Another week without social media. The impact on my wellness has compounded. In a good way. I never realized how much of my own living condition I could ignore or drown out with the constant input and preoccupation of social media. Even physical discomfort. On a daily basis. On an hourly basis. Now that I’ve turned down the noise, so to speak, I can hear (feel) my body trying like hell to get my attention. This goes double for my mind. Just as we consider physical wellness to be the absence of illness, we tend to think mental wellness is the absence of mental illness. Both of those assumptions shortchange our vitality and potential. It’s the difference between feeling GOOD and feeling NOT BAD. As long as we’ve got enough vices to keep our brains otherwise occupied, we settle for not bad. Over time, not bad becomes normal and we forget that we ever knew how GOOD really felt.
And oh my glob, the aspect of creativity; I’m astounded by how much of my social media content that was deemed a legitimate creative outlet wasn’t legitimate at all. That was a rationalization, friends. I’m calling myself on my own bullshit here. I see now that most of what I posted was just a monotonous parade of proof. I had so much to prove; things to prove to the world, prove to my friends, and especially to prove to myself. I can see that I was blind to this need to be constantly validated by output. The truth sunk like a stone when I realized I no longer want to take pictures that no one else is going to see. This speaks volumes about where my motivations to post were truly rooted. I ask myself if I want to take a photo of something just to save and enjoy for myself and the answer is now No. I caught myself actually saying, There is no point in taking the photo if I’m not going to share it. That means it wasn’t an artistic outlet supporting my wellness, as I’d always claimed. It was me trying to prove that I’m creative. Posting thousands of photos validated my creativity.
There’s a difference. An outlet is an application for creative flow; a way to give the spark a medium in which to sparkle. Sometimes I did manage that. But near the end I was using creative problem-solving to come up with things to post just so there wouldn’t be a void. That’s not the same thing. Near the end I posted so I wouldn’t disappear. So that I wasn’t sitting on the sidelines watching instead of playing. I got really good at posing near the goal line in my uniform but not necessarily making the touchdown. See? There’s a difference.
The deeper shadow is that it truly did not matter whether or not anyone liked my content. Honestly, I never craved likes or loves or positive feedback because it was about inclusion. No matter how much or how little attention I got the whole point was to keep up production; to keep manufacturing the proof. The validation was in putting something out there; being in the mix. Proof I was a contender. I was alive, involved, important, and relevant. A robust collection proved these things. It was the volume that mattered, the consistency, capitalizing on every opportunity to prove, prove, prove that I’m significant and interesting and remarkable. I guess I assumed no one would ever think these things about me if I didn’t provide them with a prompt. And by prompt I mean proof.
Until I stopped doing it I had no idea I was doing this.
I’ve decided I don’t want to do it anymore. I want to be done with the need to prove myself. However, I’m resolved to approach this change with kindness. I look at my burgeoning Flickr albums and truly love some of the stuff in there. It does bring me joy to admire some of my own work, especially the days I can tell I was authentically celebrating something randomly beautiful or strange or weirdly delightful. I look at those images and feel the magic of those moments all over again so I’m not trashing anything. But I am going to spend some more time with these new revelations. The largest of these is the irony of my abstinence; that this withdrawal I so avoided with compulsive imagery is the catalyst for understanding how my use of social media was negatively impacting my wellness.
I’ll say it again. Wellness is a practice. It’s time to refine the practice.
It has rained for days and days now. I’ve lost count. Seven days straight, maybe? On Saturday there was a 20 minute break between storms. I rushed outside with my afternoon coffee to play with Tucker and try to take a Tina or two in natural light. It was pretty much a fail. The camera caught me either watching the sky as the next weather system arrived or only partially in the frame (sigh). Then the rain started again. And it has not stopped.
I was able to salvage only one heavily edited image; the black and white huntress. I had just located Tucker’s “lost” bone in the tall grasslands that are far too wet and marshy to mow. As soon as he noticed we had to wrestle for it because dogs don’t understand finders keepers. I trust the finished image is what he really saw–glowing white warrior nymph rising out of the blackened swamp to creep down the hill collecting bones for…I don’t know…whatever it is the bone collectors do (I assume it’s not recycling).
As a start to rehabilitation I created no art this week independent of the Tinas project. Unless you count the text of this essay and another chapter of my novel, which is truthfully an outlet. Articulating my newfound awareness in this post-social media exploration does support my wellness. As for serving the world with it, I hope my words lead to continuing insights for those who read them. I’m happy to reaffirm that this I do not share just to stay in the mix. This is not about validation or proof. This I would and will definitely do even if no one reads it.
Cracking the code on our delusions is crucial to evolving our wellness. It’s also good to get in touch with the certainties about ourselves from time to time. To remember who we really are, what we really believe, and we how want to move and work and contribute in this world. This too is part of the practice.
— Dhati Pasto
(This week’s nom de plume made of pitta dosha.)