A note to my followers, January 2022
First and foremost, I would like to express my deep and eternal gratitude, for the support, kindness, and generosity I have been shown by strangers on the internet in the past years. Instagram has emotionally and physically taken me places I never could have foreseen when I first started posting my art on the app in 2013. When my tattoos started garnering interest, I could hardly believe it. I barely knew how to tattoo at the time, and was so shy I could barely speak in a room full of people. I felt seen, and I felt held by this internet community in a way I hadn’t before. I committed myself to becoming a better tattooer, and to meeting tattooers internationally.
Instagram was a portal to the world. It was a dream - to be able to visit countries I had never been to before, and to already have friends and clients. I was able to have these intimate connections, these oftentimes mystical exchanges of energy with people I couldn’t even speak the same language as. I gave away pieces of myself, I picked up new ones. Traveling gave me insight into the person I want to be, and what different creative communities can look like.
A few years ago, I started to grow increasingly uncomfortable with my own internet presence. Like so many people, I became emotionally addicted to the validation I was receiving on the internet. I became detached from the things I was making or the reason I was making them - motivated, like a lab rat, to the highs of getting “likes”. To feed the addiction, I became hyper productive. Everything I was making was already a post before I made it. The work suffered as I barreled towards posts, regurgitating images and cutting corners to maintain my sense of self-worth. When the world stopped moving so quickly in 2020, I gained new perspectives on my life. I started to see myself as a silly puppet, perpetually doing a meaningless dance for a faceless crowd - to the point of total burnout and collapse. I started feeling a growing resentment towards this performative self - never good enough, never receiving enough likes or followers. I felt fear and shame every time I made a post. Unable to recognize myself, I eventually came face-to-face with my own crippled self-esteem.
The internet once felt like a magical place full of potential, where people across the world were able to come together. Ironically, as time has passed, I have been feeling a profound detachment from community. The awareness of what everyone is doing all the time has given me a growing sense of isolation. I have created countless false narratives in my head about my friends and acquaintences - increasingly paranoid about how I am viewed, or whether or not I fit in. Our brains aren’t necessarily evolved to process this incessant bombardment of information - this stream of mundane activities, frustrated rants, cat videos, self-help infographics, memes, photos of lovers, etc. On top of this, it completely dehumanizes people. It becomes easy to point fingers when you forget that there is a living, breathing, person on the other side of the account. It becomes a breeding ground for moral righteousness. I continue to see people talking about community on the internet, who treat people like garbage in real life - and I fear becoming this person myself.
I want to be able to thoughtfully engage with the people in front of me, and to cultivate a true sense of self-worth. Ultimately, I think this requires taking a step away from social media to recalibrate, to become more mindful. This is not to say that I am leaving instagram forever, just that I need time and space to do the inner work, which I hope will help me grow into the thoughtful creator I would like to be.