• Allison B.

Curating Your Perspective

Sharing my poetry and other compositions has been absolutely thrilling over these past few weeks. It's been very liberating and empowering to wear vulnerability and authenticity proudly on my chest and let a part of myself that I had locked away for a long time finally see the sunlight. But I've been having writer's block recently.

I've been reading a lot of books, watching many documentaries and TED talks, and learning more about philosophy. It's very eye-opening, especially now that I am back in school and have been growing my knowledge. Although writing is something I love to do, at times like this, I feel as though I've lost aim of how to achieve a platform to effect change on a higher level. So naturally, I looked up some videos online to help me understand what this writer's block, this dying flame that had been so violently burning before, is all about, and learn from other creators who have been down this path in hopes that they can pass down some of their wisdom to me.

When I was in high school, I used to watch YouTube like it was television. Among one of my favorite YouTubers was Jack Harries who ran his channel JacksGap with his identical twin Finn. I was entertained by their adventures, like driving a rickshaw across India in three weeks and raising money for charity, but what I found most admirable was their dedication to creating, photography, and filmmaking. It was refreshing to see creators sharing content that they feel passionately about. I admired how they made videos for the enjoyment of the process instead of the money gains in the end and didn't chip in to the business culture that YouTube has grown nowadays. At the same time, however, the Harries twins' lives seemed so downright cool, and I felt like I'd never be lucky enough to live that same life. So I sat behind my computer, doused in discouragement with a pinch of envy, the recipe for feeling like an old, moldy, lame potato.

So I stopped watching JacksGap for a while because I couldn't shake the depression I felt knowing that there are people living life to its fullest--knowing that my life does not even begin to compare. It's also the reason why I hated social media (shoutout to my family and friends who can testify to this) and initially never participated in it. I have one friend, (who funnily enough, had actually helped set up my Instagram account and is to this day my ”Social Media Consultant” - @daniellekgonzalez) that bludgeoned me about staying connected through social media and to "!!stop playing with (her) emotions and reactivating and deactivating (my) account all the time!!" I could live my life at my own pace, without this sense of competition looming over my head all the time every time I opened up my phone, where everyone is posting a rose-colored perspective about their lives. And even though I knew this--that social media exaggerates how happy people actually feel--I wanted to protect myself from that overall negative atmosphere.

When I began taking my writing more seriously, (and by seriously, I mean not writing down poems on napkins or scraps of paper to subsequently misplace them and lose them forever) I realized how networking with a writing community would not only make me feel more confident about what I have created but also allow me to learn from other creators. I began to understand the positive, flip side of social media, which ironically actually was its initial purpose: to connect people. And so I created a Tumblr account, which I treated much like a diary and where I posted my poems anonymously. I was able to feel the camaraderie with other writers while creating that lockbox for my emotions so I didn't need to face my truest self on a daily basis. And so I grew, for a few years, the competence with sharing my thoughts and feelings online, receiving validation from strangers, and curating my carefully illustrated perspective of the world.

As I grew up and learned a couple life lessons along the way, Instagram later on unified my writer identity with my overall identity. And, for the first time, I realized how I wanted to use social media to achieve my own goals, shifting the focus from my personal life to issues greater than myself. How I want to connect people by highlighting our shared insecurities and the taboo topics that people buff away from their rose-colored lenses. How I want to transform our collective narrative from one rooted in competition and getting ahead and perfection to one that bolsters the truest comprehension of the human experience.

Which brings me to today, when I was struggling to find inspiration on what to write for my blog post, and I stumbled across a YouTube video. The freaky coincidence was, that it featured Jack Harries, not from the videos that I used to watch, but showcasing who he is today. And in it, he is speaking to a crowd of teenagers, sharing his experience with mental health, being diagnosed with clinical depression, and the dangerous effect of social media. I wish I could tell the me from many years ago who didn't think he understood, that yes, he understands.

I am guilty of allowing social media to skew my vision of the world. So I wanted to share this quote by him, which I found really enlightening and summarizes my thoughts of today:

“If you use social media, every day you create. If you post a video or photograph or a tweet, you’re creating. If you scroll through your social feed on Instagram or Facebook, then you consume. And then you curate what both you create and you consume. What I mean to say is: we’re directly controlling the narrative that we put out to the world and the narrative that we learn of the world, too.

And I think this is really dangerous.

During my time of being depressed, I would sit in bed, feeling miserable, and I would scroll through my social feeds. And what I would see were: custom motorcycles, camper vans, acai bowls, azure lakes, golden sunsets—it was of course my idealistic view of the world—my curated version of the world. But then it’s like I forgot that I curated it, and it just became my only view of the world—my single window into the world—and I began to feel miserable. My life wasn’t like this, so clearly, I’m worthless...and the irony is, of course, as I’m feeling this, I’m also sharing pictures of myself having a good time, being in interesting places, and so we’re all playing into this sort of performance together...

...and so I guess, if I’m to draw a conclusion on all of this, it’s to be yourself. And I know it sounds cliché, but be yourself, and be imperfect because it’s more interesting, it’s healthier, and it will make you happier. Let’s use social media to tell real stories that inspire and inform, not make each other feel bad. And next time you’re scrolling through social media, and you see that girl with that perfect body or bum and that guy in the cool car driving through that beautiful landscape and you think, “My life’s crap,” take a moment, look behind the image, remember that we’re masters of fiction, and all may not be exactly as it seems.” -Jack Harries, documentary filmmaker, on clinical depression and social media.

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