Today in the wake of listening to Marie Forleo interview Martha Beck in a video called “The Way of Integrity & Why You Should STOP Doing What You’re ‘Supposed To’”, it hit me: Why the hell am I on instagram?
I take no joy from instagram. It is something I feel I must do in order to grow my audience and in order to storytell in a relevant (hip?) fashion.
I literally only go there to add to my story and post because I feel like I have to in good faith to show I really desire to do this whole (digital) storytelling thing at all. Sure, on those rare occasions when I force myself to go there in order to ensure people can find my creative work, I can’t help but click on the stories of a few people I’m genuinely close to outside of instagram, and I do take joy from seeing what they’re up to because I genuinely love them. But I learn what they’re up to whenever we connect on other platforms (or in person) anyway, and in a way that’s what they desire for me to know, not for the world to know.
Now as a professional storyteller, clearly I have some things I want not just my close friends, but also the world, to know. My point is: Why would I do it on a platform I don’t even like to use myself?
I never scroll on instagram. I don’t go there for news. I don’t go there for stories. I don’t go there for entertainment. I don’t go there for community. I don’t go there for inspiration. I only go there because I feel like I should; like I have to, like it’s the only way I can make this whole creative digital nomad thing work. I mean, seriously, how are you going to do it without instagram?????
This takes me back to a very revelatory moment in June 2020, sitting on my bed in my host family's house in Xela, Guatemala, meditating. It was the moment I decided to start a youtube channel. I write about this revelation in my chapter, “Living from the Heart,” featured in the multi-author book Visionary: The Future Belongs to Those Who Can See in the Dark.
The revelation: Why am I not writing or talking about --- creating --- what I like to consume? Why am I not a contributing member to the communities and platforms/formats where I actually do like to go for stories, information, community, and inspiration?
What did I do alone when I was in Guatemala, and what am I doing now that I’m out alone (with animal family) on the road and in the wild, besides meditating and walking and climbing and yoga-ing and drinking bottomless mugs of coffee and tea?
reading books and/or articles (99% books)
listening to youtube discourses and interviews and/or podcasts
writing (in notebooks and on laptop)
recording my own and Nature’s thoughts/inspirations/textured real life moments on audio and photo and video
Okay, I also engage in loads of digital correspondence with close friends and family. But you get my point!
Being: instagram and facebook are not on that list. I only get on them because I feel like I have to share, I have to keep up, I have to give people a portal through which to find me in the places where I actually like to, choose to be (digitally, as of now, blog and youtube).
By the way, this piece isn’t about judging (or celebrating, for that matter) you if you love instagram and facebook and tiktok and whatever platform. It’s literally the opposite --- if you actually, genuinely love those things and spend time on them because you desire to, please keep doing what you actually love doing.
I’m just trying to be honest with myself about what I genuinely enjoy doing instead of what I feel like I “have to” be doing to be a success or a good person or a good friend or a good digital nomad or good whatthefuckever.
Who knows, maybe I do need to be on instagram and facebook to a certain degree to lead people to the places I actually enjoy being and contributing to, to lead them to where the work I love to create and share really is. After all, I have found life-changing people and connections and arrows-pointing-me-in-the-right-direction from both those platforms. But not many compared to the interactions and platforms I would and do choose, and even so, definitely the large majority from facebook over instagram.
(again, I get it, it might be way different for you. Please let this entire article be an arrow pointing to your own examination of where your best connections and inspiration and community and information, etc. come from … not an opportunity for you to be like, but what? What is she talking about????!!! I make sooooo many amazing deep legitimate connections from instagram and get soooo much inspiration there, and I just love it so much... Cool! Sounds like that’s right where you wanna be! This is not about instagram being bad or good; it is about actually being honest about what’s good for us/what we really fucking want).
The other day I was up at Five Springs Falls Campground in the Bighorns, recording loads and loads of stunning videos. I actually dreaded returning to service because then I’d have no excuse to avoid my obligation of “having to” share these videos as stories and posts and all the things on instagram so I can show that I'm out here doing legitimate creative work. I should share it all on instagram. How else will people see what I'm doing? As a modern storyteller hoping to support herself with her stories, I should do this. I have to show people what I’m doing in this format if I want to succeed, and I have to do it now now now or I will never never never succeed. (Anxiety, anyone???)
During one point in my walk along what was the original highway from Lovell to Dayton over the Bighorns (the old Highway 14 alternate route), and is now a wide grassy path only accessible by foot and horse, I found a big slab of sacred looking peach granite to sit on. Sit I did as my two dogs romped and rooted around the surrounding sea of sage and juniper and rabbitbrush.
Suddenly I just started singing.
I sang about not wanting to frantically build a “successful” life that I would then fucking hate having to upkeep (the lyrics were a lot more poetic than that). I yelled in what sounded to me like mostly harmonious notes about wanting a life of balance and space, of being willing to do the work but wanting it to be work that I truly wanted to do, not achieving success at the things people told me I had to or should do to be successful and then hating having to maintain that success that seems like such in everyone else’s eyes while to me in my soul it is actually fucking torture.
I know, I know, it sounds like a real hit single.
For me it was a good, hard hit though, for real, because, absurdly direct as the lyrics were, they poured directly from the place of my deepest longing and most desperate pleading. From my heart that is BEGGING me to fucking STOP feeling like I have to do everything to make sure everyone can find me and and my work and support me and my work.
If everyone can find me everywhere, I’ll have to keep upkeeping all those places I don’t even want to be.
I want to simplify my life.
I really, actually do. (I’ve said that so many times before and never actually meant it because I didn’t know what it meant: i.e. real, actual ways to do so).
If really, actually simplifying my life means that I miss out on some relationships and connections and opportunities and avenues/formats through which to express myself, that’s okay. I know this sounds obvious to you --- of course that’s okay, you can’t do it all! --- but it’s fucking radical to me.
Because you know what, maybe I CAN do it all. That's not actually the concern. The real question is: do I want to?
And the answer is no. Fuck. No.
Furthermore, honestly, I already have so many gorgeous and holy and fulfilling connections and opportunities and avenues/formats to express myself.
And even furthermore, people can smell it when you’re doing things because you feel like you have to, and that’s not art; that’s obligation. And that shit kills people instead of giving them life ... eventually offs both maker and consumer through slow little painful deaths of should should should should should …
What I really desire to do with all the photos I take is to have them for my own and dearly beloved ones' reminiscences and to put them with writing that either shows up on my blog or in the books I really need to go ahead and publish since reading books is one of my very very very very very favorite places to be in the world. Let me go there with what I have to share.
What I really desire to do with all this endless videos/b-roll I’m capturing is to weave together --- quilt or scrapbook or collage --- video stories with poetic and epic narration, timeless narrated aesthetic Nature worshipping films that don’t have to be from what happened TODAY and are always relevant the same way a tree or a river or a poem is always relevant.
As far as finding the support I need to survive from doing only what I actually deeply desire to do, I’m reminded of the genius Amanda Palmer in her TED Talk, The Art of Asking. She talks about how the record company that signed her viewed her first album release with them as an epic failure because she only sold 20,000 copies. Later, she’d raise over a million dollars to make her own album … with how many supporters for her kickstarter, do you think? That’s right: 20,000.
I don’t need enough supporters to impress a record label or a publishing company; I just need enough to keep me able to adventure and live light and to capture and film and write.
I don’t need every single person in the world to be able to find me on every single platform in order to not miss my chance at success, or even to be able to survive as the crazy nomadic documentarian storytelling adventurer that I am. I really only need whoever’s interested in/kismet-ly drawn to finding me in books and blogs (and those will include photos and sometimes videos) and longer form film and video and audio.
If I actually do want to live a simple, spacious life, that means I can stop feeling like I have to care about my image in places I don’t even like to be. That means that I can drop the notion that I should or have to tell my story around fires that do not light me up when I sit at them.
A simple, spacious existence also means I really won’t need too much to survive and even thrive. I might be much, much happier --- and have much, much more time and space and peace on my hands and heart --- if I have a smaller (less platforms) digital footprint and a smaller audience because of it.
I’ll be sharing what I do because I want to, not because I have to. And the people who find me will be finding me in places that actually reflect me and where I want to be. Which means they’ll know who I actually am and what I actually like to do and where I actually like to go when no one else is watching.
Meanwhile, I must end this by saying that just as I looked out my back van window I witnessed a small, Wright Bros style honeybee yellow plane taking off from a field directly adjacent to me where I am in the middle of absolute nowhere, somewhere way back on a backroad near the Bighorn River.
Alrighty, then, if that actually just happened just now, here, I think the message is pretty clear … ladies and gentleman and fellow humans of all distinction: We have liftoff.
She’s actually going to fly where she wants to go, and that’s where you can find her.