Bouquet 04 by Pedro Veneziano.
A few days shy of exactly six months ago, I decided to leave social media — the main culprit being Instagram. I’ve always been on the fence, disabling for periods of two or three weeks occasionally but I continued to make excuses as to why I couldn’t take the full plunge.
Come April, I sat down to write a brutally honest essay before deactivating my accounts, attempting to articulate to myself all the things about the platform I didn’t like, what I disliked about the way I used it and ultimately how it made me feel. Despite the world entering a period of physical isolation, I felt a deep need for digital isolation too.
I concluded with the confession: “It is a strange as hell time to be alive. I worry most that things after the pandemic will not change but still inside me is this tempestuous feeling. It has been revealed to me on every macro and micro level how fragile and conditioned our systems and structures are. Most things that I thought mattered don't matter at all. It has presented me with one shot, the only one I might ever get, to radically change and liberally construct my life. So it starts here. I want to take it. I really hope things will not stay the same on the other side.”
From the other side…
When I left, I had no rule book or framework. I didn’t know if I was going on hiatus or if I was leaving forever; all I knew is that I wanted to go and I wanted to give myself the best shot at cultivating a different behavioural makeup. I was curious about how I would feel in that time, revelling in the inherent sense of anonymity as soon as I had disabled. I liked feeling as though I had ceased to exist somewhere and that I could only be found if I wanted to be.
As six months free approaches, I’ve been reflecting more and more on the internal and external changes that leaving has provoked. I recently began putting together a book called Private Affairs that encapsulates some of the reasons why I left in the first place including that first essay and a meditative one I am currently writing. The desire to share (and an interest in what is being shared) is natural, but I want to be able to control the methods of production and consumption. It’s my life repurposed, after all.
The premise is “everything I may or may not have posted to Instagram during April — October 2020 but lived instead” and I like the idea that these pictures will never be posted online, at least not by me. I like the idea that you have to hold the book in your hands and actually spend time rifling through it, engaging with a tangible form. In a time of both vast change and stasis, it feels like an appropriate object to capture, almost like a memory capsule, this half year span. And of course, there are no like metrics or algorithms.
The irony is that I may need Instagram to share this book so I can’t say that I’m 100% free yet. I’ve been thinking about new ways that I could engage with social media, contemplating whether an “on/off” presence where I leave for 3-6 months at a time and return for one week intervals to share the things that I’ve created in that time might work. Then it’s back to my life again.
We’ll see. This relationship always feels like a work in progress and what I’m mostly trying to do is pay closer attention to mood shifts and how turning different dials, even slightly, makes me feel. There’s so much more to say on all these topics: from ownership, to audiences, to being a creative, to being a creative during a pandemic, URL vs IRL, offline effects of online behaviour and MORE, but I’ll save it for Private Affairs. If you need me until then, I’ll be here — on the other side!!!
🌹 Is resilience overrated? — I’ve been reflecting a lot on process and progress this week and how society puts resilience on a pedestal. Even in writing this newsletter, I’ve noticed that I default to finding a bright side or a lesson in everything which perhaps isn’t inherently bad, but this week’s emergent theme is Other Sides, about finding new ways of being and thinking.
🌼 A poem to forward to someone you love, whose details you can’t help but imbibe
💐 And one more for New York, not because my allegiances are changing but because Terrance Hayes so perfectly captures the razzmatazz of a city I love as I fall, just a little, for another.
I’m Emily Nabnian and Send Virtual Flowers is a weekly digital bouquet from me to you about that moment when the feeling strikes. It is an experiment in alternative modes of communication inspired by the things that touch me and perhaps you too. If someone came to mind while you were reading this, consider passing the bouquet along by sharing.