I was chastised by Instagram the other day. It kept me from liking posts to “protect the community”. I might not be real.
It’s laughable that anyone or anything might think I’m a bot. If I was, I’d be much better at social media than I clearly am.
But it got me to thinking:
What makes me real?
Is it how the first glimpse of sunlight stirs me awake in the morning? How I languish under the covers until the last possible moment?
Is it the persistent aches of my well worn body? The pinch in my neck, the tweak in my back, the cry of my forearms?
Or the constant mental bickering of how I do care/don’t care what anyone thinks?
What makes me real?
Is it how parts of my comfort zone are stretched like an old elastic band while others are still tightly wound?
Or how I care about the world? That I worry about its future like the parent of an adult child, simultaneously fully invested in its health, yet lacking control?
Is it that these fears, concerns, aches, and anxieties rise to the surface on occasion? That they come out in my writing, in my work?
All of these words can be copied, replicated, and spit back out of an algorithm. Fifty thousand monkeys with keyboards could like what I like and say what I say in less time than ever.
But they can’t feel what I feel.
They can’t experience the flush, the worry, the anxiousness, the nervous excitement, the warmth, the loss, the calm, the discomfort that all add up to create this perfectly imperfect being. The one whose jokes fall flat and naval gazings masquerade as musings. The one who writes the messages stuffed in bottles tossed into a silent ocean.
The whole of me is greater than all the bits and bytes of collected detritus. The detritus that feeds the beast that thinks I want a leaf blower, a vacuum, a cup of yogurt. The algorithm that thinks that because I like this, I want that.
It doesn’t know me at all.
It doesn’t know that what I truly want is a warm embrace on a chilly morning. A hot cup of coffee in a comfortable mug. My favorite wool sweater. An egg with a marigold yolk for breakfast.
It doesn’t know that I crave the flush of creative delight when something new emerges from my seemingly incapable hands. The feeling of a journey slowly revealing its destination.
All of this is so much greater than clicks and likes and commerce. This is what makes us real. Not our political views or how loud we can shout into the void. The quiet things. The meaningful things. Those are what matter. Those are what make us human, what make us who we are.
The algorithms can tell you what to buy, but not what to want. They can tell you whom to hate, but not whom to love. They can choose what to float and what to sink, but the treasure always lies at the bottom of the ocean.