I have just had a 3 week break from everything Instagram, no posts, no interaction, hardly opening the app. It is my second time around – last year I did the same. In January 2017 I wrote this short story (or tale), The Instagram Village, returning after my two-week break. I think the story is as relevant now as it is then even though some things may have changed a little. Curious to hear your own thoughts and experiences!
The Instagram Village
by Sara Kiyo Popowa @shisodelicious
(Starting question: What is Instagram?)
At the start of this year I had a two week Instagram break. Up to that point I'd been 'on it' between two to six hours a day for the past eighteen months, with only about 10 days away from the screen.
This might sound to you like an addiction, like a part-time (unpaid) job, a time-eater and an energy-consumer. Yes, it is all of these things. But to me, it’s also a generator of positive energy, a motivator, a developer of skill and a constantly changing, alive entity. It even has it’s own history, and it’s entwined with my own.
Returning after my break, my senses were heightened by silence and time passing and I asked myself: What is Instagram to me?
Instagram is a fluid place where we, its inhabitants, build our own worlds. Constructed by smoothie bowls and sweet potatoes, pancake stacks and dripping chocolate, shadows played on linen cloths and wooden boards from a second hand shop. A world awake at morning light at a thousand, hundred thousand breakfast tables, neatly arranged, a meditation for the day, a private, public obsession, a show off, an outlet, an attention to detail, collaboration and cross pollination and plain ol’ copying at times. Someone's idea becomes an new entity, a twist instantly multiplied, interpreted and transported into thousands, millions of screens, reflecting our faces. We exchange our short lines, with minds who’s bodies we’ve never seen, crisscrossed around the globe, in fragmented conversations or long, in-depth talks about everything important to us.
Us – women mostly – humans, always.
And so I thought, after this little holiday of mine: This is our village. Our meeting place. Here is the village square, where we show our wares, our selves for the day. Our message, our vision, or maybe just a pretty outfit. These are the alleyways where we lean into doorways, quietly murmuring things of the heart, or indeed about a neighbour or a new ware we've tried or have just been offered. Here are the many little inns, run by different matrons, all with their characters, peculiarities and popular specials of the house. The guests come back, they know each other, they know this inn, they like the specials, and the eager new guests that arrive soon find friends.
There is a landlord, an owner of sorts, we never saw him much apart from some brightly coloured announcements, delivered now and again with fanfare and pomp. But, we knew – he was there. Ruling his land from some kind of faraway castle, we sensed his land held many villages, all different kinds, some a little vacant, some large and loud. Ours has been flourishing for some time now and new people arrive every day, every hour.
Many still remember first arriving. There were a lot of woods still. The land was free. The landowner sat silent in his castle, letting us fell the trees and build our place to live or at least, to visit frequently.
The landowner didn't seem to mind about our quiet alleyway chats, or what matron was running what inn. But when the laughter of our daily feasts and sweet scents of bubbling stews had tickled his nose for some time, he decided to send an announcement.
It was tax time.
Paid in reverse exposure.
When wells dry up and rivers are blocked by order, the sound of the party starts dying down. We are still all here in the village. Well, most of us are, some I haven’t seen for a while. It’s only normal now that the air is a little dry and chilly that you do your business elsewhere. The crowds of new people now seem to gather around that new big road the landowner has built all through his kingdom. It’s a wide road, very smooth it has to be said but it seems most people just stand at the sides looking at a few fancy drives zooming past, occasionally stopping and spewing colourful sprays of plastic confetti over people.
We’re all still here, but a little blood is drained from our cheeks. Our bags of flour a little emptier, and some rolling pins are gathering dust. The big party platters still come out, fragrant with spices from all over the globe, but not as often as we remember, and with less new guests.
What will the landowner build after his shiny new road? After draining our rivers and wells, lowering the light of day and the stars at night? Will we still be here?
Some of us have cabled ourselves down from our village – into the other side – where time pass slower, where days has 24 hours and we look pretty much the same from one day to the other. Where some things may seem clumsy but where the rewards of having those conversations looking into each others eyes really do have a warm, glowing meaning. You can show me something I don’t know. I can admire you, you can praise me and together we can support each other, hold each other, laugh with each other and grow the kind of friendships and exchanges of heart, mind and soul that we started, and got used to back in the village.
To be continued :)
Looking at this (true) story written at the start of last year, I can see that I acted on my last realisation during the year: My desire to extend my online connections with people to real life. In 2017 I held 12 workshops in London and Amsterdam, and finished the year with a Seasonal Gratitude Party! I met hundreds of people IRL (in real life) who I never would have was it not for my online self (being one of the 'village matrons'! ;) Last year forged new friendships both online and IRL, existing ones grew and I've had professional opportunities which would never have come, was it not for that first, non-styled and badly lit bento lunch I put on my new Instagram account nearly 3 years ago.
Thank you all who are part of my journey in any and every way – let's keep having fun and be ourselves in 2018, and many more years to come!
If you enjoyed this story I'd LOVE to hear from you in the comments below :) However much I love hearing from you on Instagram (and I do, and thrive on it), the more you and others comment on my blog, the more other people will 'randomly' find my website in google and other web searches. I appreciate that having to login to Squarespace can be a pain, so I'd like to thank you for your time and effort. Good thing is once you've logged in it's normally much easier if you like to comment again on future posts :)