Welcome to So Relatable, a bi-weekly newsletter featuring conversations about the creative process, suggestions for nourishing yourself, and inspiring links.
As some of us begin to pick up where our lives left off in March 2020, many are taking a moment to examine how we’ve changed and consider what we want to bring with us as we move forward. For me, it’s my relationship to social media and my desire to burn it to the ground. After a year and a half of conducting my life virtually, I’m craving a different kind of connection.
It appears I’m not the only one. I recently read two things about our online lives that stuck with me. The first was a BuzzFeed article about quitting social media; the second was a newsletter by Haley Nahman about why Instagram isn’t fun anymore.
Haley in particular pegs the problem perfectly: “These media are simply inadequate at expressing humanity.” When I read those words, it was like an instant epiphany. No matter how hard we try, how authentic we strive to be, how vulnerable we make ourselves, the internet is a stage and we are performers, endlessly curating what we share for reasons that are rarely pure.
When I was an MFA student, my concentration was fiction but I took creative nonfiction for my electives. One thing my professors stressed in those classes was the idea of reflection. Personal experiences are best elevated to art once we’ve given ourselves some distance. By all means, write through the pain if it helps, but for the purposes of publication, let some time pass first. When you’re ready, write about what happened, and also how it changed you. Relay, and also reflect.
This, I think, is why I sometimes struggle with social media, especially during a pandemic. It became the only outlet for sharing our lives, and it fell short because that’s not how it was designed. The infinite scroll leaves little time for thinking and feeling, barely a moment for reflection. Everything is fighting for your attention at once, an endless barbed hook. Blink and there’s a new tragedy or trend taking over your feed before you’ve even had a chance to parse how you feel about the last one. Failure, when it makes a rare appearance, is carefully framed as part of the journey, but never the final destination. The same cannot be said for real life.
Maybe I’m just getting old, but more and more I find social media boring. Even the breakneck speed of TikTok underwhelms me, everything reduced to a format. It’s a fine distraction, but I don’t want to be distracted anymore. I want to sink my teeth into something, create a body of work that won’t disappear in 24 hours or get lost in the sea of discourse. That’s why I like writing these newsletters. Twice a month I noodle on an idea. I think about how it relates to my life and other experiences I’ve had. I make connections and draw parallels, then edit and revise. I reflect, and only then do I hit publish. It’s still social media, it’s still a stage, and my intentions are not entirely pure (if they were, I wouldn’t monitor my open rate so closely) but it’s a little slower, more intentional, a refreshing challenge, and I like that. Not because it’s better than the alternatives, but because it’s what I need right now.
Something to reflect on.
Snack of the Week
I spent most of the last week in New Jersey, visiting my perfect nephew (and the rest of my family) and apparently I didn’t photograph any of our many decadent meals. So instead, I’ll highlight my current Trader Joe’s obsession. These Chocolate Fudge Oat Bars are extremely delicious, 100% vegan, and a perfectly sweet way to end a hot summer day. Also, is it just me, or does everything taste better on a stick? Five stars, will buy again!
The App that Monetized Doing Nothing, The Atlantic. “[Calm] first developed a cult following among Silicon Valley types, appealing to the region’s tune-in, turn-on, code-harder culture. Then it caught on with Millennials interested in self-betterment and healthy living. All it took was a global catastrophe for it to catch on with, well, everyone else.” I love stories about technology and wellness, and this one combines both in a very timely way. 🌸
What Wal-Mart Doesn’t Get About Juneteenth, New York Times. “The agency that comes from deciding your own traditions—a cold water toast, a watch night—becomes lost to a corporate calendar and a megastore selling you a Juneteenth cookout checklist.” I appreciated this take on our newest federal holiday. Celebrate responsibly. 🖤
Just Be Rich, Esquire. “You are getting paid large sums of money to do interesting things—star in movies, play concerts for tens of thousands of people—and also, basically, to just exist. Why are you tweeting? What are you doing here?” Funny and relevant and so relatable. 🤑
This Twitter thread of writers outside of academia sharing how they make a living. A nice reminder that you don’t need to monetize your art to be an artist. 🎨
With Teeth, by Kristen Arnett. I read this whole thing in two days (thanks, vacation!). A novel about queer families, complicated motherhood, and the ways we fail one another, it was not at all what I expected yet everything I wanted.
Note: for NYT links, I’m using the new “gift articles” feature. This allows subscribers to share up to 10 articles a month that won’t count toward your free article limit when clicked. Nice!
A Small Favor!
I started this newsletter in February 2019, and have been grateful for every open, every share, and every reply. Right now, there are 920 of you subscribed to this bi-weekly thing, which is amazing! My modest goal, however, is to reach 1000, which is where you come in. Could you forward this issue to a friend who might enjoy it, or share So Relatable on social media? Thanks so much for reading and supporting! It truly means the world to me. More soon. 💛 💌 💛