Is it futile to wonder how our lives may have been different without social media? Can social media be art, or is it limited to only promoting or distributing art? Can artists be art? How has social media affected younger generations’ ability to make decisions that serve them best in the long run, rather than in the short run? Is it possible to know how much closer the gap between celebrities and laypeople has grown since the invention of social media?
In February 2023, I decided to take one year off from my personal Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok accounts so that I could focus on my new full-time job in social media for public health. I had been building a social media presence since I was 12 years old, and I wanted to “reclaim my youth” with at least one year away from it before turning 30. I thought of my "self-appointed social media sabbatical" as an artist residency in the real world.
And then I wrote like crazy. I wrote more than 500 pages of prose and poetry in 2023. My prose is reflective, and it covers many years and seasons of my relationship with any one particular person or theme (an Instagram post, if you will). My poetry is like a photograph of my brain at a specific, briefer moment in time, which is why the dates are a part of the titles (an Instagram story, if you will). I spent March through mid-July reflecting on my whole life through writing in prose, and then I spent late-July through mid-October staying very present in my daily life through writing in poetry. And at the end of my 150-page poetry volume, I found myself with 34 poems—seven of which were written specifically “for Instagram.”
But what does it mean to write a poem "for Instagram"? Who is Instagram, anyway? The day I realized I would need to write Prose for Instagram before writing any more poems, I sat back in my chair and looked out the window. I felt like I finally found what I didn’t know I was looking for all year.
Prose for Instagram imagines Instagram as a personified character who travels with me to visit memories and corners of my psyche as we watch my relationship with social media evolve over the course of my life. I am not sure whether to call it a marketing campaign or a graphic novel or an album or a play or an art project…I suppose it’s what the kids call cross-genre because it has elements of all of the above. I believe I am creating something new. And whatever it is, it's on schedule to be released in February 2024.
In addition to writing, I am exploring video and digital design to document the project and understand my characters in more depth. I have also been reading my past writing on the topic of social media, from high school essay assignments to poetry to searching my iMessage archives for terms like "IG," "Instagram," and "social media."
I believe very strongly that art isn’t fully alive until it meets someone else’s eyes. So I am taking a risk—I am following the rabbit—and I am inviting you to read “Scene VII: The Playlist.” Instagram and I, along with several other past versions of myself, crawl through a speaker to visit The Spotify Hotel and make our way through Wrapped 2023.
You’ll notice there are also comments in the Google doc that make this a story within a story. I am interested in how we understand the evolution of ourselves—is it useful, or even possible, for our past, current, and future selves to interact? How does technology impact that evolution and interaction? The piece is primarily designed to be read on desktop, but you can still read it on mobile—just tap the yellow highlighted text to reveal the comments.
This is a draft, or a “single from the album” if you will, so I’ve labeled it “open rehearsal edition.” If this piece resonates with you, please consider signing up for my email list here. I’ll be reaching out periodically over the next two months to “test drive” ideas and ask for feedback on my work before I release the project in February 2024.
Let me pitch my email list.
I'm trying to do something original here, which means I have absolutely no idea whether it's doomed to fall fatally flat or cause complete chaos. I need a small test audience to perform some experiments before this goes to Instagram. In exchange, you'll either receive bragging rights that you discovered an artist before she found success, or...
Well, won't it be at least a little interesting either way?