I’d wager that a lot of us are spending significantly more time on social media these days. I know my phone—where I consume, probably, 80 percent of my social media—is always near which means I’m scrolling through news, sales, hot takes, Michael Jordan truther takes (truly a subgenre unto itself), fake news, unfriendable statements, art and the currently ever-present world of Instagram Live (IG Live). It’s nothing to see various people on my friend’s list going live over the course of the day. You’ve got the night owls who live on the west coast who are doing lives at 4 or 5 a.m. PST when I pick up my phone at 8 a.m. The DJs are playing damn near around the clock covering bases on, what seems like, music for your every taste (that lends itself to a DJ’d function).
But what you see more than anything is people gathering other folks (typically one other person, or if you’re Teddy Riley, a squad) to partake in discussions both structured and arbitrary, music battles or demonstrations. Truly the possibilities are endless. For the record, I think this is dope. The fact that people are able to live-cast their thoughts, words and deeds to everybody and anybody at the same time, especially during a time when some people are itching for personal contact, is welcome and probably therapeutic.
Unless, of course, you are like me and end up scrolling through people’s lives and keep hopping into rooms (they feel like rooms to me) where you’re either the only person there or one of a handful. Saints and aints, that shit is stressful AF. For one, everybody does shoutouts in these IG Lives. I plan on doing one and I can’t imagine that I won’t do the same. It almost seems like a requirement, which is cool except if you’re the only person in the room and you get shouted out, you kind of have to stay. And who wants to be the only person being DJ’d to. Or the only person listening to a convo. It feels weird. If you know them, that shit might as well be a FaceTime call. If you don’t know them it’s even more awkward.
And that’s not to say that the information or whatever isn’t worthy to be IG Live’d. Do your socials, fam-a-lam. It’s just that if you’re the person who shows up to the live, you feel this undue pressure to at least stay, but maybe even participate. It’s like the real live shit of going to the club mad early and you’re the first one there so you stand by the bar, hop on your phone and attempt not to make eye contact with anybody. Nobody who isn’t working the party wants to be the first one there. It’s awkward mostly because for a brief time you’re stuck in this mental quagmire hoping that other people show up with also wanting to leave until the other folks get there, but then everybody (who works there) is going to notice you leaving, drawing even more attention to the fact that you’re either anally early or don’t really go out much and don’t understand how “let’s go to the club!” works.
The same thing happens at panel discussions where you show up and there are five panelists and two people present. The moderators always wait for more people to show up but sometimes that’s more of a hope. I’ve been to several panels like this as a participant and even one panel like this as a panelist. Everybody is hoping more folks show up to justify an event. But everybody does the same thing—get on their phones to kill time without making eye contact. Once you make eye contact, you have to stay. It’s much easier to fake a phone call that you have to take outside and never return if you haven’t made eye contact with anybody. Also, don’t pretend like you haven’t done this shit. We’ve all done this shit.
Here’s the problem with IG Live, we’re already on our phone. And your name pops up. If it’s a structured convo that you’re showing up to, okay. You were there on purpose more than likely so even if you’re the audience, maybe it’s information you wanted. But those loosey-goosey joints, man, that exit game is stressful. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve just been rolling through the lives and somebody is passionately discussing and I see myself as the only one of two people there and my social anxiety kicks in. It’s stupid. I know. But I am who I am and I make no apologies. Plus, if you hop into a solo live with one other person that shit feels like you’ve interrupted a personal discussion. When folks do IG Lives with another person I don’t feel as bad about bouncing.
When you think about it, it’s rather funny. Somehow real-life social norms and anxieties still manage to manifest themselves on social media as we attempt to bring virtual remote living into a norm that still manages to include numbers of people. Listen, it isn’t easy. Even deciding to do a live is risky and brave—you are literally deciding that something you have to say or do is something other people will come to check out. It requires you to step outside of your own comfort zone. And for some people, it requires you to be willing to find out just how far that reach goes. I mean, we’re all on our phones and you have 75,000 followers. Is pulling 100 people going to be a shot to the ego?
That hasn’t been my ministry as of yet, but soon and very soon, mayhaps. All I know is that if you’ve seen me flash into an IG Live briefly and then bounce before you could shout me out, it’s me, not you.
I had to, umm, take a call.