Social Media as a Spiritual Experience
I used to loath social media. Facebook and Instagram used to make me incredibly mentally unhealthy.
As a photographer, Instagram was really hard because at the core of the experience is comparison. You can't avoid looking at people's likes, comments and followers. You quickly ascribe value to users who have more of each. Also, you are overloaded by an endless supply of content. It literally never stops. Which is another point of comparison. e.g. "I am not doing enough. I need to be working/shooting more."
For years, it was very stressful opening Instagram on my phone. I would fall into these roller coaster usage patterns. Classic addictive behaviour, playing at the extremes of love and hate.
I'd hate instagram and stay fully away and call it a "social media detox" to make myself sound enlightened and put together (hilarious!). After a month or two I'd start-up again and post a shit ton of content for a few weeks. Not seeing the results I expected (which were totally unreasonable to start with), I would go down the comparison rabbit hole all over again. It would take about 1-2 months before I would feel so mentally drained and unstable, that I'd need to detox again.
This past December, something shifted.
The best way I can describe it was that I stopped seeing with my eyes.
I know that sounds crazy, but when I close my eyes, there is no "me" and "you", no "us" and "them". With my eyes closed everything collapses and there is only, all of us. I know that might sound totally hokey to you, but I'm okay with that. I don't need to prove this to others, I am good with just feeling it for myself.
In December, I decided I was going to let go of "competition" as a limiting belief and become the world's biggest photography fan. This radically changed my life.
When I open Instagram now, I don't see competition, I see art. I started letting my heart do the scrolling, instead of my very insecure mind. My heart is constantly losing its shit (in a good way) over the insane amounts of talent on my feed. Honestly, I am literally yelling and clapping constantly as I scroll through Instagram and Facebook.
When I feel an emotional charge from anything on my feed, I do my best to comment or "like" immediately. My intention is to speak as directly as possible - heart to mouth, with no detours in my mind.
This behaviour definitely trips people out. Especially local photographers. I can tell they are very confused and doubtful. I can see them thinking "Why would a local competitor, publicly recognized AND praise me?!
It so obvious for me now. It's because I love what you stand for. I love your passion for photography. I love your composition and use of colour and texture. I love your ability to tell a story with a single frame. I love your mastery of light and shadow. I love your commitment to the city, to art, to human expression!! I love your hustle. I love your struggle. I love your persistence and tenacity. Why in the world would I not hit that like button?!!
What you stand for and who you are in this world, is important. So fuck yeah, I will recognize and praise you.
Don't buy into to the concept of competition. It's an illusion they created to separate us. I know this makes no sense to your mind, but that's okay. Some things are best left for your heart.
They say "give away, that which you seek". That's sort of what I am doing here. But it's not likes or followers I am seeking. It's community and impact. It's support and love.
In my heart I know these quality are not captured by simplistic metrics, made-up by some dudes in their 20's, in a dorm room in Harvard, 15 years ago. It's important to remember that.
Love is much bigger than likes and followers.
To the insanely talented photographers that constantly inspire me on my feed - I want to thank you for being so committed, passionate and loving to the craft of photography. In a way, we are all in an open relationship with photography, and the better you are to her, the more LOVE she has for me.
Shout outs to Tina Picard, Brian Ypperciel, Verne Ho, Jon Simo, Soteeoh, Patrick Tomasso, Ajani Charles, Luis Mora, The Sensual Eye, just to name a few. You homies are so brilliant and so talented. Your work lights me on fire, daily.
I've known some of you for years, others, only a few weeks and only online. Regardless, you have each left a deep imprint on both my work and my life, and it's about time you knew that.
D (aka Wolfee)