Off the gram
I can’t write anymore because of social media. Okay, more like, I don’t write anymore because of social media.
I admit it’s easy to place blame on the evil, life-sucking, mind-numbing algorithm for my overall decrease in ability and inspiration to put pen to paper than to hold my laziness and negativity to account. But for real, social media has taken a few years out of my life I could’ve spent actually learning, creating and concocting creative juice. Nothing flows out of me as it used to.
I tell my husband I believe the best writers probably paid extremely close attention to whatever was around them.
We have attention spans of goldfishes now, and that’s a fact. I interviewed an educator in Pakistan today. She said Gen Z kids can only focus for 2–3 minutes max on online tutorials, so all their lessons were tailored as such.
I’m afraid the children of the future will never know how to live.
There are so many things on my mind, and have been on my mind, all these years though. I just haven’t been able to write them down. Where do I begin?
I had a check-in with my editor a few days ago. He said something about knowing that your writing isn’t shit, but it ain’t great either. Not that most writers ever think their writing is great, but you know…you hope what comes out of you makes yourself and others feel some kinda way, or at least amounts to something you can be proud of. Either the language is precise and beautiful, or you’ve touched on a nerve ever so gently and intimately through words.
Not shit, but not great. I definitely feel that. None of it hits.
So I got off Instagram. Not completely. I disabled my personal account, which for years had been the main outlet for my emotions, thoughts, ramblings, and self-promotion. It was starting to look like a whole lot of reactive, self-righteous word vomit, in a space where everything was turning into noise. To put it simply, I am having a reaction to all the reactions. The world appears to be on fire. And suddenly everybody cares but we’re struggling to cope. Make sense of it. Help. Survive. We can’t save the world and yet we are desperately trying to.
I want to take a few steps back from the surface of chaos.
In all honesty, I had also begun to feel embarrassed and self-conscious at how much of my inner thoughts and personal life I was sharing. Which is weird because I never used to feel that way in the days of blogspot where I literally documented every bit of my life. I have always felt the urge to document and share.
Cancel culture scares me. I’ve decided I do not want to dip my toes any longer into that toxic quicksand. But I can channel whatever energy I have into boycotting corporations that do not need any more of our money. I actually believe it is much easier do the latter. There is a senseless mercilessness to the former that will not sit right with your soul at the end of the day. But Starbucks? There’s no guilt there.
Things might seem impossible and these companies are powerful but you do you, slowly slowly. My husband and I have had quite a hilarious journey boycotting Nestle but we done it (what you can buy at international supermarkets amounts to little and say bye to Milo); Marks & Spencer (specifically the cheese sticks); Bath & Body Works (there’s always a 3 for 1 sale for those little bottles of perfume).
I also ditched my Mac for an ASUS (a lesser evil) which might be my most committed decision of 2021, other than spending three weeks in Tanzania and having my mind welcomely blown by how present, engaged and active people were. In the diverse breeds of Tanzanian and Zanzibari culture I found abundance, something that people do not associate with the wider continent.
The numerous times my husband and I found ourselves asking …wow the rest of the world got it wrong wtf are we even doing? How have we been living? What are we on about?
What have I been occupying myself with?
I recently read this beautifully-written profile of the British photographer Emily Garthwaite by food writer Jehan Nizar. Emily shared this anecdote of an Iraqi man named Ahmad, who was hiding out in an ISIS-controlled area with his relatives. When ISIS slaughtered a horse in front of them, he bought it for his starving family but refrained from eating it. When Emily asked him why, he said it was because he was vegetarian. Ahmad left an impact on her.
She claims that it remains one of her favorite anecdotes because it made all of them laugh for quite a while even though they had been moved by all Ahmad had been through and how brave he had been. More importantly, it made Garthwaite shift her attention to that oft-forgotten aspect of “silent dignity.” “Even in the face of the horrors of war and oppression and fear and terror, he claimed, at all costs, his dignity and life choices.” These are the food stories that “are so much greater than just about breaking bread.”
Ahmad’s story’s left an impact on me.
I’m trying to find ways to resist and rebuild that sit right with my soul, in ways that I can be genuine with and stand strong by while keeping my humanity and empathy. And I’m trying to determine a language to that resistance.
I’m currently reading Redemption Ground, a collection of essays, stories and poems by the Jamaican author Lorna Goodison. In her words, I am seeing what this language might look like.
Most things are a process. Good (hopefully) things take our time, they deserve our attention.
That’s all for now.