Street corner next  to Union Square.

Social Media and Sharing Reality

I was walking around West Village yesterday when I turned a corner. It was not as cold as when the polar vortex had assailed us last week. Yet it wasn’t as sunny as the day before here in Manhattan. In fact, it was pretty foggy even for a winter’s day.

The fog on a different day seen from across the Hudson.
The fog on a different day seen from across the Hudson.

The fog was making striking patterns in the sky as it swirled around the tall buildings making them look like slim black mountains or gigantic arthropods with their front feet buried in the fog and their antennae pointed towards me as they looked down from their lofty heights.

If you knew the landscape in these parts, you’d know that those antennae were really enormous cranes or pullies perched atop the terraces. The World Trade Center, the most gigantic arthropod of all, stood like the leader of the pack looking down from the foggy heavens like a creature from the myths and legends of yore.

It was a day of epic poetry about cities and civilizations and battles and  mountains and fog and about the rise and fall of civilizations past and present.

Then I turned that corner suddenly and encountered a strikingly different sight.

A quiet street with some brown buildings just a few stories tall waited for me with some quaint old store signs on shop windows. It was on such a smaller scale that the blades of grass growing out of the small crevices on the concrete sidewalk could also be bold enough to be a part of the quiet view.

I thought it was just the perfect sight. Two perfect lines of the road converged in the distance adding depth, some trees leaned in for colour while those old but well-maintained buildings framed the picture.

“Street Corner in the City. West Village.” I saw the caption of my mentally framed picture. I could pick from the drop down menu for the location, tag photo, say if it was allowed on Timeline or not and then I could hit update. It would take less than a minute.

Framing. It’s a word that’s been a lot on my mind lately.

For some reason I felt my Smartphone in my jacket pocket once but decided to walk away from the corner and those mental red notification icons of likes and comments and shares.

Yet, as  a thousand cars passed by and a thousand great and little furry legs pattered on along the sidewalk  on this relatively warm day, as I took in the consciousness of the many hands that worked at assembling burritos and frothing coffees in surrounding shops and typed research papers and wrote emails and contracts in offices in those great and small buildings that surrounded me, even as I saw some people simply staring out the windows or loitering on the road out of the corner of my eye, I came back to “true” reality.

I abandoned my framed moment as opposed to all those other moments at this same spot. Yet, even though it didn’t get added to my Timeline, my frame remained packaged, featured and archived in memory to surface later, perhaps for a blog post. This blog post.

Street corner next  to Union Square.
Street corner next to Union Square. Different day.

This isn’t an isolated instance. I can feel that a change has come over me since all my friends, real and virtual, have accompanied me everywhere and looked, felt and thought with me as I’ve looked, felt and thought for myself and for them via the digital camera and  the Smartphone. Then at some point, my framed moments have reached out to them all via status updates or blog posts or photo uploads without the embarrassment or responsibility of reaching out to any one person in particular.

I can feel myself want to slow down time, to trap moments into nuggets as they pass me by, to try to make discrete what is continuous,  bounded somehow, to polish them and pare them off into perfect shapes, to take off the rough edges and display them somewhere. Lately, as I wander around places (especially the city because something about its layers and angular shapes appeals to me) I find myself not just looking at things but trying to frame them from a perspective which is not just mine but other people’s with mine.

Yet, I’m neither photographer nor artist. Nor can I call myself an  author with any conviction. Not really. But the ability to replicate a framed reality is always walking with me in my purse or pocket wherever I go. Always.

This is my easy “art.” My desire for a little more permanence of my lived moments. My generous desire to share my moments  and my selfish desire to take control of others people’s views of my reality. Times, places and thoughts about times and places I have lived.

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free” said Michelangelo. But he must have toiled, he must have suffered frustrations, he must have sacrificed time for his art. He trained himself to see and he trained himself to use his tools to actualize his visions.

Me? No, artist I’m not. A snapshot of a street corner captured on digital camera or a moment captured in amateurish words isn’t art. It is dominated by the headiness of the moment of pressing a button, of instant red notification icons, of taking credit for silent algorithms working behind the screen of which one isn’t the author.

I can’t claim to be a chef if I microwave a frozen dinner for the correct number of minutes for folks who come over for a meal at night.

Has the rise of this amateurish artist brought about a change in me? Have I been seeing differently and thinking differently as I have constantly wanted to show to others what I see instantly? Am I leading a relational existence coexisting always with others and trying to capture and edit moments and package them into permanence before the next moment obliterates the headiness of sharing the present one?

Yet, if I didn’t package, if I didn’t share, would I just be an anachronistic epic poet trying to communicate in long meandering epic similes at a time and place where people are in tune with the music of the short lyric poem?

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Before I set out for West Village yesterday I read Cheri Lucas Rowlands’ post Writing For Me. Writing For Others. That post resonated with me and inspired this one. I found so many parallels, including the experience of discovering my old journals recently, an experience I shall talk about in another post. A comment by Russell Linton on my post Is Writing Art, where he talked about raising the barrier of what should be called art, was also on my mind. Thank you both.

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26 thoughts on “Social Media and Sharing Reality”

  1. Writing is a wonderful tool. It can be used as a weapon that can create pain and in the same stroke it can turn around and heal. Words can paint so many pictures and the fun part, it can be fantasy or truth and it still equals to life’s learned lessons. Great post.

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  2. I think thats why I am drawn to Non fiction writing so much. I want to capture a little nugget of time and experience I went through for not only myself but to share with others.
    Beautiful!

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  3. I loved your post. I found you just this evening on Valerie Davies blog. Years ago I started framing the world as a painter. I felt the need to capture the beauty I saw, to save it and share it, to ponder over it. I don’t paint anymore. Now I have a blog, which serves a similar purpose.

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  4. Yes, it is tempting to think in terms of the those little red or orange flags that seem to excite us so much these days. Despite our best efforts, we cannot restrain ourselves from feeling that fleeting moment of pride when someone likes our work, even though we no nothing about them other than what they chose to reveal or what they inadvertently reveal about themselves by the choice of their username / handle.

    Are we becoming more narcissistic than previous generations? Is social media changing the context within which we evaluate self-esteem?

    Luckily for the Slo-Man he grew up when memories and details were captured not as a two-dimensional picture taken with a smartphone but as a three dimensional aggregate of words, memories, pictures and feelings stored in the mind.

    Good post, lots to think about.

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  5. I completely recognise this mind-set. I find myself luching to a hlat over a phrase or image and wondering whether it could be a blog post. Or an upload. Or something. I also wonder how this mind-set is more embedded with my children. They seem to live their lives sharing continuously and multiply; chatting on line and in the room at the same time. It makes my old fogey brain hurt!
    Thanks for encapsulating this in such a beautiful post :-)

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  6. Very thought provoking. I will go back and read the other posts you mention. I have the same thoughts about the blurs between looking for myself and looking for unknown others. But I think the ability to see, to look at everyday objects and find your own meaning in them is also an art. Great post!

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  7. Your posts often get me staring out into the distance in awe and wonderment of what I just read. This one especially. You have crafted a scene and how it resonated with you with your words; capturing the moment, coloring this page with lines and swoops of black graphemes — otherwise meaningless, but as whole entirely captivating.

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  8. This post resonates with me. There are so many times my mind wants to stop the moment and let it become a freeze frame. This is of course what photography can do for us. However, literally in my mind I like to stop the moment, close my eyes, and just hope for it to stay. There is no way a camera can capture it all for us, yet the eyes of our brain do just that. It is a gift from God.

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  9. A little reference about A What A True Artist Is…See artwork by Judith Scott. It’s having a distinctive voice & ability to creatively observe the world. It’s perspective, point-if-view. I, like you, pooh-poohed the notion that I was an artist. I embraced it when another artist said, “You are because you are doing it.” And I was like, whaaaaaaaaat?! You feel compelled to write, to think, to “frame” life. You dont care if people “like” it on FB. You are too busy DO-ing. True art is personal and cannot be judged. Therefore, you ARE an artist. Embrace this world! Own it! It’s yours…

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