Today I received my first negative comment on a photo of mine on social media. For someone who cares so little about the whole complex, it disturbed me how much I felt it.
The comment asked why this particular photo should deserve so many likes when it is "plain, flat and obvious". The photograph was of nasturtiums in bloom, arranged and distributed very evenly against its green leaves. I happened to have thought it was very aesthetically pleasing, but I would agree with all three words all the same. On what basis, then, am I insulted?
Still, I found myself replying in a few parts.
The first part was to rebut and ask what is so wrong with "plain, flat and obvious"? Each of the three qualities is meaningless in a vacuum. Some of the plainest colors and styles are the most timeless. The flattest palettes many times end up being the most elegant. The obvious is often overlooked exactly for that reason, and either way, does not make it any less or more beautiful.
The second was to acknowledge 'likes' and taps and validation on social media is an arbitrary game as it is. How are you so sure it was because of the particular photo or my input versus simply appreciating a glimpse of a flower you don't see every day? How are you so sure it isn't just a bunch of nasturtium lovers just like millions of cat lovers like cat videos on a daily basis? Why do you care so much what their intentions are and why do you question them? What makes you all-seeing and superior?
But then of course, the obvious next question arises. Why do I care so much?
I think it is because this idealistic image of a perfect, caring, supporting online community that I have been holding onto for as long as I can, fully aware of how naive and unlikely it is to survive the world's poison...is beginning to fall apart for the first time. Our insatiable pursuit of vanity, popularity and presence never fails to blind us and this experiment is rapidly deteriorating for me.
Everything has gone from sharing to competing. Every post is a mini and daily competition, no longer about staying in touch and almost entirely about staying "relevant". Whatever that means.
I don't dream of a life spent competing. And relevance is so overrated.