Yesterday afternoon I stopped at the beach. I do this often. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter bear witness to this. Yesterday, I decided to leave my iPhone in the car, and just feel the sand, the icy water; see the people sunning themselves and hear the laughter, the waves lapping at my feet and the light breeze soughing gently in the sweltering heat.
As I stood there, silently watching, feeling, experiencing a slice of life that was not being recorded on social media, I realised my mind was being overwhelmed. Not by the beauty of this scene. Not by the serenity of the moment, but by my inner monologue, constantly running, trying to describe what I was seeing, hearing and feeling – trying desperately to craft words that would draw the most comments, likes, clicks and engagement on my social media sites.
I tried to shut them out – I had no phone to take pics, so why would I need a caption for this moment? Still, the voices ran on, shouting now, mutating from strings of 140 characters to longer, blog-ready depictions of the way the retreating tide drew out tiny subaquatic contrails of sand around my ankles as it flowed past. The way the sunlight glinted off the swells in the bay. The syncopating peals of churlish, childish laughter. Words, phrases, descriptions, poetry – all louder, now, drowning out everything and distracting just as much as the ever-present ‘Share’ button that draws us out of the real world and into the digital one.
I closed my eyes. Still, the words came.
I drew a deep breath, over and over. Still, the words were there.
It took several minutes to slow down my thoughts and stop thinking about how to share this moment with every person on the planet through social media. It took even longer to realize that this moment, this view and how I felt was mine, alone – and that it was a very private one.
And in the silence within…how terrible a realisation that all along, during all the years of drug-induced paranoia – all the voices that I have heard, whispering just on the edge of hearing – the voices that have tortured me and kept me awake at night since I came off the drugs – have all been my own.