Attention

Brighton beach during isolation.

I don’t remember when the change was; the shift in my manner. There are moments I shine, in front of a group of people presenting my thoughts or discussing something meaningful. But then I try and set up a camera and choreograph a simple video to take part in some kind of ‘challenge’ my friends are doing on social media, and my face gets red, I feel robotic, and tears tickle at the back of my eyes. My confidence drops almost imminently, and I leave the situation to be alone with myself and feel bad about my reaction, and question why something so small should trigger that strong feeling of failure. I feel I could never have been an actress, no matter how well I present myself or articulated my words. Yet something others say about me is my ability to fill a space with personality and hold my own. Perhaps that capacity to separate the meaningful from the unimportant has lessened for me in the last few years, and I take every action I do with a heavy heart.

Lockdown has presented many behaviours from people, and sadly it seems the majority have taken the form of activities I can no longer contribute to. A seemingly lighthearted meme-video is clearly off the table. I haven’t taken a selfie for months. I never post any pictures of myself anymore really, every so often I can muster a pole picture which someone else took. Or something with a pony or a friend in it. Those are what social media is there for. I’m not sure who is to dictate these things – ideally no one and everyone is free to be themselves. I guess the concept of ‘themselves’ is the bit I deliberate now. What element is theirs and what is just a very well put together story of ‘good looks’ and ‘fun’? It leaves one with an uncertainty of who is actually looking their best and having the most fun. Apparently everyone and no one at the same time.

There was a time what I felt in that moment could have been considered merely a form of shyness. ‘Camera-shy’ was a common thing. “It’s ok, she’s just camera-shy, take the picture when she’s not looking”. Now this emotional response plays into the realms of anxiety. Anxiety has such gravity now, it doesn’t feel right. I was anxious when put into what I deemed a performative setting, and reacted accordingly. A selfie is a form of still performance; a spiel of posing, which oddly isn’t hard to take, but difficult to project to the public. I feel something needs to have a purpose to be put forward to anyone past one’s own personal bubble. Attempts to get around this have been made with girlish shirks of responsibility, such as ‘felt cute, might delete later’. But that reasoning offers the equivalent to me of pushing a nicely presented but unmanned boat out on Brighton beach with the self-reassurance of ‘it’s cool, the waves can always bring it back’. Purpose helps the commitment. Perhaps people would regret less (or at least feel better) if they gave purpose to their choices.

But maybe others have my disposition, and they merely haven’t noticed it yet. This confusion of what is important and what lacks meaning could be shared by many, but perhaps it is inverted in those I refer to above. Or maybe in this isolated, uncertain place we are all in, our sensitivities are indistinguishable from each other. We may just be a group of anxious people, put on the spot, reacting to a performative setting. I just wonder when the performance began.

May as well post that selfie.

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