The Joy of Strangers (on the Internet)

I love Instagram. I check it every day for new posts and stories. I never use it for posting my own content though. I’m there as a voyeur only, consuming other people’s photos and videos for my own entertainment and education.

Most of the accounts I follow belong to people I’ve never met. I dont bother to introduce myself. I never post a comment or show my appreciation with a ‘like’. It’s only occurred to me recently that this is creepy behaviour. In real life, this is the equivalent of me going to a party but not talking or even making eye contact with anyone there. Lurking in a corner, watching people at a distance and listening to their conversations without ever participating. I wouldn’t do this at a party I was attending, so why do I think this is okay to do online?

Because online is still real life, even if that’s often forgotten/ignored. There are real people creating and posting the content I consume. Someone is taking time to share something of their experience. That’s to be valued, they are to be valued, yet I am constantly mindlessly scrolling past this fact, never stopping to express out loud to them how their presence online has moved me, shone a light or simply made me smile.

I’m a shy, introverted, socially awkward person but that’s no excuse for me overlooking other people’s humanity. It’s unfair of me to look into the lives around me, to see who is there, without ever showing myself in return. Yet that is what my actions say: I want to look, but I do not want to be seen.

It’s called social media for a reason. I can’t feel connected if I don’t connect. This doesn’t mean I’m now going to like every post on my feed and write lots of inane comments. But it does mean I’m going to try to be better at responding with an ‘I see you’ whenever someone who I follow is asking to be seen, to be known. I’ll try to be better at acknowledging the soul behind the caption.

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