Thoughts: July 28th, 2019
So I haven’t written in over a year. I’m not surprised, when I stop and look back.
I’ve moved a lot these past 4 years — multiple times within the city I grew up in and then across the country, to California. Moving is inherently chaotic. It forces you to reorganize and not just physically. I’ve had to re-approach the way I think about a lot of aspects of my life. At first, this was overwhelming and I resented it. But now that I have slowed down and found some kind of center again, this re-imagining has become incredibly liberating. Not to imply that moving inherently solves things — it doesn’t, as you drag yourself with you everywhere you go — but all the new context can be a chance to try again. It’s been easier to figure out where I am at, right now, without all the trappings of personal history and misplaced feelings of obligation. I can observe myself, including all of my bullshit, without needing to justify it. It’s a freedom that is entirely new to me. Strange that is has been sitting next to me all along and I just couldn’t perceive it, but that’s another topic in itself.
So why I am writing now? What has changed? The short answer is simple: I missed it. The long answer is, as always, messier.
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about this current era of the internet. I have liked the internet increasingly less over the past 6 or 7 years, in a uniformly downward slope. From the early 2000’s until around 2013, I felt largely positive about the internet. I had my issues with it, of course, but they were drowned out by innovations and an ever-growing sense of possibility. I can’t pinpoint an exact moment when the scale tipped in the other direction for me, but along the way the cons started outweighing the pros. The internet was creating more and more anxiety, and instead of something I interacted with on my own terms, it began feeling invasive, like it was interrupting my life and throwing me curve-balls I didn’t ask for. I found myself processing things that, when I took a step back and really observed, meant very little to me. And then when I had a lot of personal upheavals around 2015 and my head got scrambled in ways I didn’t know it could, that sense of anxiety compounded wildly. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I started using the internet in almost self-destructive ways, all under some illusion it would distract me or make me feel better. It’s a very easy trap to fall into.
But notice how I only use the word “internet.” This was an issue. Somehow, when all that upheaval happened, a lot of things lost nuance and became conflated. The internet was suddenly all one thing to me. Emails, social media, even a text message or phone call — every form of contact felt the same. It was some combination of attention and harassment that I couldn’t differentiate between. So I gradually stopped engaging. I only posted things online when someone pointed out I probably should, and I didn’t look a the results. I didn’t want to know.
I’ve been peeling a lot of this apart lately. When all forms of digital communication felt the same, they all became irrelevant, or devoid of any sense of purpose beyond “Look at me!” And when you are in a space of not wanting to be observed, they all become harassment. To remedy this, I did an experiment. I tried each of the various methods, one at a time, and observed how I actually felt about them. And while they all felt different in their ways, the one that stood apart the most — zero contest here — was social media.
If you are here and reading this, then I can assume that you are probably aware of what I do. And you might have noticed that I am not on social media much. When I did my experiment between all the methods of communication (this blog post being the final one), my response to social media was far and away the most negative. To the point where all of the others did not create any anxiety once social media was removed from the equation. It was the sole source, and when it was active, it bled into everything else. But sorting exactly why has taken some time and thought.
Here’s where I am at with it …
There is an inherent dissonance with me and all the social media platforms. I have come to see them as attention-based economies (as opposed to content-based). Posting on social media is inherently asking for attention, and for that to be rated or quantified in some way. I have my feelings about what this means for society at large, but I’m keeping this personal for now. And personally, I really dislike asking for attention when I have nothing to say. If I am talking about work I’ve completed and would like people to know exists, then I don’t mind posting. I put a lot into anything I make, so it always has something to say built into it. So I don’t mind asking for attention in that scenario. But that’s not the nature of social media. Since we are the ones creating the content for the platform, it will always be more about quantity than quality.
As a working musician, I regularly get asked to be more visible, specifically on Instagram or Facebook. And when I have pushed about exactly why, the answer mostly boils down to this: if you don’t stay constantly visible and aggressively in people’s minds, you will be forgotten, or lost in the shuffle (not to mention that social media is increasingly used as a metric for your value and quality as an artist, and not just your popularity). And my rebuttal to that is, if I am so easily forgotten, then perhaps I’m just not a very effective song-writer. Perhaps people just aren’t interested in what I have to say, or the way I say it. If I have to post pictures of my food, spam my purchases, or build some highly-edited version of what my day-to-day life looks like just so people will remember that I write songs, then maybe I didn’t do enough to move them. Maybe I’m just not cutting it.
I realize how a statement like this might come off. I don’t mean it in a defeatist way. I only put out work that I am happy with, and how much that does or doesn’t resonate with others doesn’t change my sense of personal achievement. It’s interesting to see how it’s received, sure, but it’s not how I personally decide how successful a specific work is. I really just feel like I’m finally getting more honest with myself and where, and how, I like to participate. I far prefer making music videos, podcasts, and writing in long form. But social media not a place for depth. Even for myself, on the other side of the coin. The rare times I browse around on something like Instagram, I am far more compulsive than thoughtful. I exercise my thumb way more than my brain. But none of this is in my nature. I like depth. I like walking away with something to think about. I like puzzles. I like searching for connections, and attempting to find the limits of ideas. And I always have. I don’t like feeling compulsive and distracted. I don’t enjoy spending time thumbing through stuff that I have, at most, a passing interest in and walking away an hour later wondering what the point was, wishing I had read a book, or played a video game, or watched a tv show instead.
Or in other words: it’s not for me.
But I like this, right here. I like sitting and typing about things that have been on my mind. And I like that when I am done, it will sit on my personal website. It can be visited, but does not shove itself into anyone’s life. I am not pushing my thoughts into the space of unwitting bystanders, but instead inviting people to my mental rummage sale, should they be interested. And I don’t mind if people comment on it. I encourage it, actually. I have no issues reading and responding to comments under these circumstances, knowing they came here of their own free will and commented because they wanted to. In the same way, I am remembering that I like getting emails from people. I like letters, digital and physical, and how we interact with each other through them. They are clear channels of communication, words being volleyed between two parties like a game of catch between total strangers. I am realizing how much I prefer talking to people on the phone instead of texting, and how much more I like to get coffee with someone over any of these. And above all, I am remembering that they are not all the same, and I can approach them as I actually am, and I don’t have to conform due to some abstract sense of professional survival. And yes, I could very much be hurting myself or limiting my reach, but I am okay with that. Because I would rather fade away, or have to come up with something entirely new, than do things I don’t believe in for some desperate grab at relevance.
But that’s enough for now, I think. I will be writing about my actual work soon, as I have been really busy in the world of recording, mixing, producing, and in developing my own little label/production company. And I am back to working on a full-length record now that I am settled into one place, which is really exciting. It was fun for a change of pace to try some singles and EPs, but it’s not where my heart is. But I also wanted to give myself the space to start writing again. So from here on out, when I just have some ideas that I want to float into the world, for whatever reason, I will label the blog post with a date and the word “Thoughts.” Beyond that, I hope everyone is well.