newsletter #19: offline
on running a marathon & hating instagram
Hello, reader. How are you? I’m doing okay. A bit anxious, but overall fine all things considered. Today, I’m sharing with you my collection of current thoughts on Instagram—on all social media, really. Would love to know how you feel about these words. If anything resonates, drop me a comment or email. Always interested to hear from you and thanks to those who always write back. You’re loved.
It’s a common joke among my friends and family as of late to call me an ‘influencer.’ This is because of the light blue check, the verified mark, that now appears next to my username on Instagram—even though I don’t have many followers at all, nor do I post that frequently anymore. I’ve gotten the check because I’m a member of the media, as they say which means I’m uniquely qualified to and compensated for sharing my thoughts and feelings on the internet. (Pain.)
Oddly enough, the more any of my social media grows as I move forward in my “career” the less I feel inclined to be on it. The truth is, having any kind of audience or following (even a very small one) where many of your followers don’t really know you on a deep level leaves room for feelings of “being watched” per se, for being viewed as a very one-dimensional version of who you really are. This ultimately isn’t a new thought but: social media has increasingly felt like a facade for me, especially in the context of the pandemic. I’ll explain.
How I think of it is this: In no world will I ever be someone who posts as candidly and frequently as I can online. I find it so draining, and my natural inclination isn’t to share on social media anything about my life. The only time I’ve conditioned myself to do so is in the context of work, as I feel there’s a widespread understanding in media and publishing that the bigger your social presence, the greater asset you are to a company or more marketable you are as a writer. When I think about how much I subscribed to this ideology in the past, it makes me sick. It’s not that I blame people for trying to have a following, because I know how lucrative and helpful it can be for people’s careers. And people need money. That said, I don’t think this means we can’t critique the concept itself, the idea being that notoriety or respect is often tied to social presence. This can lead to a lot of ingenuity online, a lot of performance.
For me, because I am never going to be extremely open about my personal life on social media, this means that if you follow me you’re seeing the highlight reel. This becomes evident to me when I see people in person and they say things along the lines of “it looks like you’re killing it lately,” when we’re catching up.
Reader, I will disclose to you that I am far from “killing it.” Yes, I am grateful for the ways in which my life is quite good on paper right now, that I am healthy and secure. But, like everyone else, I am just trying to find my way through the tornado that is being alive right now. To live every day the best that I can.
This is why I am slowly trying to phase social media out of my existence as much as possible right now. I don’t want to participate in the glamorization of life, specifically when it comes to my own. It makes us value the wrong things.
As you might have seen by now, I ran a marathon in November. I tried not to tell anyone I was doing it, or rather, I kept a low-profile about it. This included not sharing the fact that I was training for it on Instagram. (Or Strava, even.) The thing is, I didn’t want the audience, and I didn’t really want to hear people’s opinions about marathons, running, or the fact that a person like me would be running one. I wanted this to be completely my own: For me, the training and ultimately the race itself was a spiritual experience, a challenge I put in place for myself alone.
The marathon was between me and my mind. And I can’t remember the last time I did that, the last time I accomplished or worked for something without telling anyone I was working for it. I’d gotten into a habit of sharing every article I wrote or every book I read online. And self-promotion is exhausting. *Selling* yourself is exhausting. So, I waited until I actually finished my marathon to make any public mention of it. And once I posted the picture of the medal, my DMs were flooded with people telling me congratulations, but also that they didn’t even know I was training for it, that I had committed to doing it at all.
Reader, this is me telling you there is so much less pressure, so much more freedom to do things entirely for yourself when you retain a sense of anonymity, or rather, when you don’t feel the need to share your personal adventures with an online community that, really, does not even know who you actually fucking are.
social media is controlling you
My goal for my writing, my newsletter overall, is to make it the primary destination for sharing any of my thoughts, any of my political views, or anything going on in my life. Similar to the way that I can no longer stomach the self-promotion or ingenuity of social media, I also no longer rely on it as a mechanism for any kind of important discourse. Everything, it seems, is packaged to fit the absolute lowest common denominator of understanding—that is to say, ideas are watered down to the point where you’re almost saying nothing at all, making no difference at all.
All of this is done while, simultaneously, your information is being bought, sold, commodified, tracked, and advertised back to you in ways that are so pervasive, so ubiquitous they have become nearly invisible. Below, a quote from one writer-journalist I really like, Jessica DeFino. (Subscribe to her newsletter, The Unpublishable, where you can read about her studies and research on dismantling the beauty industrial complex, among other things.)
Specifically, I like what she says about how a “newsletter in your inbox sounds like more content than Instagram, but it’s actually less content, and better.” What I like about newsletters, and having my own, is that you can consume, you can read, with context, with relevant knowledge of who a person is, how they talk, how they think.
I try not to make anything related to my writing about aesthetics, which dictates much of social media in general. It’s about the words I’ve decided to share with you today. What I’ve decided to think about, write into my notebook, type and transfer into a Google document, and the like. It’s not controlled by ads, by an algorithm, and not feeding off of or inspiring insecurity or feelings of inferiority. (At least, I hope not.)
So, that’s all I have for you today. I am trying to disconnect from social media and to consume it or use it in a different way. It is like an addiction, and I am trying to reevaluate my relationship to it. You can find my thoughts, my happenings, my words here, in the meantime.
other things of note
My painful crush on Dominic Fike in Euphoria season II.
Still reading A Prayer For Owen Meany. It’s long but good.
Let me know what you’re up to these days.