Identity and the Internet: Practice Digital Minimalism
I began this website because I had time. That, plus a feeling of fullness in my chest; an internal pressure that needed to be released. I didn't have much of a choice really. I kept finding myself unemployed. It just kept happening, and I claim that to be my unconscious mind acting on my conscious state. My hands were available, so I turned them to a keyboard.
With this impulse to create, and the time to do it, I began this shapeless website. And, it has been more confusing than I had ever anticipated. This may be simple to others out there, but I struggled with deciding on what exactly this was going to be. What am I going to be? What the fuck is this website? I get asked that occasionally, and cannot help but retreat to an existential mindset. It is - until it is something else - and then it will be that.
Shapeless worries people. It is unmarketable, it isn't profitable. The audience and product are vague. It means I haven't spent much time on development. I turned to the internet for help, to guide me in defining and identifying what needed to be created. The answer was out there, I just needed to find it.
I won't argue that success isn't important, it absolutely is. But, after diving head first into the internet and social media for guidance, what I want to share is that shapeless is a beautiful thing to be. From the day I began this journey, I have tried to categorize and encapsulate what this is into quick phrases, and hashtags. What I am exactly, and push that shit, with the hopes that one day I would become an expert or authority of something. Anything.
Some categories are easy to identify. I am a millennial - as my computer auto-corrects my poor spelling. I am white. I am a heterosexual, cisgendered female. My self-flagellation knows no bounds, with the occasional peppering of sexual harassment sob story. Cyclist, vegan, American. I could go on, but these are plenty.
These external identifiers provide nothing for me creatively. This leaves only my internal noise as a source of inspiration. And this is when things start to get confusing. My identity development did not have much concrete external influences, such as a community that I physically was a member of. That leaves my identity to be primarily influenced by that in which I chose to consume, and with the internet, that can be anything.
Because I am an empath, my identity is a dumpster. My conscious mind gathers, piling information up into a big heap, and my unconscious scavenger mind must filter through everything as it begins to decompose. The more information I gather, the larger the pile, leaving the scavenger with an endless amount to sift through.
I am only beginning to understand how buried I have become, and I have my home to thank for that. It began with needing to decide which sweater or pair of shoes I wanted to keep as we moved into such a tiny space. Each item had weight. A jacket keeps you warm, yes, but it also carries with it experiences, memories, and judgments. Give away the jacket, and the rest can be let go.
I was resistant to the process of letting go, afraid to discover what would remain. But, as I have been reducing all that I own, reducing the external clutter, I am able to see all the internal clutter that has piled up. But, I have nothing more to donate or throw away! What more can be done?
Burying myself in digital content, I sought to give shape and define my reality, much like I did with my possessions. The idea is that if I take in enough news, or photos, then everything may one day make sense. Slowly, as the noise in my mind increased, I began to understand that digital consumption has the opposite effect.
I am not the information that I take in, but I must be deliberate with that in which I consume. Because, just as I had to pick up the jacket, and turn it over, deciding whether or not it represented something that I wanted to carry; each piece of information from the internet that you consume will need to be turned over, examined, and either carried or discarded. Clutter doesn't leave space for much else.
Have Little is an incomplete sentence for a reason. It exists to balance out the impulse to be complete, and well defined. We are shapeless, connected, boundless, and our enduring selves are undefinable. And while we do have labels, political parties, and hashtags to communicate concepts among ourselves, only you can set limits to your identity.
You may never live in a bus, ride a bike, or identify with many of the other parameters in which I exist in, but we all live in a digital age, and thus struggle with the frustration, hatred, and confusion that comes from that. Practice care for yourself. If you are buried, begin with tossing out a few things you own, and perhaps your head will be become uncluttered in the process. Have Little.