I’ve been spending a lot of time on social media. Mostly it’s a very conscious effort to keep audiences and fans engaged, to expand the reach of my professional network, to create online content (videos, interviews) that might lead to future non-performance work, and finally to keep myself focused and functioning and sane.
It’s been an interesting process shifting my energies towards a virtual audience, as well as a steep learning curve in terms of the skill sets required (video editing and production, graphic design). Being active online has kept me occupied, and for that it feels useful.
The flip side, of course, is that I have to spend so much time on social media. To be fair, at their best, these platforms provide useful information, insights into interesting events, humorous/enjoyable content, handy how-to videos, connection with friends and colleagues, a space to look at pretty pictures. But at worst, social media becomes an endless display of life highlights to which we can’t help but to compare ourselves, or a tangle of conversations that lead to divisive name-calling as much as to civil discourse.
As I post on Instagram or Facebook I can’t help but peruse what’s going on in the lives of friends and colleagues. We all realize that social media, particularly Instagram and Facebook, are highlight reels of people’s lives. Yes, there are serious posts – in support of social movements, or to announce a death or illness in a family – but the majority center around fun activities and beautiful settings and happy faces and cute animals and amazing performances and delicious food.
Instagram in particular is a space in which we see very carefully curated versions of people’s lives. For instance there’s a whole genre of female Instagrammers that supports body-postive, “honest” looks at actual (read “non-model”) women’s bodies. You would think that this would be a more authentic way to present the human body, a raw look at reality. But the truth is, even photos of “real bodies” are most often staged and highly-produced images, artful displays of one’s enlightened view of beauty that are ironically still fetishizations of the female form (I could go on about this particular topic for pages, but will stop myself here!).
So much of the messaging on social media is “look at the wonderful things I’m doing”. And I realize that I’m just as guilty as any in presenting the best parts of my life, and myself. But for me (and for many), this creates an environment in which we take in everyone’s highlight reels and compare them to ourselves and our own lives. And we often find that we are lacking.
I struggle with the idea that I’m enough. I’m constantly worried that I’m not smart enough, or talented enough, or compassionate enough, or strong enough, or supportive enough, or loving enough, or lovable enough. It’s something I work through on a daily basis, reminding myself that my mere existence as a being on earth, that simply being ME is in itself, enough.
But the bombardment of beautiful images and exquisitely phrased pronouncements and gorgeously produced videos that I encounter as I put up my own posts on Facebook, or Instagram, or YouTube, or LinkedIn, or Twitter – it chips away at my tenuous acceptance of inhabiting my own mind, my own body, my own life. It messes with my self-perception, makes me doubt myself and my goals.
I’m not sure that there’s a true resolution here. I suppose that, at its core, it points out my need to keep working on my own sense and security of self, to ground myself in my own reality, to focus on and move forward with the things I believe in, independent of anyone else’s actions. Or to put it another way, to “stay in my lane”.
But I’m human, and part of the complexities of humanness is to compare and contrast, to feel anxious, to feel envy, to feel lacking.
As the pandemic eases (although, frankly, we’re in as bad a place as we were months ago, at the purported “peak”), I’m looking forward to shifting my energies back to actual interactions, to live performance, to physical engagement with the world around me. But until then, I’ll be plugging away online with my various projects, all the while attempting to keep the demons of constant comparison at bay.