All Your Attentions (a poem)

| 4 min

Two years ago today, I left Facebook and Instagram. How do I feel about it? I wrote a poem to try and capture my feelings. I also recorded myself reading it, if you prefer audio.

~

Brrrring, brrrring.
The buzz, the rattle.
Notifications’
Inhuman arrival.
A close encounter,
Against your skin,
All your attentions,
Their arrival shall win.

ALL YOUR ATTENTIONS
ARE BELONGM TO US.
In us, in us,
You must place your trust.
An infinite supply
Of jpeg lives.
Feeding insecurities.
As ads fly by.

We believe in you,
And your boring life.
It’ll be fucking awesome,
If you buy this trike.
You’ll get that perfect day
In paradise.
And if you don’t buy.
You’ll pay the price.

Perfection so close,
Just a click away.
One more order,
Delivered next-day.
It’ll be so good.
We’ll pose you just so.
Are you ready? Are you ready?
Are you ready to go?

You see, a “like”
Is a smile,
And a smile
Is a like.
A comment,
A conversation;
A poke,
It ain’t right.

A profile,
A mirror;
A story,
A joke;
And the self,
A fiction,
A constructed narrative
That conveniently leaves out
The uncomfortable bits…
Bro.

Image that reads: You are shaped by how you see others seeing you.

We are shaped by how
We see others, seeing us.
It keeps us alert;
But always in the dust.
The self-construction
Can never-ever end,
Else this flimsy dog and pony show,
We could no longer defend.

But when you’ve lost all your mirrors.
When you don’t see the others,
Seeing you.
What happens
Next?

I, for one, feel

Shapeless,
Sorta.

I mean, am I corporeal, anymore?
I pat myself just to make sure
But it doesn’t help much
I feel like a ghost,
Maybe.
I’m on a different plane,
Maybe.
I’m out of touch,
Unreachable.
Out of line,
Unpredictable.
Out of sight,
Out of mind,
Inimitable.

I’m floating.
No, flying.
I’m feeling -
Wait - I’m feeling good?
I’m defying gravity:
Something has changed within me.
Vibes are rising,
Contentment increasing,
Mental health is going,
Up, up, up,

And all of a sudden,
I’m stuck.
I’m in the cloud.
Tangled in strings,
Imperceptibly pulled,
And pipes filled with something
Red
Sanguine
Bubbling
Up up up to the machines above
Performing an unnatural photosynthesis,
Their initial and ongoing public offering
Turning red,
To green.

(Now, don’t get me wrong.
There’s a tube coming from my body, too,
Pumping surplus
To the sky.
But they get less from me
Than they used to.)

Anyway,
I look down.

Below, I see
The fabric of the world
Folding in on itself.
(Flat, if only in a philosophical sense.)
The faraway now close,
And the close now far away.
Brain-chemical reactions, as our thoughts intermix.
And then reactions to those reactions, and then again, in kind.
Trauma, then re-trauma, to the moon, to the max.
Content sparks, emotional restart.
Death, defibrillate, and no doulas in sight.
Content unending.
Content all-consuming.
Content, content, forevermore.
And then I hear.
A cheer rises from below.
ALL HAIL CONTENT.
ALL HAIL CONTENT.
ALL HAIL CONTENT.

And I get it - I fucking love content.
And I still read the news.
But what I see,
I get to choose.
My syndication is simple,
Their simplification, syndical.
My cynicism is casual,
Their cynicism - alternatively factual.

SICK.
BURN.

That’s right she’s sick,
And she’s burning.
Our dear Mother Earth
In her grave already turning.
Rising waters. Hurricane Ian.
Falling wages. I can’t even.
We bring the heat.
And cut off all feeling.
Our penchant for self-annihilation is sterling.
Disturbing.

An exit sign, the text backwards through a small mirror.

Okay, okay,
I got off track,
Let’s stop. And breathe.
And bring it back.
I’ve checked out,
But I cannot leave.
There is no exit.
Not that I can see.
Despite my “courageous”
Decentralized defection,
I’m still out here
Farming career connections.
Social federation
Still got me seeking affection.
And the impact on my mental
Is hardly perfection.

Without Meta,
I’m still better off,
But I’ve a long, long way
‘Til my socials truly stop.
Yup, it’s weak ties, and TikTok dances.
Hell’s not other people
But it’s all around us.
We suffer in secret.
It’s the money, the greed.
It’s a system that drives people
To play games with our feed.

But don’t give up.
I believe.
That there’s another way.
That we can achieve.
Create strong ties,
Maintain connections.
Love ourselves.
And always offer the invitation:
Life is better,
Off their grid.
Come with us.
Don’t take their shit.

~

I hope you enjoyed my poem-rant!

There was only one moment when I almost went back. I was lonely, having recently gone through a big break-up and moved to a neighborhood where I knew hardly anyone. I had just gone skydiving, and created a secret Instagram account to keep track of local events and businesses. I got these awesome photos of me jumping out of a plane, and I drafted up a post. But I just couldn’t. All those feelings started to come back. It felt icky, tailoring my experience to farm likes and comments. The emojis, the hashtags. I deleted the drafted post, and never considered it again. I do not regret my decision. Not one bit.

I’m always down to talk about how great it was to leave Facebook and Instagram. Mastodon is having a bit of a moment, what with Hurricane Elon. If you’re interested in non-corporate social media, here’s a nice little intro.

This poem contains references to No Exit, RSS (aka really simple syndication), and the musical Wicked. You can dig into the No Exit references (Estelle = me), laugh at the RSS burn, and just roll with the Wicked one (oh, and “Hotel California”). I couldn’t help myself.

Three painted rectangles denoting the end of a path.