you still do? Hope so. I still love you.

the midden-morphosis

A little while ago, this popped up on my phone:

I find this wonderful for three reasons.

1. Midden is one of my recent vocab words. Yes, I study vocab words. No, I'm not preparing for the GRE. Yes, I am just a huge dork.

2. When the notification came, I was eating animal crackers. The bag appears to contain rhinos, though few horns seem to have survived the trip from the Stauffer Biscuit Company factory in York, Pennsylvania.

3. It's "Blue Monday," alleged to be the most depressing day of the year. What better way to celebrate it than by watching insects crawl through shit? Kafka, eat your heart out.


Do you Periscope? Curiosity got the best of us and we've done it a few times now (viewing, not broadcasting). We have a semi-regular tradition of looking at a couple pages of Cute Overload before bed, so Periscope is a fun occasional changeup from that. There's a fair amount of sketchy-seeming dudes out there, not to mention an alarming number of young girls broadcasting alone, late at night. But every so often you land on something really neat. We've watched karaoke in Tierra del Fuego, some kind of wild girls' night in, somewhere in the Middle East, and a bar singalong in Wales, among other things.

I think the argument could be made that Periscope is the one truly pure social medium. (That is to say, pure when used by amateurs and everyday people, not those who've parlayed themselves to celebrity status with frequent broadcasting and heavy self-promotion.) No filters, no pre-arranged, carefully curated vignettes. No scripts and no time to think of clever captions or 140-character witticisms. Just boom, connection. Here I am doing my thing, there you are on the other side of the world, watching. Hopefully saying hello (every time we join a broadcast we say Hello from Los Angeles! and some people positively light up, they get so excited to have a viewer from ZOMGCalifornia, USA). It's really rather thrilling.

The only person I've followed (other than the auto-follows brought over from my Twitter account) is a guy named Grant Marcus (@tokkolosh). He's got less than nine hundred followers, but he's accumulated some 160k "hearts" due to the amazingness of his broadcasts. Grant is a self-described "wildlife and photography enthusiast" living in Madikwe Game Reserve, in South Africa. He broadcasts at least a few times a week, depending on what's going on. The first night we found him, he was tracking a lion, alone in the bush. He brought the phone down close to the ground so everyone could see the size of the cat's paw print in the dirt. Needless to say, we were hooked. Since then he's broadcast elephants, cheetahs on the prowl, and most recently, a massive wildebeest migration. In fact the migration is going on right now; Grant and his crew/guests are traveling alongside the herd and documenting their journey. Yesterday I watched as hundreds of them (thousands?) scrambled across a crocodile-filled river. Legit NatGeo shit, I'm telling you.

The broadcast quality is great; you can see the animals and landscape clearly. Plus his South African accent is a kick as are the other languages you'll hear the locals speaking. And if you enable push notifications, you'll get crazy banner alerts popping up on your phone like "hyenas dining on giraffe kill". Which, among the notices our electronic leashes send us all day long, has got to be among the more interesting.

Couple screengrabs (don't let the blurriness fool ya; the broadcasts are pretty crisp):

an African safari (with a side jaunt to the Seychelles, of course) has always been my ultimate dream trip

all I see are hundreds of Chaucers

happy vs. happiness

Happy has got to be the most prostituted word in modern society, and certainly in the blogosphere.

Happy is not the same as happiness, and there's all the difference in the world between the two. Happiness is an occasional, organic byproduct of living in sync with your values. It flows into and through you. You can't control its production or delivery. You just wake up and it's there, or turn a street corner and feel it grab you. It pulses in huge bursts or slow, steady waves, until it fades away again.

People search for happy all the time, sometimes desperately. They seek it out like a drug, a quick fix to get them through the day. Sources of happy are short-lived and almost always involve some form of external validation.

Happy is a thing people hunt, but happiness is a thing that finds them.

Some of us bloggers forget this difference - or we live in denial of it. For some of us, happy is the whole point. We treat it like a trophy, polishing it and placing it prominently in front of us. Then we can hide behind it, and use it as a shield to block criticism or uncomfortable truths. Look at my happy! Just try and get past it! We worry that if we don't prove our happy, we'll be laughed at, scorned, judged - or worst of all, pitied. So we parade our happy even at the risk of ridicule. Even at the cost of exhausting and alienating those around us. Because not everyone wants to march in our Happy Parade.

Not everyone comes right out and declares their happy. They're smart enough to know this is mawkish and unappetizing. More savvy and sophisticated bloggers underplay their happy hand. They play their happy cool, with a casually-worded caption and cute emoji on an Instagrammed photo of a beautiful day - or a beautiful child. Here the happy lies quietly in subtext, but don't be fooled. It screams just as loudly: I AM HAPPY.

But I'm gonna let you in on a little secret. We're not telling you. We're telling ourselves. Which is not to say that manufactured happy and genuine happiness never overlap; sometimes they do. But sometimes the happy is a placeholder for happiness, which never needs likes and rarely poses for photographs anyway.

It's all so bizarre, our fixation with finding and flaunting the happy. And to complicate matters, happy is a squirrelly, highly subjective concept. To one person it might mean extreme elation; to another, balance and inner peace. We all aim for different spots on that continuum. Some are satisfied by a sense of general well-being, and some lose their minds in pursuit of elusive ideals of financial wealth and personal power.

The fact is, the less you need to make you happy, the more powerful you are. If all it takes to get your happy is walking with a loved one on a sunny day, you're going to be able to fill your tank much more easily and frequently than someone who needs luxury vacations, or the envy of others.

And because the stakes are so high, we use happy against each other. We lord it over one another, secretly feeling glee when our enemies seem to lack it. The ultimate cut down is to declare someone unhappy (i.e., sad). It's such a hurtful thing to say because there is no more pitiable condition, particularly when it's on public display. We cluck our tongues and say Oh, she's clearly unhappy, and we feel smug and safe and uninfected when we do so, because emotional well-being is a form of wealth. True happiness is a currency of mental health but the temporary nature of happy adds up to pittance.

But we open our wallets and show off our happy hundreds, because they are so very easy to count, so attractive when spread wide in our hands.

hashtag AI

A year ago this week, fed up with yet again "having to" concurrently document something that I was just trying to enjoy (in this case, Coachella), I quit Instagram. I bungled what could have been a breezy goodbye by having a mini breakdown, getting inexplicably, retroactively angry about my own two+ years of oversharing and taking that frustration out on several hundred innocent bystanders by way of the blockhammer. From over 1100 followers, I whittled and hacked my way down to 25 or so inner circle friends.

So silly.

Not quitting; I'm glad I left. But the concomitant drama - that was unnecessary. I should have just walked away and let things be, instead of making it so weird for myself, for readers and friends. Ah well. I was in deep. Big emotional investments result in big emotional cash outs, I guess.

I don't really know what the state of the gramming union is. If people love it, generally, or if enthusiasm is waning. If new features keep it fresh for them or if, like I was, they're burned out and bored. And it's the ultimate in navel-gazing, I realize, to write a post about Why I Did a Thing On Social Media. But every so often someone says something to me along the lines of I get why you did it. And I'm kinda jealous. Or, Totally understand. Thinking about doing the same.

So this post, aside from being a belly button lint check, is an assessment of life After Instagram. It's for anyone considering jumping ship, wanting a glimpse of the dark side. We here on the dark side are always recruiting.

No lie: the first week or so was really weird and rather awful. I felt like I'd up and moved away from some close friends. It was disorienting and isolating, like being in a foreign country without wifi access. Self-imposed banishment. I questioned my decision, only finding reassurance that I'd done the right thing when I reminded myself of all the things - better, more fulfilling and self-improving things - I'd be doing with my time instead.

So, how's that going for me? Am I doing better, more fulfilling and self-improving things with that portion of my time?

Nah, not really. I haven't exactly plowed through my reading list. I'm not out volunteering every weekend, and I haven't mastered a new language. I can claim no intellectual high ground, being off of IG. I still find plenty of ways to waste time. I do think my writing has improved, if only marginally, from forcing myself to tell stories more than show them. But leaving Instagram didn't magically transform me into a sophisticate.

It definitely made my life simpler, however. One less thing to "keep up", to manage. Pictures sit in my phone or on my computer until I'm ready, if ever, to share them on my blog. There's less nagging sense of expiration, gotta stay current, gotta 'gram it while it's fresh! So it's quieter, too.

I still take snapshots of my experiences to include here, but the urgency to Record! Every! Event! is gone. Which, interestingly, has made me look at the very nature of my friendships, of my relationship with Terence, differently. Well perhaps not differently, since it's something I've known - but maybe with refreshed eyes. A year clear of the mind-fuckery of IG, I am reminded that whatever the degree of my closeness to others - that is the same whether we're in front of a camera shutter or not. My dear friends are my dear friends, acquaintances are acquaintances, I am tolerated by some, disliked by some, and adored by a few. I can post a dozen photos a day, a carefully curated selection of flattering selfies, sunny hiking trails, and smiling faces, but not a single one of them can change what's going on behind the lens. I've got wrinkles. My boyfriend and I fight. Some nights out are boring. And that's okay.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to share the highlights of one's life. But there was a certain superficial affirmation in that feedback loop that, having now cut it, I recognize. Wow, my life looks so good! I must be doing great! Look how happy I look! I must be so happy! Which is not to say that I wasn't happy. Just that admiring myself and my life daily, in cleverly captioned, pretty little thumbnails, was a great way to excuse myself from the very hard work of trying to actually be happier. When I enjoyed a constant stream of external validation (You look fantastic! You two are the perfect couple! Wow you do cool things!), I wasn't overly motivated to find realer, more long-term and satisfying sources of internal validation (such as setting and accomplishing goals, and improving the very relationships I so proudly exhibited).

These days, if I want to feel good about myself, I have to actually do something. Something productive, or kind, or difficult. I no longer have the quick fix of posting to Instagram and getting a flood of positive cues to reinforce my lazy, push-button creativity or implicitly praise my lifestyle.

Last plus of being off IG? Opting the fuck out of self-comparison games. There's a fine line between inspiration and envy and being even one inch in the wrong direction was toxic to my sense of self. Sure, you can limit your range of motion on Instagram, only interact with people who make you feel good. But sooner or later you're going to see something that will make you feel inadequate. Or maybe not. I did, anyway, and I'm glad to be free of that.

Sometimes, when my phone is full of picturesque, perfectly filtered pictures, I'll miss it. I'll think about how great they'd look on IG, colorful and bright, reflecting moments of my life that seemed beautiful enough to freeze the frame on. But then I'll realize how self-involved that is. That I'm not wanting to get back on Instagram because I so miss joking around with my buddies and seeing what they're up to. That I'm wanting to get back on Instagram because I'm a goddamn me monster who is vastly less interested in other people's images than in my own. Yeah yeah, okay, kid, kid, sunset, selfie, cat...NOW ME! MY TURN! LOOK AT ME MY PHOTO MY LIFE ME ME ME!

I do more than enough Me Monstering right here.

So that my friends is what it's like here on the dark side. A little bit quieter, a little bit simpler, a little bit lonelier, with at least one monster poking about. I'm probably not making it sound as nice as it actually is, but I'd be glad for your company if you came over all the same. #atleastIwonthashtagyou


Things I've not missed about Instagram:
  • the enormous time suck and exhausting effort of trying to keep up with it
  • agonizing over posts (is this too many of Chaucer? of Terence? is everyone bored of my lookups?)
  • racking my brain to come up with clever captions
  • submitting cherished personal moments for approval/dismissal in the form of "likes" (I fucking hate "likes" and believe they are a symbol of everything that's wrong with the world today)
  • playing shitty, zero sum self- and life-comparison games 
  • possibly being a cause for others to play shitty, zero sum self- and life-comparison games
  • the inanity of comments (my own included!)
  • an un-shutoff-able comment system that by its very nature obligates people to participate in an endless circle jerk of compliments*
  • hostile lurkers (people who interacted with other accounts but just silently crept on mine)
  • dramazzz
Things I've missed about Instagram:
  • joking around with some very fun and funny people
  • seeing good times and loved ones reflected back at me in happy little squares
  • having all those happy little squares in one place for easy sharing (GFY Google+)
Luckily I remain in (loose) email contact with most of my old IG buds. And those with whom I don't have been exceptionally sweet about letting me know they understand why I left, and don't hate me for being a fickle spaz where social media is concerned. So that solves the first point. And a possible solution for the others: a "Notstagram" account on Pixieset. It's got a simple, clean web layout comparable to Instagram's:

It's also optimized for mobile (easily swipe through pics), and it's free up to 3GB! You can only upload from your desktop, but once you do, rearranging photos and managing multiple collections (including private, password-protected ones) is a snap. Seems pretty cool so far in case you, too, are looking for an alternative.


* To be verrry clear, I'm not talking about any of my old IG buds. I'm talking about the super shallow interactions you unavoidably get sucked into on Instagram. The bullshit reciprocity contract of "like-backs" and empty, meaningless comments. It's inescapable if you've got a public account and don't want to be a complete asshole.

Incidentally, that's also one of the reasons I keep blog comments disabled. I would hate for anyone to ever feel obligated to comment on my posts. And I can imagine that in some cases, were I to post something extremely personal, some of you lovely, loving people would feel like you should chime in with a word of support. Or if I posted a piece that was obviously more carefully written than others, some of you would rightly suspect I'd be keen to get compliments on it. Even selfies - I'd never want anyone to feel like they had to say OMG ELLIE YOU'RE PURRRTTTY or whatever. I know some of you cats pretty well by now, from emails and whatnot. So much so that at this point, it would almost be weird if you didn't comment on my posts, were commenting an option. It'd be like being ignored by a friend or something. And that's way too much pressure for both of us.

I like the idea of my blog being a place where readers and friends and readerfriends can come and go freely - and totally anonymously. You can take me or leave me, and hopefully you never feel pressured to participate further than just peeking in as little or as much as you'd like. I also imagine that at some point, you'll move on. I'm just not that interesting - I know that. And in the same way that I'm being spared the sadness of wondering where some longtime commenter went, you're being spared the guilt of having disappeared without explanation. Symbiotic mystery FTW. 

seven things I am aware of as the year comes to an end

1. If a tree falls in the forest and no one was there to document it, it still made a sound. 

Quitting Instagram turned out to be a surprisingly educational experience for me. When I took away that push-button validation, it got weirdly...quiet. And in that quiet I had plenty of time and space to consider why and how I document my life. What my motives are, what if anything I'm trying to show - to prove - to myself and to others. I got honest with myself about some of my longstanding insecurities, particular those surrounding friendships and what has, pathetically, persisted as a never-ending need to prove I have them.

I went through some shit growing up, with friends. And not-friends. And frenemies. Some awful, awful shit that launched me into adulthood frantic to fix that part of my life. And I do feel miles away from where I was, as recently as my twenties. But I certainly don't need to fuck with the precious, mysterious thing that is friendship by making it any more of a spectacle than it already is here on overshariquent.

Not being able to announce, immediately, HEY GUESS WHAT I HAD DRINKS WITH MY FRIEND KERRY, WHO LIKES ME, BECAUSE SHE IS MY FRIEND, BECAUSE I HAVE FRIENDS is really good for me. It took some getting used to, because I was so warped by the Insta-machine that not documenting my good times made them feel, at first, somehow less real. But eventually I was able to just chill and let go of the need to SHOW and TELL, and I know I became a better friend for it. More present and relaxed and engaged. Less distracted by the need to Make Sure and Get a 'Gram Out of It! Nowadays I don't even blog about every "bloggable" thing I do. I'm just doing things and enjoying them, like a normal fucking person. Imagine that.

Whether or not I blog it or Instagram it or Twitter it - the good moment happened. That's the thing to remember.

2. Reading fiction makes me a better person. 

My reading habits aren't what they used to be, but I'm fighting to earn back my bookworm badge. It isn't always easy to find time, and distractions abound. But when I do make the effort to plunge into a novel, to persevere until I feel its hooks sink gloriously into me, I marvel at myself. Psst, dummy! How can you forget how good this feels? How can you not want to do this ALL THE TIME? 

A good book occupies my thoughts and distracts me from the annoyances of daily life, making me less irritable. Even when I put it down, the back burner of my brain has something more satisfying to chew on than whether or not I should reorganize the spice cabinet. Fictional characters feel like temporary friends, and the (often epic) challenges they face smack some perspective into me.

I feel more open-minded and cheerful when I'm reading fiction, and I suspect I'm more pleasant to be around. It leaves me feeling peaceful and thoughtful, which probably primes me for more loving and engaging interaction with the people I care about. Compared to how I often feel after an hour or two on the internet (depleted, agitated), that's a very welcome change.

3. Being precious with things wastes them. 

For as long as I can remember, I've had the notion that "good" things need to be reserved for special occasions. It's only now starting to dawn on me how crazy this, because I'm looking back at the last few decades of my life and realizing how little I've utilized some of those good things. The expensive, the rare, the treasured and beloved. The "good" china. My "nice" sweaters. For a while after I bought it, I even avoided sitting on my own sofa, because I didn't want the cushions to wear out.

It's all fine and good to value your belongings, but what's the real value of something that you don't even use? When you think about it, disuse is about the saddest fate you can assign to some material thing. I mean, if you were a thing, wouldn't you want to be used and loved and appreciated to your fullest extent? Would you want to sit collecting dust in a cabinet, or in a jewelry box, or on a closet shelf? Wouldn't you revel in being taken out and given a chance to shine?

Losing my parents unexpectedly in quick(ish) succession has absolutely driven into me that life. is. short. Embrace what you've got here and now because you never know when it'll be gone.

4. Crowding out the bad is easier than cutting it out.

I first came across this concept in Hungry For Change, a food documentary espousing an approach to diet and exercise from a place of health and self-love, vs. one of deprivation and self-recrimination. And it was sort of revelatory for me, because it absolutely did work. When I stopped focusing on restricting bad foods and concentrated instead on slowly integrating in better ones, my life changed. And yeah that's dramatic, but it's true. I have never felt so consistently healthy as I have the past year, and that, I believe, is due to what I've added to my diet (which in turn has crowded out some of the worse stuff). It's easier not to fixate on avoiding unhealthy choices (thoughts which veritably consumed my food-disordered twenties) when they've been upstaged by healthy ones.

This idea has worked in other areas of my life, too. I'm as addicted to my phone as the next person, and much as I try to cut back on screen time, it's difficult. So rather than continuing to just rebuke myself for making poor choices (tap tap on Safari, oh look here I am surfing TimeWastersAnonymous AGAIN...tap tap on some shopping app, oh look here I am being a materialistic asshole AGAIN), I've added in some good choices. Duolingo. An awesome, super simple flashcard app for (NERD ALERT!) learning new words I've picked up while reading. I also only recently realized that I can save web pages, such as to news sites (or my blahg), to my home screen. But - and this is where the crowding out comes in - in order to do so, some other apps had to give up their prime real estate. Result: when I reflexively grab my phone in a free moment, it's that much easier to choose curiosity or creativity over mindlessness.

5. Curiosity and creativity are muscles that have to be worked. 

Sometimes I criticize myself for not being more up on current events, for not reading more articles, for not being better in touch with popular culture or knowing more quirky, interesting things about the natural world. The thing is, curiosity comes naturally to children, I think, partly because they have so little else on their plates. And since learning is so empowering, it becomes addictive. But the older we get and the more we have demanding our time and attention, the harder it is to keep this habit of learning up. It takes more effort to read the whole Times piece, for instance, and not just glance at the tweeted summary. But I think that just like any other habit, it can be strengthened. So rather than beat myself up for not knowing ALL THE THINGS, I accept that I can only know some - and even knowing those will take work. But educating myself about one issue is such a confidence booster that it feels less daunting to move on to another, and so forth.

Same thing with creativity. I believe writer's block exists, but I also know that forcing myself to sit down and create content sometimes produces the best stuff. No fairies are going to flutter down to my fingertips and take over. There's plenty of inspiration to be found in the world, but no magical muses. And the more I flex my creative muscles, the stronger they are and the braver I am about breaking out my guns. Even for silly stuff the point of which begins and ends with my own amusement. 

6. Good enough is a great stopping point for me.

A few months ago, Terence and I were checking out at the grocery store when a magazine caught my eye: Domino (a home decor magazine that was wildly popular but inexplicably retired in its prime). I was obsessed with Domino back in the day. I subscribed and saved every issue, only giving them up with great difficulty when I got married and wanted to pare down.

Anyway, when I saw the glossy cover on the rack, I audibly gasped. "What?" Terence asked.

I pointed. "My favorite magazine ever. Well, after Jane. I had no idea it was back!"

Terence grabbed a copy off the shelf and tossed it on top of our items, assuming from my reaction that I'd want one.

"No!" I exclaimed, shaking my head vehemently. "I can't." He didn't understand. "I'll want to redecorate our entire place," I explained. It's too much."

"Too much" is a place I can go to, too easily, and be too dissatisfied...and too spendy. Too much is Apartment Therapy and Pinterest and Domino. Where my home is concerned, I've learned that comfortable, organized, and welcoming to friends are good enough. I could make myself insane (and broke) trying to make it the most OMGstylish and amazing space ever, but that way madness lies.

Accepting its imperfection frees me up to better enjoy the home I've already got vs. obsessing over some future-perfect version of it that may never exist.

7. I want to be a fisherman.

A few weeks ago I told Terence about an interesting website I'd stumbled across. The Center for a New American Dream's tagline is "More of What Matters" and it sponsors initiatives having to do with things like community collaborations (sharing resources, strengthening regional food systems) and post-consumerist culture (better work/life balance, protecting kids from the marketing machine - even an alternative giving registry where experiences take the place of material goods).

But most exciting to me is their "Redefining the Dream" program, which is about what you'd imagine, and has a number of thought-provoking resource pages exploring the capital B Big questions (how much is enough? what really matters in this life? how fulfilling can an earn-and-spend existence be?) that, the older I get, the more I ponder.

Anyway, when I told Terence about it, he told me the story of the rich man and the fisherman, which I'd never heard. There are several versions of it floating around, but I like this one best. And if you're too pooped to click over, in a nutshell it's a story about a businessman who's too blind to see that the best things in life are free. (I'm not doing it justice though, because it's a powerful little tale and you really should read it because wow is it some food for thought.)

I've known a lot of rich men in my life and a handful of fishermen, and I've seen what it means to be each. I'm pretty sure which I'd rather be.  

spooner gets verified

I'm working on a mega post about some of the things I've learned this year, but I want to take my time with it and make sure I don't come across preachy, because lord knows I can be preachy.

In the meantime, please to enjoy this ridiculous thing I made the other day when I couldn't sleep:

This is your blogmistress, people. This is the shit she amuses herself with in the dead of night.

I understand if you no longer want to see me. I promise I'll delete your number.

lamebook part bazillion, or god, can we please outgrow this failed social experiment already?

When I see a Facebook friend list in the thousands, I see a meaningless compilation of data. I see a collector. A rabid networker. To get to that level, they have to let pretty much anyone in. Anyone they've ever met, and lots of people they never will. There's no distinction between that person's real friends and associates and a mass of random acquaintances and ghosts. They're all lumped together and the purpose and spirit of true connection get lost in a sea of bland, smiling thumb nails. And I think, No thanks. I want to be known, not collected.

Facebook is structured to digitally link members to others simply because they know someone who knows someone who knows someone. To chain members to their past. Hey, don't you know this guy? You went to junior high with him! What about her? She works with that woman you met at a party in 2009. In effect, these suggestions make pop-up ads out of human beings. Click here to buy and clutter up your life one semi-stranger a time.

What a phony, diminished simulacrum of relationships this is.

When I see someone being selective about who they befriend, I know that person puts some consideration into their online presence. About what it means to Accept Friend Request. About privacy and boundaries in an age when social media is perfectly engineered to erode them. 

I suspect they have more time for their true friends because they're not busy keeping track of what a bunch of friends-of-friends and once-mets are doing. I suspect they're not distracted from their current relationships by reminders of old ones. I suspect they're not satisfied by shallow virtual interactions, and are probably good at the more meaningful ones. And I think, I'd accept that friend request. 

So to speak. 

this just in: spazzy blogger is spazzy

To finally, belatedly expand upon my last post...

I am so very sorry if you were a casualty of my Instagram block party the other night; I've decided to start using it again, but with a very small following and a private account. Manually blocking over a thousand people was crazytown, I know, but I didn't want to start a new account and ditch all of my photos, the last year of which are especially precious to me because of Terence. And I didn't know how else to handle it; asking everyone Uh, could you please unfollow me? Thx! would have been ridiculous. I've since realized that I could have posted a heads up about I was going to do...but I didn't think of that until afterward. Forethought fail.

Please, please don't be offended if I blocked you! For one thing, that follower count is way off; it's a glitch, or ghost followers still in the IG system or something, I don't know. The actual number is 22. Twenty-two followers. For another, I don't even know how much I'll use it. I just want to keep the option open.

I've written about a dozen versions of an explanation as to why I'm doing this, but the simplest answer is: I thought it might be nice to have a place on the internet where I don't have to be Ellie, personal blogger, and where I can just be Ellie, person.

I know that having a personal blog means that I basically am Elliequent. I get that. But I've been blogging for so long, sharing pretty much everything significant that happens to me (and much of the mundane, too), that sometimes it feels like my life is a like a TV show that's always on (the cast of which includes more than just myself). I just think it would be good to put a boundary in place.

I hope this makes sense and can be forgiven. Nothing whatsoever is changing here. Nothing at all. And again, I am so sorry if my weird blocking decision affected you - I meant absolutely no offense, and I feel awful to have hurt anyone's feelings. I am and always have been so spazzy and conflicted about social media. This latest decision isn't about any one of you at all, or even the collective you. It's about me, and my efforts to continually monitor my motives where blogging and social media are concerned.

I don't know how long they're going to keep calling it "new" media, but I for one will probably be fumbling my way through it for years hence.

IG blocking

I'll explain more when I have time but real quick: if you happened to notice you were blocked by me on Instagram, please don't think I'm upset at you or anything like that at all, and please don't be offended. After setting my account to private, I went through and manually blocked almost a thousand people last night. In fact, even though my follower count shows around 280, that's false; it's actually closer to ten or fifteen.

Again, I'll post about why I did this shortly but for now, please don't think twice about it! Just Ellie and her weird social media shit, and nothing whatsoever is changing here on elliequent. :)

more, better, best

Everything I recall about my childhood home can be summed up in a few paragraphs. It was a typically suburban three bedroom home in a smallish town in southwestern Michigan. Red brick, single level. Pussy willow on the porch, plum tree at the end the driveway, crocus blooming under my bedroom window in spring. I remember the things that filled the house only in terms of their use, and their sensory and emotional significance.

Gold corduroy couch: The Muppet Show, way past bedtime, Dad engrossed in the newspaper.

Piano: Mom leaning in to read sheet music, spectacles and a cable-knit sweater, rare good mood.

Oil painting of a lion: expression as inscrutable and mysterious as my parent's marriage, deep fear of wild animals that has yet to abate.

Kitchen telephone: avocado green, cord wrapped around my mother's skinny hips, pot roast for dinner.

I know we had wallpaper, but I couldn't describe the print. I know the house was carpeted, but I couldn't name the color. What I can tell you is that my brother and I had a front yard big enough to host kickball games, and a backyard with a swimming pool, a swing set, a shed full of toys, and enough land to fence in the occasional turtle plucked from Lake Michigan. Fucking glorious, in other words.

And among the gratitudes I have for what, on balance, was a pretty awesome childhood (above implications notwithstanding), is that my mother lived pre-Pinterest, and pre-social media. That decorating her home, planning her children's birthday parties, and choosing outfits for PTA meetings were endeavors undertaken with the knowledge that only those in her immediate social circle would see the results.

God, how nice that must have been. How nice that the only Joneses with which she probably felt compelled to keep up were the ones directly next door. How nice that she could concern herself with the business of mothering, undistracted and unstressed by comparison with how her peers were doing their mothering.

How lucky that my brother and I survived to adulthood without ever having lain eyes on an overpriced cake pop, frosted to match an overpriced paper party straw.

Pinterest never comes up in my daily (offline) life. I know most of my friends have heard of it, and a few of them are on it, but it's nothing we talk about when we get together. I only feel the need to account for my disuse of it when I'm internetting, because hello. Pinterest. What, Ellie, you don't like to be inspired? What are you, an animal?

What I like is not overwhelming myself with the pressure to More, Better, Best my life to death. And anyway, I like to think I did the Pinterest thing, in a way, in my twenties. It was called Lucky Magazine, and then Domino Magazine. It was Holy shit, I didn't even know that existed until I opened this magazine, but now I'll be MISERABLE if I can't have it. And it sucked.

I More, Better, Bested my last apartment without ever even looking at a pin board, and that was hellish enough. I consulted exactly one decorating book, nearly wearing it out with study. Okay, so since my bed frame is structured, I should have more organic, free-form nightstands. Got it. What should have been a fun exercise in creativity and self-expression was instead an exhausting, obsessive search for material things to make my home look OMGamazing - and for the most part, that search was limited to three or four sources within my price and geographic ranges. I can't even imagine how quickly my brain would have exploded had I opened myself up to the ten billion options Pinterest would have shown me.

This time around, I am opting the fuck out of that particular rat race, at least as much as I can. This time around, I am keeping the procurement of what furnishings we need as quick and simple as possible, so that I can get past making sure there's enough light to read by and on to making sure we're stocked with our friends' favorite drinks. Because when I think back to the things that filled the living spaces I inhabited twenty, thirty years ago, what I remember isn't whether or not the coffee table complemented the sofa - it's that it did an efficient job of supporting four slices of pizza and the original Together Box, aka Monopoly.

severance packages and safe bets

Nine days ago, I posted a final photo on Instagram with what I hoped was a not too dramatic-sounding explanation and farewell. I turned my phone face down so I wouldn't see any push notifications, and returned to what I'd been working on, determined to back up the decision to better use my time with immediate action.

That lasted about five minutes.

Then I picked up my phone, checking to see if any responses had come; a few had. I replied to them, and turned my phone back over. Twenty minutes later, I peeked again. I read goodbyes from IGers all over the world, some of whom had been following me for almost two years. Their kind words took the wind right out of my sails. I cried more than once, as messages continued to come. Yep. I cried when I quit Instagram. If you're thinking to yourself, Wow, this chick has problems, let me tell you - you don't know the half of it. Because quitting was easy compared to what came next.

Terence gamely suggested we go to happy hour to "celebrate" my Instafreedom. And I don't use scare quotes to mock his word choice, which was him just trying to make me feel better about my decision, and totally sweet and supportive. I use scare quotes because I spent the better part of that evening second-guessing myself and feeling variously depressed (Wow, I just destroyed a really nice emotional resource), scared (Was this the right call?), angry (WTF, so-and-so unfollowed me without even saying goodbye? I liked every one of his lame, boring pics for two damn years), guilty (I'm abandoning faithful readers who've been so supportive and encouraging), and this strange mixture of resignation and detachment, as if I'd just signed up for a deep space mission, and was saying goodbye to life as I knew it. Or as if I'd been sentenced to solitary confinement, albeit with access to a really good library.

Point being: I didn't feel celebratory, though I could feel the first, tiny shudderings of relief and unburdening. All sorts of questions were going through my mind, and that didn't stop Friday night or even that weekend. In fact, I've passed most of this past week thinking about the ramifications of my decision to quit, which - expected, right? What I didn't expect was the Pandora's box of much larger questions that quitting IG would open up, about things like the meaning of friendship, self esteem, and the definition of success. Thinking about those things raised other questions about my life and my priorities - re: myself, my relationships, and even this blog. I know it sounds dumb, but I don't feel like the same person I was nine days ago. Existential crisis: there's an app for that.

Some things I've been considering:

What could I look at, if I wasn't looking at my phone all the goddamn time? What could I think about instead? What sort of space, as my friend Jenny put it, would I have in my mind for other things, if Instagram wasn't there?

What am I communicating to my blog readers by quitting IG? Are they going to think that I don't want to interact with them? Would I blame them if they did? Why should anyone continue to give a shit about my life when I've essentially said, Welp, nice following your life for a while - peace out! 

Regarding social media, is more necessarily better? More followers, more Facebook friends? If I'm not actually interacting with most of those followers, what is the value in those relationships?

What about in real life? What would happen if we pared our relationships down to a core group, and truly invested ourselves in them? What would those relationships look like? How deep and strong could they become? Is there anything wrong with limiting our time and attention to a few trusted and loved people?

Who are these hundreds of lurkers who are otherwise active on IG but never like or comment on a single photo of mine? Why is that an acceptable concept to me, that my loved ones and I would be entertainment for them? How can I take the power back into my own hands, and stop submitting the treasured moments of my life for their daily perusal and (non)approval? What if I returned to my pre-Instagram way of posting what I want when I want, here on my blog, without auditioning for their "likes"? What if they had to work a little harder, to see what my life is all about? What if I at least had the satisfaction of making them come to me?

What was it about sharing photos on Instagram that I found gratifying? What were the drawbacks? How much of it was fun, and how much of it felt like obligation and upkeep?

Why do I feel compelled to share personal photos online at all, whether it's on IG or here on my blog? What are my motives for doing so? How much of it is sharing and how much of it is validation-seeking?

And finally: how much faster could I get to the life I want - to being the person I want to be - if I wasn't slowed down by the need for approval?

Like I said, reflection and introspection central around here. I'm still working out the answers, which aren't always obvious, despite my leading and loaded questions. One thing I have realized for certain: Instagram was not relaxing for me. Editing the photos, playing with color and filters and the overall look of my gallery - that I loved. But once a photo was actually posted? Then it was like a running ticker tape in my head. A constant distraction. How many likes? Hmm, not many. That's what I get for posting another pic of the man I'm wildly in love with and whose face *I* want to see reflected back in my gallery. Guess I better post more universally appealing stuff or I'll lose followers. Clever comment from so-and-so. Gotta reply to that, but too tired to respond right now. I'll do it tonight. Let me see what so-and-so's been up to...

Instagram is just too mentally stimulating for me, for it to be relaxing.

One awesome silver lining: I have been absolutely blown away by the amazing responses that have come in from readers and IG friends who reached out to say, Yo, I get it, and have shared their own struggles with social media and the internet in general - and those who've said, I guess you're not too horrible, Ellie - what say you we strike up a private correspondence, instead? In fact, I now have a handful of pen pals  (one of whom proposed snail mail, so we have legit mementos to keep and everything) and texting buddies whose friendship I can cultivate post-IG. Talk about a severance package.


One of the best things about Instagram was being able to scroll back and see loved ones and fun times at a glance.* It was, among other things, the perfect scrapbook - but it was a public one, in the same way this blog is. I've thought a lot about privacy, about intention, and about being present when I'm with the people I care about. About when a quick snapshot is worth disrupting the moment to revisit it later - and when memory alone should be enough. I've thought about the differences between posting to IG vs. posting to my blog, and about context, frequency, and timing.

I'm probably going to keep thinking about all of this until my head explodes. But for now, I believe that doing things from a place of love is a safe bet - with the important caveat that what we're doing is in the best interests of those we love. And if were to die tomorrow, I hope I would be remembered as someone who loved the people in her life absolutely, and sometimes just couldn't get enough of their awesome, smiling faces.

To that end, here they are, in some of the moments that have made up life lately, along with some ungrams, because why throw the creative baby out with the creative bathwater? Captionless because I'm too damn tired and this post is too damn long already, and the best moments in life speak for themselves, anyway.

Answerless, confused-as-ever Ellie out.


* This was the one big concern Terence had about my leaving IG. He said he'd be bummed not to be able to see those collected moments anymore. Solution: I'm not deleting the elliequent account, so the photos aren't going anywhere. I also made a new private account for just us that I can flood with personal pics day or night, without worrying about alienating/impressing/annoying anyone else.

the quiet

After I published my post yesterday, I felt weird, like I'd walked out of a party but had neglected to shut the door behind me. I could still hear laughter and music, and snippets of conversation that had ceased to include me.

So I picked up my phone and, before I had time to think, I deleted the Instagram app.

Then I felt really weird.

You know that feeling when the internet goes out? That strange sense of quiet and emptiness? That's what it was like. I wandered around the apartment for a few minutes, feeling actually shaken, and feeling shaken by the fact that I felt shaken. What the fuck. It's a phone app. It didn't even exist five years ago. For the first hour, I honestly didn't know what to do with myself. It was like, Okay Ellie, you did it. You cleared your desk. You tore off a clean sheet of parchment. What the hell are you going to put on it?

Then the sads got me. I thought in particular about five or six of my Insta friends who I joke with almost daily, and it bummed me out. I wondered if they'd read my post and if it had hurt their feelings. I re-read it about a dozen times, second guessing my wording and tone and wondering when and if I should write another, and what I would say.

Then Terence came home, and I told him. Wow, he said, genuinely wide-eyed. And he asked how I felt. And a stream of words starting pouring forth from me that didn't stop for about five minutes. Feels I didn't even know I felt kept bubbling out. And the more I heard myself speak, the more I felt I'd made the right decision.

And as I was talking, numerating both reasons I'd written in my post and others I hadn't, I received a text. The text was from a reader-turned-friend, whom I've only met once but with whom I've connected in a really nice way. She was texting to tell me that my post, and my decision to leave Instagram, had motivated her to do the same - for some of the same reasons and for some that are different. Terence was next to me when the text came.

Wow, he said again, reading alongside me.

And then he said some really nice but hyperbolic things about me inspiring people which, while they are so lovely of him to say, are not necessarily true, because he is my boyfriend and it is his job to look at me through rose-colored glasses. Still, it was a nice counterweight to some of the more negative feelings I was having.

We watched a movie and went to bed, and when I woke up, the lack of Instagram in my life was pressing on me more than Instagram itself had ever been. In other words, the weirdness had gotten even weirder. But I decided to just get on with my day and let the dust settle and not judge my feelings. And I can say that just laying in bed enjoying my boyfriend, being wholly present, knowing there were no push notifications waiting for my attention - that was a nice feeling.

After a little while, I got up and dressed and went to get us some croissants and coffee. Walking down my own, completely familiar street felt like a vacation in a foreign country. You know that feeling when you travel, when you don't have phone service and no one back home can reach you? That's what it felt like: a mixture of relief and sublimated disquiet. The thought occurred to me that my digital life was about to get a lot simpler, since I wouldn't have the additional piles and piles of Instagrammed photos to sift through. Do I want to keep this one? What about this one? It's a cool pic of a building, but does it really move me? Or was it just an excuse to post something? ...Yep. That's exactly what it was. This one too...

I've been thinking about this decision nonstop. That alone says a lot about Instagram's influence on my life, and I don't think it's saying anything good. The fact that I'm so worked up about it is a clear indication of how addicted I was.

I don't want to be addicted to anything.

I'm having lots of thinks and lots of feels about all of this, and I know it's going to be a while before that stops - and that's okay. But I think putting them down on paper might help me get some clarity on the situation, which still feels alarmingly dreamlike, and also move towards finding some closure on this particular chapter of my life. So here goes.

1. Instagram for non-bloggers (sometimes I jokingly call them "civilians") is a whole different beast than Instagram for bloggers. This is something I want to emphasize and explain particularly because I'm keen to minimize the hurt feelings of any of my IG friends who might be bewildered by my abrupt decision. And my god I know how grossly self-absorbed that sounds, and I don't mean that people will be sitting around crying buckets over my leaving, because LOL. I just know that I've been on the other side of this - I've had IG buddies up and quit out of the blue, and it was a disappointment to me.

Anyway, back to my point. Instagram for non-bloggers is pretty straightforward. Something cool happens, you share it. You see something beautiful, you share it. This is not to say that non-bloggers don't ever have ulterior motives (we are all human), but my observation has been that non-bloggers use Instagram in a fairly cut-and-dry manner.

Instagram for bloggers is like - well, it's like blogging on crack. Bloggers use their blogs as a way to present to the world some narrative, usually about ourselves. I am this. I am that. And every post we publish adheres to and supports that narrative - posts that we publish every few days, maybe less. With Instagram, each photo and caption is an opportunity to push that narrative, to hundreds if not thousands of people. If we want to, we can push that narrative several times a day. (See: Kelle Hampton.)

So think about from our perspective (the perspective of a blogger), how much pressure we feel with each of these posts. What do I want to say about myself today? About my life? About who I am and what I believe? How does this photo reflect who I want to be perceived as? Remember, x number of people are watching, Ellie!

It's exhausting and inescapable, and show me a blogger (that is, a blogger of any degree of popularity or notoriety, who blogs and IGs publicly) who says she doesn't think about those things and I'll show you a liar. She thinks about them, and she thinks about them a LOT.

2. Quitting Instagram feels like pulling a curtain shut, and one that should have been pulled shut a long fucking time ago. I already overshare plenty on my blog. Friends and strangers alike can stop by this space anytime and get a good idea of what my life is like - who my friends are, what my relationship is like, etc. The world does not need daily updates on the intimate workings of my personal life. The people who populate that personal life do not need to be trotted out like show ponies, which, if I am honest with myself, is what I have treated them like at times. I can't count the number of times I've demanded retakes of photos because, rather than keep them for my own personal use, I wanted to share them with the world.


My boyfriend should be able to pick up the guitar and play me a song without me sticking a camera in his face. My friends shouldn't have to wait for me to finish taking a photo of our cocktails before they take a drink. And, above all, it's high time I focused more on becoming the person I want to be and cared less about how the outside world perceives me. Because Instagram is a great place to throw up some smoke and mirrors. Psst, world, if you could kindly ignore the fact that this particular area of my life is a mess and please direct your attention to my cute boyfriend and adorable dog and killer abs?? Thx. 

3. I am not creating art on Instagram. And I want to create art. Some people absolutely are creating art on Instagram, no question. Some people are innovating and doing some really exciting things on there. Me? Not so much. That is not my wheelhouse. That is a place I hide to avoid practicing my swing.

4. I am wasting way, way, way too much time on Instagram. I mourn the version of myself that died with the advent of the internet, I really do. Super dramatic, I know, but I mean it. I used to go through stacks of books a month. Stacks. When I was in my twenties, you couldn't stump me about popular fiction. There was no contemporary novel you could name that I hadn't read. To be momentarily, grossly arrogant, I didn't get to be the halfway decent writer I am from reading tweets and blogs. I was a serious and voracious consumer of literature until I was about 25.

And it makes me sick to think of where I'd be now, as a writer, if I'd kept that focus.

I understand that it's 2014. That social media is how much of the world connects, and that even the most popular authors have to utilize it if they want to keep up with the times. But for one thing, just because something is trendy doesn't mean it's inherently valuable. And for another, I'm NOT a popular author. I don't have anything so spectacular to share - and I certainly won't ever, if I keep pouring the irreplaceable hours of my life into a phone app.

5. I want the quiet back. At least, as much of it as I can get. Just over the past day, I've had a tiny taste of the quiet. The quiet that existed before we all strapped ourselves into the webbed wide world. The quiet that allowed the whispery pages of a book to be the loudest thing calling to me from across the room. The quiet that allowed for intense, prolonged creative output, because it wasn't interrupted by the glow of a goddamn push notification.

I don't know that I'll do anything significant with this quiet - with the time and mental energy I'm taking back. But I won't know until I try.

the long run

In what will come as a shock to no one who really knows me (and my previously voiced feelings toward social media), I'm 99.9% sure that I'm going to quit Instagram. And possibly Twitter.

This past weekend, when I was at Coachella, there was a constant buzz in the back of my brain. And no, it wasn't drugs. It was my acute awareness that I hadn't posted anything to Instagram. That I was "dark." And it was fucking distracting. It stayed with me all weekend, and only got quiet for the couple hours or so after I'd posted a slew of pics on Saturday and Sunday morning, bringing my 1100 or so followers up to speed on my whereabouts and whatabouts, so they could exhale with relief and get on with their day.

You see where this is going.

It got quiet another time, too: when, out of the blue, I received a text from my girlfriend Kerry, who knew I was at Coachella and would be out of pocket, but who wanted to let me know she'd seen Chaucer out with his dog sitter, looking happy and fit. Her text was such an unexpected and welcome surprise that I broke into a huge grin. And I realized in that instant how totally fucked up my priorities were. I'd been spending all of this mental energy seeking out the sights and sounds I thought my internet friends would be impressed by that I hadn't stopped to consider what pics or video clips my actual, real life friends might get a kick out of.

I'm horrified to say this happens a lot.

I'm horrified to admit that there are days when I spend a LOT of time thinking about my internet friends and very little - if not none at all - thinking about my real life friends. Because the fact is, Instagram has grown to be a sort of substitution for doing the work of interacting with those real life friends. Social media is an easy, quick fix of interaction. Tap, tap, type, type - feel satisfied that I've had an exchange with someone. That I've connected. I feel social. I feel engaged. But am I? Because for all that tapping and typing, I haven't gotten the tiniest bit closer to the people whose company and real life support I (claim to) treasure. In fact, I feel like I've forsaken them in a way. Rather than put in the time and effort to connect with them, to ask about their day or make plans to hang out - to keep the generalized loneliness that is a fact of the human condition at bay for another five minutes - I turn to social media for a hit of connection.

The unspoken subtext here, the thing I realize it must sound like I'm implying, is that real life friendships are a more valuable time investment than internet friendships. I'm not saying that. I'm not claiming that as a truth for anyone. I'm not even sure that it's true for me, because holy shit have I been on the receiving end of some incredible support and kindness, online. I can only speak for myself. And I know I've been lax in working at my real life relationships, largely because it is so easy to get lost in (or feel satisfied by) my virtual ones. I hate that this is the case. I wish I had all the time in the world to devote to ALL my relationships, and to interacting with all the amazing people who've reached out to me on the internet, to say they appreciate or admire something I've done/said...but I don't. I'm overwhelmed by social media, and for a long time now, I've let it get in the way of my goals.

Instagram has become for me a very hollow and very superficial form of creative gratification. I get a fleeting sense of artistic satisfaction when I post, but that satisfaction is in lieu of creating something actually meaningful. Stories or personal essays, or compelling opinion pieces. Even the shittiest flash fiction or poetry I write on my blog feels better than posting another goddamn selfie. And when I consider the number of books I could have read - or the languages I could have learned - over the past two years, instead of screwing around on social media, it makes me want to cry.

I talked to Mason about this, and he nailed it: I think for you, as it is for me, a lot of that shit is a way to avoid facing your creative demons. Just a way to procrastinate. Take away all that shit and you're forced to write. Which is what you should be doing anyway. 

Speaking only for myself and my observations/experience, the most successful of my friends are the ones who give precisely zero fucks about social media. The friends I know who are actually most engaged socially, hanging out and taking trips and spending actual face time with one another - are the ones who have next to no social media presence. When I look at the artists I most admire - the writers and filmmakers and musicians who are actually producing (and selling!) compelling content, they're the ones for whom Instagram is last on a long and eye-opening list of priorities. 

I also use social media in some unhealthy ways. "Checking up" on people I don't even like. So, so fucked up. Such a colossal and embarrassing waste of my time. And if I don't have accounts on these apps, it's much, much more difficult to engage in that particular vein of WTFery. I can still log onto my computer and manually search for individuals, but I don't see myself doing that, because I am supremely lazy. 

Last point: having a blog does more than enough fuckery with my sense of reality, and my sense of self. I have to be vigilant not to live my life in pursuit of bloggable content, and not to look at the things and people I love as material. Instagram makes that about a hundred times harder. I find myself seeking out Instagrammable moments and situations, instead of just living my damn life. That's gross and weird, and I want it to stop. It's gotten so bad that sometimes an experience doesn't feel real unless I've documented it for the world to see (particularly when I spend time with friends, or when Terence does something especially sweet). I feel myself trying to prove something, to others maybe, or perhaps just to myself? I am loved. I am loved. SEE, WORLD? I AM LOVED!!

It's time, I think, to reinvest my energy into doing things that will make me love myself, truly and deeply, in the long run. 

BREAKING: self-important people are self-important

There is some real assholery happening on Twitter lately.

I am all for corporate accountability. And I've said before that I think the accessibility that Twitter provides between companies and customers is fantastic. But some Tweeps seem to consider that accessibility a license to be shitheads. To be arrogant, self-important, entitled, whiny little brats. To name drop Company X, in order to bully, shame, or manipulate Company Y into compliance with their demands.

And maybe I'm the only one, but I find it so gross. I'm experiencing much second-hand embarrassment on behalf of people who seem to have zero self-awareness of how impolite and pushy they sound.

If you want to use Twitter to voice complaints, go for it. Power to the people, etc. But maybe stop and think for .02 seconds before you fire off your ~140 character screed. Specifically these thoughts might serve you well:

Is this public forum really the appropriate medium for my request?

Am I counting on my OMGklout to get me the outcome I desire? And is that cool or is it incredibly douchetastic?

At the other end of my digital foot stomping is an actual human being, who probably spends her entire day responding to impatient angerballs. How can I use tone and word choice to voice my desire/displeasure while still showing respect to that working professional?

Every single one of my followers is about to get an illustration of how I speak to service professionals. They'll probably assume I'm equally as polite/pompous to waiters, flight attendants, bank tellers, and hotel maids. And they'll draw conclusions about my character accordingly.

I am actually not a special snowflake entitled to everything I want. I am actually not a special snowflake entitled to everything I want. I am actually...

Or, you know, carry on as usual. No one is giving you serious side-eye. Really. No one at all.