We need to talk about the subliminal impact of the newsfeed on life. All social media talk either reduces to a rant about its real-world distancing mechanisms or elevates its fast-paced, fun culture, and I find that both these are wrung out patterns that miss something fascinating on another level: the newsfeed.
The newsfeed is not a dry, momentary account of things happening around you. They are visual cues generated over the period of your social media presence, filtered carefully to suit your inclinations, and disseminating just the information it thinks you need. In short, your newsfeed probably knows more about you and your investments than your family does. I no longer think of it as an algorithmic structure; to me, it is a person. This hyper-reality of content, plan and experience that fills your life in ways you don’t even realise. It is a living, breathing, adaptive entity that watches you as you watch people and things on it. What I’m about to talk about will make more sense once this becomes our vantage point. I’ve known this since I started Facebooking—it was one of the things I wanted to derive out of social media—a tailor-made catalog of people, events, perceptions and awareness. It started off as staying on top of all web-content—comedy, films, production houses and their work, fresh music, YouTube content—perhaps I was a content guy even before I realised it. It assorted itself into much more though. Soon, it became about plays, creative communities, work opportunities, organisations, visual cultures and mediums, blogs, city platforms, festivals, concerts—I think you get the drift. To think that my first internship was a random link on my newsfeed resulting out of a year of arranging and rearranging as per all the outreach I was taking on, is a bit of an epiphany sometimes. A considerable amount of experiences, I’m sure, arise out of these little events someone somewhere marks as “interested” or appears out of nowhere on the darn scrolling spree. And then you gradually meet your “tribe”, who become a part of you more than you can see (trust me), and life becomes, essentially, a give and take of your online and offline life, to the extent that you may not wish to separate the two, regarding the attempt as petty and linear.
This, I believe, is why social media can be hard to go off of. It makes life vibrant, and makes it look more vibrant than it is. And this is why priorities are important both while engaging with it, and in our relationship with it in the larger picture: it’s important to keep sight of why you’re here (every now and then, after a cat GIF marathon). And this brings me to—what happens to the newsfeed of an average, satisfactorily proactive, aware, user when they switch cities.
Your sense of consolidation is bound to twirl inside-out. Especially if, like me, you come from a city like Bangalore, and are now living in the middle of nowhere, medium FOMO levels, trying to make a sense of the difference in the cultural life back there and here, and having periodic pangs oscillating between missing the people or urban spaces you’d internalised and writing ridiculous poems about wanting to hug cities, in the process. The truth is, your newsfeed is far too used to who you were. It can’t make sense of transition. Not yet, at least. It’s taken too much of you to establish all those page likes, venue preferences, content subscriptions and creepy follows of people who are involved in work far too wonderful than you can digest. And it’s going to take that much more to bring up what’s relevant to you now from all those layers it’s buried under.
My hunch is, however, given my specific situation, complete restoration of balance and fulfilment are things I should just give up on, like, really. A newsfeed reformation is coming, but not for the better. It’s starting to show me everything I cannot hoard up in my sparkly treasure chest of vivid, city-specific escapades. Where I am has hip enough spaces and brilliant people to engage with, which is why the current phenomenon is something I’d never foreseen. There is so much happening already, that I’ll hopefully not have the time and mind-space to assign to things that do not occupy my current scope areas. It’s transition into diverse subjects that one must recognise and allow, I guess. When I feel unusually determined or awfully bubbled up, the usual day trip, historical institution-organised outings, general exploration of Delhi’s rich culture, and a hopeful snail-paced revival of what means a lot to me, is something I’m training myself to be content with. Amidst all the cynical flak that social media gets, one thing about it is true: newsfeeds are fleeting clutter. It’s important to recognise that and have the quiet moments that reinstall your center. And while I try to practise the virtue of patience in all matters, I’m also going to breathe fresh, novel air and remind myself repeatedly that three years are both long and short enough at the same time.
P.S: I’m also going to slide in a little cute message to Bangalore, by the way: STOP. JUST STOP. RIGHT NOW. LIKE, SERIOUSLY. THANK YOU.