How 24-hour stories came to capture ‘life stories’

The 24-hour stories on social media platforms reinstate the transience of life.

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“The life that you live in order to photograph it is already, at the outset, a commemoration of itself.”
-Italo Calvino, Difficult Loves

First Snap stories, then Instagram stories, followed by WhatsApp statuses; and now Messenger Day seems to be the newest kid on the block. With the most frequently used social media platforms doing the 24-hour story game right, it seems like it won’t be long before our social media experience will be engulfed by the anxiety of posting, checking who viewed the posts and viewing others’ posts.

For instance

You go to have pizza with friends, one of whom has to leave in 30 minutes. You are all killing time until the pizza arrives. In those 10 minutes, one of you takes her phone out and starts clicking pictures/shooting Boomerangs while you don’t notice them doing it. You start doing the same. The others do the same. This is how all your other friends get to know within seconds that you all are hanging out to have pizza.

Each of you upload stories on Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger. Considering an average of 2 minutes spent on each application, you spend a total of 8 minutes in posting stories if you do not want  to be the one whose stories deliver nothing new to followers. By the one who reluctantly started sharing stories 2 minutes after the others did, completes the business, the pizza is here.

Once the pizza is served, each one posts a story of it. These were pictures of the entire pizza, mind you. You also have to post a picture of after your slice is on your plate. Assuming this process took you 4 minutes in all, the friend who’s got to leave in 30 minutes has 16 minutes in hand. She starts eating her food. Before you realise, she has to leave but before she leaves, “let me click a selfie”.

In the entire time spent with friends, when did you stop to talk to each other?

You discussed about how the pizza tastes, which place offers better pizza and when you last ate at this particular eatery. Did you discuss how your heart ached at three this morning for a moment that will never return? Did you recall memories of the time you first met each other?

Aesthetic Consumerism

Photographs, which are meant to be souvenirs of experiences one has already had, have now become a means to actualize the experience. This is something Susan Sontag had foreseen long before the dystopia we are living in had been materialised.

You live in an economy that runs on envy.

If the picture of the delectable pizza posted by your friend did not water your mouth, you would not go to that eatery the next weekend itself. If you did not envy the quality of pictures your friend posts with an iPhone, you would not have bought an iPhone. If you did not envy the car your neighbour drives, you would not have bought your second car.

The culture of consumption that willingly or unwillingly we are a part of, demands that we struggle for a better pizza, phone, car. It demands that we make our lives look worth envy with post-processed photographs. It may increase the illusory aesthetic quotient of our daily experience, but it is certain to create an experience of reality as we desire it to be.

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Why post stories?

Why post stories when you can actually make posts that stay permanently on your Facebook or Instagram wall? The answer is nothing you have not known till date. Stories let you post many times without actually spamming anyone. They let you post stuff that you would not want to keep on your timeline either because they are not aesthetically very pleasing or because they capture in essence the transience of the moments you want to show to the world.

However, the most important reason for posting stories is to capture moments that you know won’t last long. You are living a moment which your followers are not.

This is a subversion of the very idea of photography and videography because instead of capturing moments so that they last for a long time, one now captures moments simply to share them with the rest of the world for a short period. This moment in history is one of self-reflection – it reveals that we lose the moment in the attempt to immortalise it. It reminds us of the transience of life itself and questions if one really document a life story in public moment through social media stories. It makes Emily Dickinson all the more relevant:

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.

Featured Image Courtesy: Visual Hunt

Excuse me, Life- The Art of Letting Go

This is an anatomy of the process of letting go of a part of my heart and returning to normalcy.

 

The past never sleeps. It keeps following you till you are dead. It’s like that Pandora’s box filled by each person with the memories they make with you. The fact that in every moment of our life someone or the other is making marks in the box makes the drill difficult because it implies that you cannot easily shut the box and dispose of it.

We all lose a lot in life. Be it the wrapping paper from the twelfth birthday or the favourite pencil box from fourth standard or even people; we are used to losing. In some cases, despite the best of efforts, letting go is inevitable. There are so many mechanisms we deploy to cope with losses. However, there is a difference between losing material objects and losing people. In case of the latter, the realization of having lost is gradual. This is what makes the process all the more excruciating.

To be the most candid and the least metaphorical, I would say it sucks. The feeling of becoming a lesser priority absolutely sucks. I really have no better way of expressing it. Having recently lost someone I once thought I could not live without, I can freshly recount some of the strategies that I used in a rough chronology comprising denial, hankering after attention and withdrawal.

Denial

Alright, so infinite number of may-be-she-is-busy-elsewhere’s, I-should-show-that-I-exist’s (this is your needy worst), am-I-asking-for-too-much’s later, you begin to come to terms with the fact that you have been relegated to a place less important than the one you used to have.

During this time I used to listen to ‘I Forget We Where We Were’ by Ben Howard on loop without even realizing. Looking back at it, I feel like I was being that teenager with an unrequited love passing through my Christina Perri phase, but I also know that it is just all right to love and expect someone else to love back. It really is one of the most human things one can do.

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Hankering after attention

Now we plunge into the second phase of hankering after attention (read love) from the previous one which can somewhat be called denial. This period is a new low you hit in terms of your self-esteem (well, at least I did). This is an extremely foolish self, trying to remind the other about its existence. Two things can happen- the person may reconcile for a happily-ever-after out of a fear of losing you or they may simply deny you further.

What makes this part significant in the scheme of losing a person is that it ascertains the future of the bond. I think reciprocity in relationships has been highly undervalued. You may feel that there is nothing wrong with loving without expecting to be loved back. A gentle reminder I came across on the internet: If someone loves you, they wouldn’t put themselves in a position of losing you. This should bring you to the next phase.

Withdrawal

This begins in misery and ends in wisdom. The moment you realize that you deserve better emancipates you to the point of knowledge that come what may, you can make your emotions a priority. This is what makes letting go so much more impactful than sticking around. It makes looking back at the coping mechanism worthwhile. This is when you feel like saying, “Excuse me, Life.

I am not sure if I should call this a reality check but it definitely helps one come to terms with what has actually happened. The fog is now out of your vision. There is no obscurity. You begin to value relationships, personal talents, books, metaphors (and beverages) you had earlier belittled. This is not an escape from the Pandora’s box of memories- there is no evading it; it’s an attempt to learn how to share space with it.tumblr_maf5h0trei1rp3n0ao1_500

Writing it out, I feel, is not an act I would relate with sitting at a busy crossroad and whining about the scheme of things. I feel writing about it is a way to tell yourself- I am more than the grief; I am above letting myself down, and most importantly that I can make an anatomy of my feelings to never repeat this self-rejection.

Who am I kidding? I am certain to cry buckets the next time something like this happens, albeit with a monster called retrospection fitted in my eyes.