The conundrum of smallness
inspired by conversations about the Tao, grounded in the realness of instagram curation
There’s a part of me that prefers not to go to comedy shows because I dislike the expectation that I must laugh. I come back with an aching face from what is actually forced laughter. Similarly, I came upon the somewhat ridiculous conundrum regarding the curation of my Instagram feed. I started to share photos with that ‘no crop’ white border situation, and the videos I’d been sharing also appeared with a black border, and the controlling part of me was freaking out internally at this chaotic aesthetic. I’ve dealt with this before, trying out a new ‘look’ for the gram, saying I’ll do 3 of this and then 3 of that and if you’re familiar with Instagram you will know that this can very soon feel futile and exhausting. So I to-hecked-with-it. Point being, I eventually disregarded my own mental conundrum with the self-knowledge that I dislike the expectation to be or do things a certain way. So I said hey, if I feel like framing this a certain way I will and if I don’t then I won’t. It’s not that deep. But you know me, and deep I shall make it.
Because while an Instagram aesthetic dilemma sounds silly, it points me to a number of other related and naturally existential dilemmas. First of all I actually hate Instagram, so the fact that it should often deplete my mental reserves in the way that it has is…pitiable. I’ve been actively sharing stuff there since 2012, so that’s a good 11 years of my life. It’s only ‘logical’ that instagram and identity would become two sides of the same coin. Chalo if not instagram, then internet. Same prefix, same relevance. With the use of the app as a way to showcase ‘work’, came a need to keep up with the insta-joneses. And as we know, they are relentless. I’ve had a separate art account for nearly four years now, and I’ve just recently stumbled onto a thousand followers, and it felt like a big deal to cross over into the four digits. To me. On my ‘personal journey’. The problem is that it now feels impossible to have a personal journey, because someone out there has been on the platform for far less time and has received far more acclaim, and you know it all too well. Let’s not go into what they’re doing right and I’m doing wrong - the point is that there’s something to be done right according to a formula.
Let me try and dissect formula. I think about when I saw Paulo Coelho’s ten dozen books on a library bookshelf, and how I wondered how it could be possible to write so many famous books. It made sense to my younger self that he must’ve come upon something that worked, and then he kept doing it. Today, this reminds me of content that blows up once and then becomes the maker’s whole identity. It makes me think of a person who had an insight and shared it with the world, and the world was like hell yeah, and in this hell yeah an opportunity was discovered. They are now famous and they say the same things and it’s like they’re not really saying anything. The insight lost its power long ago.
And so I arrive at what I’ve *actually* been thinking about, which is this. The power we give or take away from things just by speaking them aloud. I think about the creative projects I have only just begun (like my sad abandoned Tarot cards) that I feel must be shared and declared to the world. As if on cue, the same creative project promptly comes to a dwindling halt. I wonder if I jinxed it by making it be known. But I also wonder if my desire to make it known, this precious thing, is playing to a formula - this ‘knowledge’ that consistency on a platform breeds ‘success’. That by doing something enough, consistently enough, aesthetically enough, I will garner the recognition I so deserve.
The growth on my substack has been slow and unintended, and the most rewarding of all. Perhaps it’s because no one can see it, and perhaps because this was never the goal. It remains scary to bare my soul to the world, this little world, and remain wary of the fine line between betraying myself and staying connected to something honest and real. Only I can know how honest I am being.
A part of me wants to stick to something and do it well and the driving force for this is a want of success. I don’t think that’s unimportant, and in the same vein I’m not entirely salty about the accolades being celebrated by people around me. But I think about the quiet power I give myself the freedom to retain by keeping certain things close. By letting myself be known in the ways that are truthful and small, and taking the pressure off being known in the world in ways that are large. Granted, I’m always going back and forth between the impulse to share and the impulse to shut up. I don’t know if I’ll ever decide to stick to one thing or the other, a full frame versus cropped. I’m not sure what the reward is, of either one. Sometimes, it is a release. Other times, it is a rather vain form of self-appreciation. And often, it is nothing more than the sparking of a conversation.