‘Mirrored Room’ by Lucas Samaras.
Oh buddies… I’m probably in greater need for meds than usual, because have I got a serving of digital vomit for you… As always, I encourage engagement, but in this instance, I’m actually requesting it, because in recent days I’ve become genuinely curious about a thing.
So with that preface, let’s begin.
A concept has developed in my brain the last three days and I’m gonna see if I can somehow describe it to some degree or another. So the other night a buddy of mine had posted a photo of his campsite. The photo presented an outfitted truck parked in a wooded area, a cooler, a camp chair… You know the scene. Totally idyllic. You could almost hear the birds and the creek and the trees in the breeze. Along with it was the caption, “am I doing this right?” Snarkily, I replied with something along the lines of that if he were doing it right, he would probably keep it to himself.
This simple exchange was the lynchpin to a torrid array of thoughts which then came flooding into the forefront of my consciousness in terms of how much we know about one another’s lives at all times, rain or shine, day or night. Before the advent of social media, digital cameras, and so on, when one wanted to document an event or occurrence in one’s life, one carried a camera, thoughtfully selected that which they would document, took a photo, and carried on with their wayward son-ness. Eventually, once the event in question had occured, and upon the retrieval of the shoebox in which the photos were stored, they and a few friends would then share looking at images of said experience. I contend that if we as a species still had to pay to get film developed, there would be no selfies, or hot dog legs, or (choke) the Kardashians.
The instant access to all and everything everyone is doing as it turns out is something of a double-edged sword.
And what is my place in all of this? When I initially got tapped to man the helm at Swobo’s ‘How To Avoid The Bummer Life’ web log, I had an email address that I’d occasionally use to check in with my parents, a Myspace page my friend Jason had set up for me as a ruse that I didn’t know how to access, and eventually a Flickr page because shooting slides and maintaining a physical portfolio is a monumental pain in the ass. That was the extent of it, and my life was really very simple.
Then the whirlwind of blogging came along and with it, Flickr, and Facebook, and Tumblr, and Twitter, and Instagram, and so on and so on, and I have to wonder, if I wasn’t doing what I do for a living, would I have any of it? To that, I genuinely believe the answer would be no, I would not.
Where does the promotion of my business end, and the promotion of what I want people to believe of my life begin?
For instance, to scroll through any random person’s Instagram feed is a glimpse into their daily existence, but for whom is it really presented? And is it a true glimpse into a thing they genuinely want the world to see, or a carefully crafted lie? Or perhaps it’s a bit of both. But it’s really the array that is the most mind boggling. Anything from the bag of fresh vegetables they picked up at that day’s farmers market to an image of them sitting at their beloved grandmother’s death bed. Unless a person emails/snail mails me specifically, I know for certain that I wasn’t the target audience for any of it, yet there I was taking part in this mundane/monumental occurrence just the same.
Yet the other side of the coin is that without all of these wonders of technology, I wouldn’t have eventually come to know so many truly great people. It’s opened doors to friendships that will remain until I die, while at the same time filling my brain with absolute banality.
Furthermore, to look through the Instagram feed I have set up in association with All Hail The Black Market, one would see photos of bikes, my cat, an occasional painting, and so on, but how much of that is an effort to promote my business, and how much of it is an effort to promote myself? Considering the fact that as I said perviously, if I didn’t have a business, I wouldn’t have any of the digital tentacles attached to it, I’d say it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 80%/20%. Of course, I’m a human animal. I have an ego that likes to be fed. Like any of us, I’ll occasionally take the Narcissusian risk of falling into the water to look at my own reflection, but for my own mental well-being I also desperately need to keep that compulsion in check.
Some people promote their business, and some people promote their lives, and strangely, in AHTBM’s case, I just now realize that they both are kinda the same thing. That same Jason who so many years put jokingly put together a Myspace page for me once said when trying to wrap his mind around what AHTBM is, “so you basically get paid to be yourself?” As off putting as that sounds, to a degree I suppose this is true.
With all of this said, I wonder what your role is any of it is. (You there- the person reading this). If you do, why do you engage in social media? Is it to keep in touch with friends, and family? Is it to promote your business/life/cat sweater collection? Can you genuinely say what you present to the world is an honest representation of your life? And because the written word carries no subtitles, or inflection, I say all of this earnestly, and I hope not to offend. I’m up to my neck in self promotion, because my livelihood depends on it. My challenge is how much of my actual self I dare allow in the process.
And since it was my dickish comment on his photo that spurred all of this on to begin with, if the aforementioned friend whose photo of his campsite ever emerges from the woods, I’ll ask him his thoughts on it as well.
What’s my point, anyway? Does anyone know what I’m trying to say? Can anyone direct me to an article that articulates this vague notion better than I did? If you can, hit me up on the Intantwitbookblr, or whatever. Some facsimile of me is probably there right now anyway.