I’ve been trying to reconcile what I gain by being here with what is lost by not being somewhere else.
I started, many years ago, posting one photo a day. In the second year, I expanded to include words. Three years later, I tore it down because an audience had appeared, and I was uncomfortable as a purveyor of content without a clear intention. I met a few people during that time, none who stuck and a few who did damage, and I was - ultimately - just fine becoming a ghost. Or less than; ghosts leave spectral footprints. There was no concern at my absence.
I started again with music. A way to indulge an obsession and the memory of my days as a band photographer. Nostalgia and the glorious revelation of finding and sharing something new. The content grew and this time, I met a few people who’ve done more than open an internet window into their life. I’ll call them friends (a best friend, even), if they’d be so kind as to accept that moniker, because I care about them in the ways that stars arrive at night in hordes under clear skies.
But now, I’m left wondering about all of it, including intention again. It’s a collection of information I don’t always know how to assimilate. There are living diaries working out demons and unicorns alike; there are grocery lists and other minutiae, as though the writer believes that’s all they’re good for (they are good for more, I promise); there are photos of faces and breasts and tattoos and cities and trees; there are loved ones and the music and books that remind us of them; there is sex and marriage and divorce and the underpinnings that flow us from one state to the other. There is also desperation, pettiness, cruelty, and darkness, and while that’s usual in any community of any size, it is strange to find it’s wandered into your house and bedroom, willfully standing over you as you sleep to take photos and talk shit while smiling and offering cookies to passersby.
I am not sure the point of the audience anymore. Is it to prove I’m interesting, still? Appealing in my awkward, stand-offish way? A pat on the back for making social inroads? Do I care if anyone likes my photos or music or musings? Do I require that affirmation? Am I helping here? Is anything I create providing comfort or distraction or thought?
I’ve been propositioned, stalked, fucked with for reasons I’ll never fully understand, had my content stolen. Recently, I learned that someone I’ve never interacted with wrote some petty shit about me on my birthday (for daring to turn an otherwise pointless day into a creative fest featuring you darlings, I suppose?) and blocked me. From the shadows, they consumed enough of my curated chaos to form an opinion they needed to shout to the world. As a community, you ate it up, asked for nothing except more of the same. I’m not the first and I won’t be the last. It’s high school without the lockers. And the wheel spins.
Maybe this occurs because we don’t actually know anyone here, and by extension, don’t really care. We purge our stories to make ourselves feel better, then - waiting not-so-patiently to be acknowledged - we turn to the (mis)adventures of our so-called friends as immediate distraction. When people misbehave, we turn the channel. We don’t do what one would expect in person, which would be to confront the asshole yelling in an otherwise well-behaved bar. We emoji shrug instead, wonder what else we can take a photo of, and go on our way.
I do not say any of this from a distance, either. It’s why I’m here questioning the rest. I have written and deleted this post a dozen times in the last few months and, in the intervening time, tried to be mindful of interacting with your lives in a way that is (hopefully) meaningful. To share and commiserate and help, if possible. To look over my own content and see if it provides something we both can use. And fuck, man. I’m just not sure I’m doing a good job. If I ever did. I feel like an easy target, which is precisely because I don’t do the popularity thing well. My insecurities aren’t settled by fucking with you. There’s a grand life out there for the indulging and at a fundamental level, I’m not concerned with how that shakes out in a stranger’s mind. Instead, I’m increasingly taken with the thoughts of those I call friends. Their gestures and creativity, the way their voices drop when they’ve got a story that needs telling, the way their hands move when they are excited, the tilt of their head when their lives feel out of control, their smiles at accomplishments, their blushes at being turned on. Perhaps most saliently, the feeling of their arms around me after a dinner of delicious food and better conversation.
Maybe that’s where I need to be for awhile.