"You seem off."
"I couldn't find you on social media."
"Is everything okay?"
"You don't know what's happening in my life. Aren't you watching my Instagram stories?"
The last one truly riled me up.
So many kind words of love and affection— sometimes concern bordering on curious, a few times nonchalance bordering on the offensive have been hurled at me over the last one month because people realised that I've been missing across platforms. I quit Instagram six months ago. Facebook doesn't count since I abandoned it eons ago. I'm active on Twitter (I like and RT tweets. That's enough to be active), and I engage with potential clients over LinkedIn InMails.
To my friends however, that doesn't seem to be enough. I've got to be everywhere, shouting through loudspeakers from rooftops to register my presence, apparently. Or so that makes me think. :) Or they genuinely miss me, which makes me feel... important?
I'm grateful because I've got the privilege of people —people who care for me and check up on me. People who know me and love me. People who recognise my absence. People who send me photos from their trips voluntarily because they know I'm not on Instagram. But somehow, I'm unable to connect to anyone — the pleasantries feel stifling, and I don't have the mind space for deeper conversations. This is not on you, friends. This is not on me either. This is on social media. Let me explain.
I started my Instagram page in 2016 with a lot of apprehension. It was a place for me to express myself and dump my thoughts. It was a time when I was down in the dumps. Hence the dumping, you get it? I sound like Ted Lasso!
Anyway, I kept writing and posting out there without any expectations. I wasn't sure where my work was headed, until people began reaching out to tell me how my words helped them heal and grow. I was astonished, but that was the push I needed, to take myself seriously. For every post I posted, I'd receive at least 5 messages in my DM about what my readers were going through. I forged bonds with people whom I'm yet to meet and learnt so much from other writers like me. I made friends with poets who still reach out to me — people who've not ever known how I look from the waist down. I took part in 30-day writing challenges. My work was featured multiple times on Instagram poetry pages, international lit mags and online writing communities.
Over time, Instagram added new features. With these new changes, people watched reels and scrolled through images. People came there to shop, to book therapy sessions or watch someone dole out life advice. As an infovore who loves reading and writing, this was difficult to digest and deal with initially, but I used tools to make my work look and feel good. My work grew. My audience network grew too, but I was still chopping down my words to cram it into a square. The platform format had not changed. I had. The more I condensed my work, the worse I began feeling. I knew building an audience was not easy. It took me four full years to move from 6 to 30 subscribers on Blogger back in 2009. While Instagram was easier, it wasn't fulfilling. My words swam in the deep blue sea, and settled at the bottom of it. I couldn't roil the ocean to make people see me. I got tired of marketing my work, or simply fighting for space — which is probably why the exhaustion set in.
When the exhaustion set in, I began comparing myself and my writing life with other creators across the platform — fashion and book influencers, dancers, artists and even saree and jewellery vendors. Yeah!
The comparison ate me whole. If you know me, I'm all for compassion, not comparison. I felt immense pain to be amidst all the chaos, the woke politics, the Instagram Lives and the shouting. I was shouting too, but I was depleted. My words began to suffocate in the square box. In fact, that prevented me from writing more. I took a break from writing completely. A few of my friends reached out to ask me why I wasn't writing and what was stopping me. I just didn't know then. I simply stopped responding to them. That was in April. I didn't write after that until August, when someone my age, a person I once knew quite well passed away. When I saw his body being lowered into the coffin, it was as if a lightning bolt struck me from nowhere. I was shaking all over. I began grieving. The grief helped me write. Grief has always cracked me open and made me who I'm today. This grief is still doing the same. No, I'm not romanticising grief, really. I've realised that I live only once, so I've got to make the best use of the time I have here.
I've now decided to explore (and work on) a broader canvas like my website, to let my words breathe. To help me breathe better. If you know me from Instagram, I'm sorry, I wouldn't be going there for a while.
If you like how I write, or what I write, consider buying me a book, or two, or three, from here.
Here are my decisions. I hope they change the world — for me and for the others in it too.
- I'll write 100 blogposts for 100 days.
- I'll be consistent and compassionate to myself.
- I won't let what others do affect me.
- I'll go back to 2008. This means getting in touch with my younger self — a lot.
- I'll write about everything under the sun.
- No filters, no pandering to no one.
PS: I seem to enjoy the fact that I don't have access to anyone's carefully curated Instagram grids, which is why I'm going to pretend as if social media hasn't taken over our lives. Let's see how that goes. Back to 2008!