The Sketchbook

How it felt to be blocked: Part 1

I was about to leave for the airport.  As I packed my carryon, my mind fell to the sketchbook.  I always brought the tiny, green leather book with me on flights.  A gift given to me a couple of years back, the sketchbook made me realize I hadn’t heard from the giver in a long time.

The giver of the sketchbook was someone who could have been a good friend had it not been for the fact that we rarely saw each other.  I admired them.  They had mad art and gardening skills.  We had things in common.  We enjoyed intelligent conversation.  They seemed down-to-earth and genuine.  They were generous.  They had excellent taste (in sketchbooks).  I liked them so much I introduced them to a friend assuming they would hit it off; they did.

In the moment of packing, I realized I had done a lousy job of staying in touch. I wrote an email to them before heading out the door.  Contacting them felt risky. I had the impression they didn’t want to know me any longer.  I played dumb.  I knew they had blocked me on Instagram, our usual way to stay in touch.  I mentioned that I missed seeing their updates in my feed.  I invited them to go to tea.  I took a deep breath and hit send.

They got back to me the same day.  I didn’t expect them to respond.  Their response was honest to the nth degree:

“Yes, I did block your accounts on Insta – sending you some tough love. For me, it’s not about how many followers one has. I’m getting annoyed by the perfect shots (often taken by someone else) in the name of a sell and the paragraphs and paragraphs of inspirational quotes and deep wisdom offset by crass language. I’m not talking just about your accounts but the platform in general. I guess I’m getting old. I’m even getting tired of my own content – it just all seems so self-indulgent. Take care.”

My suspicions had been confirmed: They had blocked me.

Their response stung.  The thing that hurt the most was the fact that instead of talking to me about it directly, they opted to passively exit stage left.  If I hadn’t sent an email that day we would have gone about our lives never to talk again aside from the off chance we ran into each other in a cafe or something.

I cried.  I felt shamed.  I felt betrayed.  I felt misunderstood. I realized they didn’t know me at all.  I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by this seeing as it was now glaringly obvious I didn’t know them either.  We can think we know who someone is but then something happens to remind you that you’re only slightly more acquainted than strangers. The realization left me feeling gutted.

If they had asked me, they may have found out the real story behind why and what I post.  The quotes, the paragraphs of writing, the photographs were all things that I loved.  Every single word I’d even written was genuine.  Had it all been well-written?  Hell no. Had I been known to use crass language online and in real life?  I’ll leave that for you to decide. (The answer is yes.)  Had I fallen prey in the past to trying to play the Instagram game under the guise of growing my yoga business?  Yes.  Can I too see the huge drawbacks of using social media sites?  Hell yes. (For the record, believe they’ve helped turn us into socially-inept and isolated, disrespectful, narcissistic, and emotionally devoid robots.)  Is there a story behind every photo I’ve posted?  Yes.  Instagram was initially intended to be a photography platform.  As an homage to its beginning, I try to post photos that don’t suck.  Read: no selfies.  But I digress.

I only wish my sketchbook giver had taken the time to talk to me about their perspective instead of assuming they knew me.  I would have liked the chance to explain where I was coming from.  They didn’t and based on their lack of a response to my invite to go to tea, I gather they don’t want to.

The kicker is that in an attempt to clean up Instagram, I feel the giver has made it a little worse.  I miss seeing their beautiful garden photos in my feed.  I miss interacting with them albeit if only via silly, short comments under their posts.  This mess has hurt a real-life connection which, in my mind, is the one thing we should be trying to cultivate and protect.  The irony is we met online, so to speak.   We would never have met each other had it not been for a social media post I created sharing news of one of my yoga workshops.  Either way, the interwebs brought us together.

Back to the email.  I did my crying over their response quickly.  I had enough to cry about.  I was flying home that morning to go see my dying father.

That was eight months ago.

It took me that long to write back.  Pain and loss and shame and grief are tough to navigate.

I wrote them back this past weekend before sharing this piece; it was the decent thing to do.  I’m prone to leaving important emails much too long.  That’s my confession.  Eight months was long enough.

 

**Part 2 of this post, including the story behind its photo, will be posted next week.  As you can see, I do in fact use the sketchbook. I hope you can make it back to read it.  Thanks in advance for doing so, x KM.

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