Can You See Me Now?
We all want to be seen. We want to be heard. Most importantly we want to be loved. My father used to say, “Children should be seen and not heard”. He was a very adult man by the time he had me at the age of 52. Having already had three children, maybe he had had enough of childish noises, banter, etc… More than likely it was that he felt a child could add nothing to his esoteric conversations; that I took up too much time with my curiosity on subjects that were too basic for him.
Whatever the case was, I don’t think my experience is that uncommon. Many children grow up with this sense that adults know everything, and they are busy. Perhaps the world is magical, mysterious and interesting to us as children, and when we figure something out, we want to share it, but then we realize they figured it out a long time ago. My father also taught me to listen, in more ways than one. I am forever grateful for this lesson, but it took a long time for me to find a voice, perhaps partially because his voice was so strong and he talked for so long that it was hard to get a word in.
Fast forward to 2017 and social media is fully entrenched in our everyday experience. Myself, being a digital immigrant, and social media immigrant, I didn’t grow up with this instantaneously available feedback loop, but I look at social media and I see how it functions. People feel the need to be seen, quite literally and figuratively. The numbers of pictures that people post is amazing. By the way, there is no judgement here, I don’t think its good or bad whether you post 20 pictures and a video every day, or whether you post about how your neighbor’s dog pooped on your lawn, or whether you post at all, or once a year. I’m just observing an innate human want to be noticed, to be liked, to be commented on, to be loved. I wonder about what replaced all this activity before the internet. Where did those 38 likes come from before Facebook? What about the comments? Did we have more meaningful conversations before the internet, or did we just spend more time with ourselves? Do we have less meaningful conversations now in favor of a public forum of comments, likes and a range of other emoticon reactions?
Personally, I want more than just some comments, shares or likes. Social media is a useful tool, especially for activism and organizing. It’s a great tool for sharing articles, content and letting our friends and loved ones know what we’ve been up to. But we all want more than that. We want to be really seen, to be seen for who we really are. This takes time though and it takes care. We have to be willing to listen, to really listen. To listen to where someone else is coming from and to drop our filter of them rooted in our past experiences of that person, or our past experiences of someone else that we are then projecting onto that person. It’s not easy. In fact I’d venture to say it’s impossible to truly see anyone but ourselves, and even to see ourselves is an incredibly difficult feat to accomplish, especially in each and every moment.
We are the collection of our experiences. Even the greatest storytellers and communicators don’t have the time and ability to objectively relate the entirety of themselves to another. Furthermore, we typically want others to see the best version of ourselves. When we present ourselves to others, we leave parts out. We often have a subjective view of ourselves. Some may be too hard on themselves, others may embellish themselves to appear as someone they are not. Especially in Los Angeles, where there’s a great big industry designed around being someone that you are not.
To see another we must first be able to look at ourselves objectively. Through the practice of dropping our biases and filter’s of how other’s see us we then learn how to really see. Then we can really allow others to see us and it breaks down the barriers. It’s a two-way street at the very least. There’s a process and we must become vulnerable to others in order for them to see us, to see the real us. My father taught me that you can tell what someone is hiding through the absence of what they don’t tell you. So the choice in what they choose to tell you should reveal that which they don’t want you to know. The way past this is to share yourself courageously, without fear. The way past this is to listen, without judgement.
One of my many fears is not being seen, not being understood. Its not a big fear for me, for the person I most want to see me is myself, and I do not fear myself. But along with that fear of not being seen is not being appreciated, so I must appreciate myself. I do appreciate myself and now that I am actively appreciating myself I am more open to sharing that which is myself, here through my writing. Its not a lonely process, for most of my writing comes though an inspiration I draw from others, and from the earth. Its a journey of sharing my stories with others so that they may then share their stories with me, and thats where I find the inspiration, in this collective ether of ideas. It’s like an endless game where we all take turns contributing something of ourselves so that others may learn, just don’t forget to pass the dice.