Nonplussed: Part Two

Photo by Pete Pedroza

“Wait, what? Who would want to see some crappy picture you took of yourself…”

It turns out, everybody. Everybody on the planet wants to see crappy pictures you take of yourself. I could not and still can’t understand this. As a photographer, I would post work from shoots and they get little traction; nobody cares. Post a picture of myself on vacation? I am a damn hero.

Fast forward to 2012, an agent from one of the top talent agencies asks to have a meeting about my photography. Naturally, I was excited. When I got to the meeting it quickly took an unexpected turn. 

“Have you ever thought about making ‘how to’ videos for YouTube?”

“What?! What do you mean, how to what? What is that?”

“You know, like how to edit photos or something funny, you’re funny. You have that quirky half Jewish girl hipster thing going on that’s really trendy right now.”

“I don’t follow, I am a photographer, I like to be behind the camera…I have no interest in being in front of it…people watch videos of normal people explaining how to do mundane things?! Why? Who would want to watch that?!”

Once again, everybody. Everybody wants to watch videos of people explaining how to do mundane things!

This winter, during the pandemic, I basically stopped using Instagram. I didn’t post to my feed for four months. We were in quarantine, I clearly wasn’t working and for once in my life the anxiety of having to prove that I AM working (thus to get more work) ceased to exist. For the first time since I downloaded Instagram, I was fucking free. 

The impact it had on my mental health was huge. I was more at ease, more like myself. I was less anxious, more centered. I started writing more, the lack of peering into a world that has ultimately made me feel bad on a daily basis for the last 16 years of my life sparked my creativity and focus. I got shit done.

Naturally, my social media hiatus had to end to announce “Romantic Lowlife Fantasies”. Often the ignorant optimist, I thought I could solely post pictures from the book to promote it. Apparently, this isn’t what the algorithm likes. The algorithm, which I envision to be some weird dark entity like the smoke monster from Lost, likes videos, of you!

I’ve never been big on posting photos of myself. I had my first professional photos taken this spring for the book promo. To hear now I should be making VIDEO content of myself feels like a new unfortunate chapter in my never-ending battle with social media. 

Much like that “come to Jesus” moment in my boss’s office back in 2005, I once again saw the writing on the wall. I’ve worked so hard on this book, put everything I have into it for the last 13 years.

Because at the end of the day those relationships are what fucking matter.

 As a person who often says “people can’t see what you made if they don’t know about it”, I reluctantly and uncomfortably have started to put myself out there in a more public way. First the photo shoot (which was stressful at best for me to model) and then…some “how-to” videos. Talking about editing was the only thing that felt comfortable and natural to me in a video format. 

 I guess that agent was on to something after all! Did I miss out on millions?! Don’t answer that.

My best friend from high school isn’t on social media (also why his name isn’t in this piece). It’s crazy to me to think that’s the primary way people connect these days – flipping through each other’s lives on a day-to-day basis like a bargain bin at Century 21. I was thinking about him while writing this piece and realized it’s been years since we talked. 

Needless to say, as it goes with true old friends (the people who know the real you), we jumped right into conversation as if no time had passed. We were able to catch up with ease despite not seeing a daily recap of what he has eaten, every vacation he’s been on or other private moments that we all decided to make public. 

Which brings me back to my friend’s apartment and the TikTok debacle. At what point do we have limits or restrictions of how much ourselves we give in a world demanding us to live out loud publicly? What happened to having an air of mystery / less is more? When did the switch happen from authenticity to quantity? 

The newest trend is for artists to make these serious five-minute forced documentaries trying to present themselves as more exciting than they are. The truth is I spend the majority of my time working, watching basketball and going to my niece and nephew’s little league games. It’s really not that interesting, honestly.  Neither is watching other people pretending their life is better than it is on a screen.

Are any of us really connecting anymore? When did society decide there is no value in the hidden track, only the in-your-face glossy pop single?

What we all need is to put away the phone and spend more time with the people we want to sit in a park and make jokes with. Because at the end of the day those relationships are what fucking matter. 

On that note, please, like share and follow! @romanticlowlifefantasies @laurajunekirsch