The joy of being ‘invisible’ on social media

I have decided to be a spectator, rather than a participant, but I often wonder if there is a price to be paid for this invisibility.


Anamika Chatterjee

Published: Tue 22 Dec 2020, 12:11 PM

In the age of social distancing, every phone call from a familiar number feels reassuring. When a friend from Delhi called to check on me after months, I was initially moved by her concern. That was, until she said, “I was worried because I have not seen you being active on Twitter or Facebook this whole month.” Now, good intentions are always welcome, but I wasn’t sure how silence on social media could possibly be read as something gone wrong. I am no less opinionated now than before, it just so happened that I have decided to keep my thoughts to myself or journal them, as many experts have suggested we must do to make sense of our lives during the pandemic.

Being an extrovert, I have had every reason to love social media. This is where I remained connected with old friends, teachers, neighbours, their first and second cousins, and received their validation on every rant I put out. I had a particular liking for those who disagreed with my views simply because they facilitated arguments. For instance, for every post I would write on Satyajit Ray’s greatness, there would be one or two friends who’d make a case for another Bengali auteur Ritwik Ghatak, and then we’d collectively dissect each filmmaker’s legacy. The joy was in killing time.

Social media has been my escape from all empty moments, including the ones that send a chill down our spine (EMIs, health, and other wealth worries). And while it may not necessarily enhance our view of the world, it surely offers a peek into what others might be thinking. Sometimes, these can include nuanced observations and, at times, can be plain hyperventilation. And both, mind you, can catapult you into fame.

We say this is the beginning of the digital age, and yet there is a small tribe that has discovered a love for silence on social media. Look at your friends’ list — there will be two or three odd friends who are very much ‘online’, but would rather be silent. This does not mean they are any less opinionated, they are simply invisible consumers of the medium. I am one myself. While the temptation to argue continues to be as strong as ever, I find rationalising and debating in person much more soothing than ranting on Twitter, simply because views are breaking there by the minute. I have decided to be a spectator, rather than a participant, but I often wonder if there is a price to be paid for this invisibility.

Not too long ago, Nosedive, a hit episode from the popular Black Mirror anthology, had explored what it could mean to live in a world where others’ validation makes or breaks us. It revolved around a young woman’s obsession for ratings that did not allow her to be ‘herself’. We aren’t very far from that dystopia. One has already heard of how not being validated on social media cause teens to have a distorted sense of self or how ghosting can lead to depression and anxiety. Remaining invisible then is simply an act of self-preservation. Of course, there is a price to be paid — in a world where Instagram handles act as substitutes for visiting cards, your ‘currency’ will be determined by the number of followers, rather than the quality of your thought. But then perhaps one could take heart in the fact that s/he will have something worth retaining, something that’s not for mass consumption. —

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