September was a really rough month for me, like a routine Dragon Ball Z beatdown. The kind from all directions where all your senses and defenses are affected. Even when I am not surprised by the lows to which people sink, it’s not as if I’m not affected by it, and I haven’t figured out how to push forward beyond it (not really sure that I want to be numb to that kind of behavior). But I survived!
Today is the start of a new month in the calendar. I have better plans and better back-up plans, and the warmth, wisdom, and love of friends to help me. That foundation is where the blessing bloom and rise to my face, and then the reminders that visit to keep me on track:
May I learn all the ways in which I do not really see me. All the ways I rush through me, past me, over me. May I learn to pause in my presence. May I learn that witnessing me is witnessing myself. The more I do one, the more I can do another.
May I learn all the ways in which my self-obsession inhibits me from being able to experience me as I am, not as I think I should be. May I look for all of the assumptions that I have created. All of the prejudices I have been handed and that I consciously and unconsciously perpetuate. All of the limited understandings of me that I project on to me everyday. May I commit to rewiring my mind to be humble enough to know that I don’t know me but that I am willing to learn about me. May I remember that getting to know me is an honor and a blessing.
May I know where to draw the line for myself. May I remember that being in balance in my relationships requires my ability to first and foremost be in relationship with myself. The moment I forfeit that relationship, I can’t be there for me.
Nara – Nara Leão (1964)
Self-Titled – Jorge Ben (1969)
“Gostava Tanto de Você” by Tim Maia (1973)
“Gloriosa” by Erasmo Carlos & Os Tremendões (1970)
“Assim falou Santo Tomaz de Aquino” by Jorge Ben (1975)
“Soul Train” by Destiny/Princess Nokia (2015)
“Soul Finger” by the Bar-Kays (1967)
Is it hypocritical to miss a place that just months ago you were counting the days to leave? And I remember that I miss a place that has its beauty and small, quiet wonders interwoven with its stressors. I am in love with a place that is difficult to love, and I miss it. It’s not hypocritical – I don’t believe in unconditional love – and I was in a difficult place at a difficult time. It is what is, and I need to let it be. Which reminds me to work hard so I can see it again.
By way of conversation – both online and offline – I have been revisiting my thoughts on the internet. In all honesty, I don’t believe I have departed much from my post a couple of months ago. Currently, I think what I said, about forging our own path past electronic, capitalist waste, is now even more imperative. Everyday I think about leaving social media: deleting accounts, leaving a twitter or tumblr to die, creating such a complex password to my Facebook that I will never be able to log in again. And than pushing it aside because I know it’s essentially impossible: if I want to keep up with my local pole and aerial community updates, if I want to pop in and see longtime friends’ updates, if I have to keep “family appearances,” etc – I have to keep these accounts open. Things otherwise are so much more difficult and complicated; or at least, that’s the trap.
And so the battle has shifted to resistance in some sense. Unfollowing everyone on Facebook so I can only see my posts (are you aware of that creepy thing on your newsfeed that allows you to see posts your actual friends like, of other people?), turning off my phone when I go to a social outing so Facebook doesn’t suggest if I magically now these people afterwards (Instagram too), updating less, saying less, and trying to be less present. Diminishing my “perceived self.” It’s not preferred to write about your entire self, because of the possible material consequences with your employer, your academic community, etc.
The “perceived self” versus who I am has been more of my issue on Facebook than elsewhere, leftover from people who perceived to know me via college. It is frustrating to know that you are a whole human being, but for others to selectively interact with you because you don’t just post cat pictures or food porn, but also things relating to racial discrimination (the so-called “social justice” posts). On some platforms more than others, a non-topical format does not work, and of course, an algorithm pushes that framework even harder into those unconsciously using the platform. It’s why (in addition to the realities of race, gender, class, region, sexuality, etc) when you try to present your real self, the perceived self cracks to the viewer. “Why are you so cold in person when on the internet you’re so alive and extroverted???” Or when you have had your security/trust compromised and decide to cease posting for personal safety, people flock to you to express how empty their lives would be without your posts.
Not empty without you, or even the care for your personal wellbeing. But what you post – your production, your emotional labor. Uncompensated labor instead of intimate space. That deserves to free of charge. An individualized Gawker/the Toast instead of a person who just posts whatever comes to pass. You are cheaper than the 24 hour or less think piece. I’m so fucking tired of think pieces. I’m not a think piece.
Someone once told me that nobody uses Facebook the way I use Facebook. I believe her and disbelieve her. I believe her in the sense that the format that Facebook and other social media platforms do facilitate that environment of individualized Gawker accounts, or at least curated spaces to perform oneself. It’s a form of cordiality culture. I disbelieve her in the sense that everyone is fine with it, or that there is no one else who also hates it and feels alienated by it.
Eline has said to me that perhaps it’s not about resisting anymore, as much as it is about moving beyond discomfort and fatigue, and doing something about it. Making intentional spaces, and adapting to your needs rather than trying to find a work around the current environment. I can this space, this blog, what I need my internet life to be. We can never go back to our nostalgia, but we can always move forward to create what we desire – this is the agency we have in all of this. There was always a “better, easier” time, but perhaps what we fear is that the future could be better, because it is in our hands.
And now, onwards! I’ll be updating this site shortly. Welcome aboard.
“And Now for Something” via Eline’s blog permae pupa
“Is the beauty industry losing its touch?” via Saffron’s blog Saffron Sugar
“Hand’s Up If You Have Beauty Fatigue” via British Beauty Blogger
“Let the Frog In: On Guilt and Emotional Labor” via Katherine’s blog Just Call Me Shrew
“Carmen” music video via Stromae
“My [insert relation to rapist here] couldn’t be a rapist, he’s a good person!” “Yes, he didn’t listen to their partner when they said no or demonstrated through body language they no longer consented to sex, but I know that they’re a good person!” “I’m so shocked that he was a serial rapist: he ran a successful company and gave money to charity and was so cordial to me.”
I am fatigued by the “good person” argument. Good people are capable of incredible evil. I don’t doubt that some of my white friend’s (great) grandparents might have gone to a lynching or participated in a lynching. I don’t doubt that we know people who have probably beat up lesbians and trans women. I don’t doubt that I am related to someone who has committed domestic violence. We either know that they have done these things, or we “don’t know,” but we are shocked when we do because they are “such great people” to us.
Being a good person is a cloak to distinguish oneself from society’s typical scapegoats to avoid responsibility for their crimes. A good person is someone who benefits from being high in the social hierarchy. Remind yourself why we can’t believe law or medical students participate in crime and deserve sympathy but a poor 16 year old girl, who is already a single mother, deserved to be gang raped by 33 adult men.
There are no “good people.”
I just completed my first year in my PhD program, and I’m back at home in my parents’ house visiting for a few weeks before I go do summer research/language acquisition in South America. The novelty of eating your mother’s food and not having to pay for anything gets old very quickly, especially when none of your friends – high school or college friends – live in your hometown to help you blow money on chili cheese fries or underwear deals.
I have been reminiscing about those times, my adolescence and early college years, as I sit around and figure out what to do with my time. A friend recommended doing absolutely the opposite of productivity culture: something she terms passionate culture. What did I love to do without guilt, shame, and mental self-mutilation before I became consumed in “how to adult” as an aspiring (and now current) grad student? What was I so actively passionate about that I had multiple lives, not just one as a student? Can I do these things again?
The irony is that my passion for things I loved to do in my adolescence was primarily due to having a similar lack of access to the people and things I wanted to be in conversation with. If I couldn’t access a zine, I would make it. If my mom wouldn’t let me develop my own wardrobe, I could visit fashion blogs and see what I liked and didn’t like. If I couldn’t watch the latest indie or art house films, I would check out their predecessors and influences through the public library and interlibrary loan. I could talk to other folks around the world on LiveJournal and tumblr about black women, feminisms, diasporic melancholy, food packaging design, and 90s Björk remixes and Blur b-sides.
I’ve been re-reading old blog posts that friends and folks i used to follow wrote back in 2013 and before. Julia’s post on the internet and presence stand’s out to me: she identifies the earlier moments, like i outlined above, where sharing yourself on internet platforms didn’t feel too stressful or performative. In the age of apps, streaming, and microblogs/140 characters or less with reduced privacy rights, the internet moves at extremely fast rate. In the age of think pieces, there is less time to reflect, digest, and sit. Curated lives on Facebook and Instagram are full of clickbaity photos, links, and statuses designed for viral appeal. You cannot even browse social network websites a la Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest without an algorithm “suggesting” content to you. Is there any possible way to craft a presence online in such a climate (or era)? Can I even go back to recapturing the spirit I felt as an adolescent online?
I don’t think so. For one, we can’t turn the clock back to a time where we knew less than we do now. But secondly, the internet from 2000 to 2012 was not peachy keen either. LiveJournal and Xanga accounts (blogs and communities) wielded influence similar to web celebrities and personalities now on Twitter and Instagram. In fact, some of those current folks actually came out of the LJ/Flickr years.They wanted to be like the folks they idealized on fashion communities on LJ and fandom rings on blogger, and this new moment has brought them the opportunity to become that. Yes, there weren’t think pieces or countless selfies, but there were the time period’s equivalents. We’re in a kind of neoliberal internet.
Having said that, there were blogs and internet presences that were just anonymous time capsules. Not explicitly meant to capture an audience or wield influence; but to just share what they wanted to the world, whoever would listen, or to no one in particular. I think this is what Julia was speaking to in her post. The non-curated, messy, typo-ridden, slice of life posts mostly did not have the buzz of “make this viral” all over them; it could be a quiet contribution to knowing the intimate details of someone’s mostly mundane life. Through the quick death and rebirth of memes and vines, the mundane is obscured from view, and maybe isn’t even around because it’s not [socially] profitable.
But then, don’t we have to ask ourselves what we do these things for? If we want to return to slice of life writing, why don’t we just do that? I don’t mean to suggest that an individualist, run against the current approach is the way to turn the tide; the tide is here to stay until a possible internet 3.0 (or the internet ending, somehow). But what do you like to do, who do you imagine are the folks that you will share or not share it with (your audience), and how will you proceed? Do you have the will to proceed? I had to wrestle with this question through a different medium, with regards to academic writing and research. Would I write what I wanted to write, or what I anticipated people wanted me to write? Would I write for myself and people I wanted to be in conversation with, or the folks who I thought I needed to cater to? It was painful to acknowledge that I had even internalized a lot of the behaviors I thought I was above, but eventually I realized I would lose my joy, confidence, and self-respect if I didn’t do the work I wanted to do. So I made it work for me, regardless of whose eyes settled onto the page.
That is the way I also want to approach the rest of my loves. I cannot go back to the past but I can cultivate an outlook that informed the reason why I loved my passions in the past: I gave myself the permission to be messy, non-linear, and curious. Maybe that’s how you get into something again, or at least learn to relax into yourself and leisure.
* On Self-Respect by Joan Didion