Recently an acquaintance told me,
“I see you and you’re going everywhere. So many events and places.”
This is from someone who has met me maybe once before at a common friend’s home. She judges my life and me, based on my Facebook timeline and my Instagram feed. What do these say? Is my online presence my life story?
My Instagram feed runs a daily (as often as I can manage it) micro poem peppered with selfies and the occasional social situation with other people. I know most people don’t realise this but I would expect a writer to know that writing is done alone, and usually at home or in quiet, unassuming places. If 99% of my feed is writing, what does that say about my life?
My Facebook timeline is very similar and also has updates of my blogposts, and an occasional video or two. There’s always the gazillion photos that one gets tagged in for going to one event. Then there are the unconnected updates/articles shared by that one friend who will insist on tagging one in the digital equivalent of “Poke, poke, see what I saw RIGHT NOW”.
And that feature I absolutely detest which is Facebook telling the whole world about any event that I Maybe showed some interest in. When I can manage it, I delete such updates but I haven’t yet figured out how to turn them off completely, if that’s even possible. And thus, even without my trying, Facebook projects me as someone who Does These Cool Things, Visits These Awesome Places, Knows These Wonderful Things, Ain’t It Awesome!
I understand that a viewpoint on someone’s life based solely on their projected digital feed is naive. It is also the more common way people think since most do not like expending too much thought on other human beings. Since I need to spell that out (and I did to her), I reiterate,
IdeaSmith is a persona, a story I tell. It is not fake. But it is presented with bits taken from my life that suit that narrative. Nobody has an entire life like that.
This is not something people want to hear. Readers of my blog who meet me usually sound disappointed that I’m not scarier/prettier/younger/older/wiser/more X/less Y. And now, the stage brings its own joys and price to be paid. So people who saw one (grainily shot on my phone) video or heard me perform someplace assume that I’m ANGRY, unfriendly, snooty or any number of other things all the time. To be honest, I don’t really mind what mostly-strangers think about me and the stories they slot me into my own head. Real Me would just like to be left alone and free from the punishments that they pile on when their illusion is destroyed.
I miss the days when I was anonymous, before Twitter and Facebook before IP address tracking became easy. I was just an odd little creature somewhere on the internet who wrote some interesting stuff maybe and some blah things. Nobody cared what my life choices were. No one bothered whether I was Strong Independent Woman Who Saves The World every minute or not. I know I sound ungrateful because this attention, this visibility is a privilege. I know it. I just wish it didn’t constantly demand that I stand accused of disappointing strangers 100% of the time.
I also thought about where Real Me sits, since I clearly don’t share it on Facebook or Instagram. Well, Real Me sits in my real life. Real Me is coping with the emotional violence that is a hallmark of everyday city life. Real Me is surviving (just about) the microaggressions that are heaped on any woman by people you wouldn’t suspect such as electricians, watchmen, waiters, fellow commuters. Real Me is clinging on desperately to self-esteem as the media and popular opinion everywhere tries to snatch it away from me with knives labelled body-shaming, slut-shaming, sanskari values and co-dependence.
Real Me is dry-heaving from the breath getting knocked out by ghosting and betrayal by friends. Real Me is grappling with a monster called stage fright on a battleground called performance. Real Me is worrying about bills, about growing old, about that mysterious ache, about those strange sounds in the night. Real Me has had a very, very bad 2017 indeed and is just thankful it’s almost over and then scared that December is going to be a big whammy. Real Me has had a nightmare of a month (for some very dark personal reasons that won’t be gotten into) and sees no respite any time soon.
No, none of these are things anyone wants to hear about or even see. Why would an inherently contained person such as I, want to share that on social media? No, sharing is not therapy. Writing is not healing; it’s catharsis. And the catharsis of venting online is far outweighed by the dangers of trolls, digital footprints visible to future employers/relationships and the internet’s ability to actively misunderstand.
Real Me has also been attacked so often and in some many vicious ways that keeping quiet seems easier. And after all this, Real Me is still somebody who doesn’t really like thinking of herself (myself?) as a victim in a sad story. Documenting something makes it real for beyond the minute that one experiences it. Why would Real Me want to extend this living nightmare beyond its run?
For what it’s worth, this blog still feels a lot more like Real Me than the other platforms, maybe because I still feel like Ramya-within-a-safe-space here rather than Brand IdeaSmith. So, if you’re human, please don’t be an asshole. Well, okay, be one if that’s all you’re capable of. Real Me and this blog have a spam filter. Real Me really does not have time to care about you if you aren’t kind.
And whichever you are, thank you for reading so far. That’s both IdeaSmith and Real Me speaking.