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May 2019


Welcome to the latest installment of my digital perzine!
This issue contains words about Instagram.

"INSTAGRAM PROMISES US NOTHING"
- Marlee Grace
how a photo and video-sharing social networking service gave me my best friends, true love, a beautiful career and made me want to die
"there is no competition in the spiritual realm"
- Sarah Ban Breathnach
Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy

On Instagram.

It’s quite trendy to write about the ‘gram these days; trendy, but also unbearably uncool. Once again I must surrender to never being cool. Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the app and it’s been giving me a lot of feelings. Feelings that I’ve been parsing out and putting into place.

One of the reasons for my significant Instagram usage is that I don’t have Facebook. IG is the only social media I’m active on. Since I moved to a different time zone, the easiest way for me to literally keep an eye on my friends and be aware of what they were doing is to scroll through my feed. I am grateful for this. Grateful that this thing that someone else invented and doesn’t charge me anything to use, that is so simple and straightforward, allows me to stay in contact with, and share my work with, so many people. So thank you. Instagram.

But still, I’ve got feelings.

Like most people, Instagram makes me feel lonely.

I could say that I feel lonely because everyone I care about exists elsewhere. Spending time together, attending events and other nifty things that I can’t go to because I moved. And, thanks to the ‘gram I can watch these events take place, in real time from a variety of perspectives, whilst I lay alone on my bed. However, I’m not convinced that this is the case, that this is why I feel lonely. When I really think about it, I know I’m happier now than before, that I made the right decision in changing cities and getting a fresh start, and that I likely wouldn’t go to these things even if I were able.

But still, Instagram makes me feel lonely. It gives this illusion of connection, of being social, of interacting with each other, it is a social media, yet when it’s broken down, posting a picture and liking a picture isn’t very relational. There’s no conversation, no call and response, no exchange of ideas. It’s as if we’re all on our own little pedestals and shouting into the darkness. We never really engage. Sure, the content I post may inspire you to do something or think something, and if we’re lucky you’ll have the pluck to comment and I’ll have the humility to respond. Or alternatively, we can attempt a genuine conversation through the DMs. But really, that’s going beyond the basic setup that IG provides, the basic scroll and feed, the basic isolation we’ve all grown accustomed to.

On that note, Instagram makes me feel shitty about myself.

Our Insta profiles are a self-produced, self-curated collection of images about ourselves. Online manifestations of a self-constructed image, all of the things that we like, or do, or think we like or do, or people we want to be associated with, or the people we want others to associate us with, are piled up into this one place.

Our profiles can be considered extensions of our ego, in the sense that the ego is the little voice inside our heads; its running narrative holding onto our idea of ourselves, our histories and lived experience. I know egos. They can be helpful - despite the fact that being egotistical has a bad rap. Having the knowledge of who you are, your interests, boundaries and needs makes the world a bit easier to navigate, such as enabling you to stand up to mistreatment or chase down an opportunity. Egos can be an asset to our lives, but rarely are they the best part of ourselves.

This interior idea of self is fragile and defensive. On some level, we believe that this pile of ideas and narrative - in our heads and online - is us. That it forms the core of our identity. With Instagram being a projection of our identity, of our self-defined self, it’s hard not to take the outside world’s response to our content and our profiles personally.

If my images don’t get “enough” likes, I take it as a personal reflection on the quality and value of my work. If no one responds to that poignant question in my caption, I view myself as unpopular and uninteresting. If someone doesn’t follow me back, even though they’re really nice to me IRL, I doubt their genuineness and motives.

While using the app we forget about the algorithms, the ups and downs of people’s lives, people battling phone addiction, and the fact that no one is invested in the minute details of our own lives as much as we are. From our perspectives, IG doesn’t reflect as badly on everyone else as it does on ourselves.

On the bright side though, there is some comfort to be found on Insta. Scroll long enough and you’ll witness a user you’d never expect - people who you frequently hold yourself to in comparison - post, delete and repost the same image several times to try and catch the wave of response. That is, if you find comfort in other people’s suffering.

Instagram makes me feel less creative.

This is the real kicker, the aspect of IG that pushes me towards a hermitage.

At first glance, Instagram keeps me from being creative because I feel scared. Fear is a natural part of creativity, we’re journeying into the Unknown and it’s always a bit unnerving. With the app’s pass/fail system of validation, there’s the added pressure of wanting people to approve of these ventures into the Unknown.

This has manifested into self-doubt. I see what other people are creating, how their work is being responded to, and it makes me unsure of myself. It makes me think I am making the wrong thing; maybe I would be more successful if I made a thing similar to that instead of this thing inside my mind. It’s become an inner resistance to my own creativity. What started out as the thought, “I shouldn’t post this because it won’t do well” has morphed into, “I shouldn’t create this because it won’t do well.” The persistent sharing, comparing and being evaluated has ground down my intrinsic motivation.

Prior to Instagram and this little newsletter, I had a blog on WordPress, mostly focusing on food, craft projects and my interest in the art world. It’s where I started sharing the things that I saw in my mind and brought into real life. While it had a few hundred followers and earned a handful of genuine comments on each post, I didn’t associate the feedback with my idea of success, because having the blog was inherently successful. Writing each post was an accomplishment. Plus, the majority of people who interacted with my work were older embroidery enthusiasts, so by default, my age-range and interests made me special. Instagram makes it so easy to produce content, that publishing a post on its own cannot be considered an achievement. That pretty much everyone (and their dog or cat) has an account, I am no longer special.

So now, I fight against not wanting to make the things in my mind. Spend a lot of wasted time at my desk overcoming the self-doubt, convincing myself to trust myself, forcing myself to do my work if only to impress the unseen audience on my phone. This loop of thinking frequently has me wanting to bang my face against furniture in frustration.

I know that social media isn’t going anywhere, that it’s as part of our lives as the telephone poles that dot our landscapes and send the signals beeping into our devices. However, I hope to build an intentional practice around my usage and to re-develop my creativity for an offline audience. Even if that’s an audience of one.

Recommendations

Flora WildsAn artist that I met through the Explore Page. Wilds' work uses sculpture and performance to examine gender, consumerism and emotional well-being. Very colourful and thoughtful.

Phone Your Friends - This isn't a thing I can link to but it's something I wholeheartedly believe in. Too much of our telecommunication involves looking at a screen. Try using your phone as a phone, really sink into a conversation. 
NOTES
 
Much love to Adrian for listening to the rough draft of this piece and providing excellent feedback. And as always, thanks to Cosette for her smiley face of approval.

There are 3 copies of my debut zine, Strange and Mysterious Creatures, still available for sale at Likely General on Roncesvalles, in Toronto. If you're interested in supporting my work, purchasing a copy is a great way to do so!
 

Bio


EA Douglas is an artist currently living in Vancouver. She spends most of her time drinking coffee, writing, making art, reading, and looking after tiny humans... in about that order.


You can contact EA by replying to this email or by following her on Instagram itself - @ea.douglas

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