Instagram and the Visual Way of Life

Last week, I started an account on Instagram, and then I had an immediate dilemma. It's so visual!

Maybe you looked at those sentences and blinked, read them over, thought, “What?” Let me try to explain. I'm an auditory-kinesthetic person. I do my best when I'm hearing things. Music has always been extremely important to me. I sometimes have trouble in social situations, especially groups, because I'm very sensitive to energy in the room. I know that sounds New Age weird. Let me just tell that if I went to a party, and a day later, you asked me to describe what people were wearing at that event, I probably wouldn't know. However, I could tell you what people said, and I could give you my take on the dynamics in the different interactions in the room.

I think that I was born with this predisposition, but I also believe that I didn't help myself when I was young. In third grade, I was diagnosed as nearsighted. The first time I wore glasses to school, the boy seated in front of me, turned around and said, “You look like a librarian!” That's when I decided I would rather look the right way rather than be able to see. Writing that down feels so horrifying now, but that is what I believed.

I would so love to go back in time and listen to that boy's voice now. Was he, as I thought at the time, truly appalled at my looks with my new frames? Was it just a clumsy way to try to connect? Regardless of his intent, I wish I could have said “Thank you” and really mean it. I wish I could have taken that as a sign and pursued work as a librarian in my adult years. I think I might have enjoyed it. Of course, I would still be writing books on the side. But I would also be an advocate for books all day long. That sounds like that might have been a terrific thing to do.

In some parts of the school day, I could get by with not wearing my glasses. But in math class, the teacher wrote the homework problems on the board, and I couldn't read them. I would have to ask someone if I could copy their paper later on. No one ever said, “You were in the class. Why don't you have it?” They were fine with it, but it put an additional stress on me. I was also the type of kid who wanted to get her homework done and in on time. The math teacher would often explain concepts by working on a problem on the board. I missed a lot and spent a lot of time trying to figure things out by myself, told myself I hated math, and still refused to wear my glasses.

Then contact lenses became commonplace, and that solved my problems for a while. It turned out that I had sensitive eyes, and in my adult years, I returned to glasses, but this time I was happy to do it. I'm an introvert. As I mentioned above, I sometimes have a hard time in social situations. They can feel overwhelming, but now I can hide behind my glasses.

It seems somehow right that my mate, Mike, is highly visual. He's a photographer. How things look is important to him. He sees when colors are wrong or things are crooked. He loves having a beautiful home. Often he has to tell me when he has changed something, even something as evident as a red-and-white checked tablecloth. Otherwise I might not notice it for weeks.

It has been challenging as a writer. I was in a writing group one time, and the leader said, “Close your eyes.” She said, “We're going to go around the room. Keep your eyes closed. When it's your turn, describe this room.” I had been in that group six month. I had to say things like, “We're sitting on carpet,” while the person next to me each time described something in the room in great detail. It's humbling. I now try to go into rooms and list things in my head and consciously notice things. It's also been embarrassing with people because I often don't remember faces. I do my best. When they come up to me and call me by name, I hope that if stall, tap dance, listen to their voice for a while, I can come up with a context and be able to identify them. It's not anything personal. It has happened with people that I've known and loved for years. It really is not you; it's me.

So lately I'm finding that social media has helped me with this issue. When I ventured into Pinterest, I had a revelation. Collecting images is comforting. I marveled at how satisfying it felt to gather them up and present them as a way to “talk” about my interests and my passions. It's made me look at things more.

This week, starting Instagram, I felt momentarily panicked. Here I have to create images. People just do this on the fly. At first I thought Mike would have to take all my pictures. But then I got into it. And now I'm starting to say to him, “This is something I should put on Instagram.” I'm beginning to recognize the importance of visual moments. (It helps that Instagram has captions. I really like that I can write captions.)

Anyway, if you would like to follow me on Instagram, I'm there as Wendy Ledger Author. I'll follow you back and look forward to seeing what you're doing there, too.