‘I couldn’t do that,’ you said, when I deleted my social media. ‘I’d feel as though I was missing out on everything.’
You always disappoint me like that. I admired you so much at university; your intellect, your lust for learning. I can’t believe I still have a friend like you who posts makeup selfies on Instagram. Your contour looks like an OS map and your eyeshadow looks like sediment. Like the compacted animal remains you’ve smeared all over your face, one day—in the not so distant future—I promise that you’ll be a fossil too.
The irony is that you’ve opted for fish scales, shark liver oil, and whale fat to conceal your biological mortality. That you don’t want to look too real, too organic, in your cyber-obituary. The photos of you and your heavy black eyebrows and bee-stung lips make me imagine Cleopatra’s undiscovered death mask. Your stab at immortality is on a pitifully human scale. Think bigger, more geologically.
You think I’m jealous. Of course I’m jealous. I’m jealous of your short-sightedness, your ignorance, your willingness to ignore the sheer vertiginous reality of being alive. I’m jealous of your remarkable ability to measure the state of your happiness by the metric of ‘engagement’, rather than constantly stress about how we’re all clinging onto this bit of rock hurtling a thousand miles an hour through spacetime and the absurdity of people like you only seeming to worry about the number of views you’re getting on your socials.
I’m really pleased you’re doing you though. That you’re wasting all the time you’ve been given on this planet. It would be much more difficult for people like me if everyone was driven and motivated, wanted to make meaning, to contribute.
I understand your constant need for external validation though (I think): for likes, hearts, followers, retweets. ‘I don’t have social media, I have a website,’ I say, as if that was any different. When it comes to praise, my appetite is insatiable. Your kind, considered words are never enough to satisfy my volatile ego.
Why do I think my project is of any more value than yours? I doubt I put more time and effort into my textual selfies, my literary self-portraits, my ‘personal essays’ than you do your Instagram. My work will turn to digital dust just the same as yours. Then we’ll both be ghosts, I guess, buried six-foot-deep in the machine.
Laura Grace Simpkins’ work has been published, or soon will be, by the Guardian, Yoga International, TEXT Journal, Cambridge University Museums, and The Polyphony, and has been broadcast on BBC Radio. She is currently collaborating with the Wellcome Collection on a research project about medication and the environment, and is developing her first book, Lithification. Her website is at lauragsimpkins.com.