Words and Collage by: Dil Kaur
Getting to know your virtual self is strange. In person, there’s no tiny frame in your field-of-view mirroring your very being.
Social interaction tends to start the same way — an endless slew of “hi’s” and “how are you’s” from person to person, checkpoint to checkpoint. But now, we tend to follow this with “is my mic working?” or “can you hear me?”
Before, you spoke in the presence of someone listening (we hope), now, you rewatch that same clip thirty times to make sure you didn’t say anything weird before it goes on your Instagram story. Have you heard your own voice for that long before?
Presenting yourself virtually makes you confront your physical self pretty harshly. Natural movements like blinking are now an odd tic that you think you do too much. But do you? Or are you only seeing it now? How many times did you blink during that Zoom presentation? Is this how people really see me?
It is strange. Sometimes apps don’t mirror your appearance. My red streak is on the wrong side of my head, but my friends say I look fine. Sometimes the internet cuts off before I deliver my punch- line, the joke is ruined and your presence loses its ephemerality. A fleeting thought is now a Facebook status you want to delete after three hours. You say something as you think it, now it has 30 retweets and five hate comments.
This isn’t new. We’ve been presenting ourselves online for a long time.
I wasn’t allowed out much when I was younger. Internet forums were my solace — sites for interaction outside the world I knew. Now we seek the world we already know on our screens, craving the comfort it brought in legitimising our physical selves.
How do I deal with the fact that my classmates don’t know how perfect my winged liner is everyday? How will they know how fucking cool I am? Am I still cool when no one is looking?
But they are looking.
Is it weird to have makeup on at home during a global pandemic? Do they think I’m trying too hard?
What does my background say about me? Is it weird to set up a backdrop?
I think it’s best to just be normal? But what is my normal?
We’re all looking for a new normal. This isn’t just about staying at home and not seeing your friends for a while. Normal has shifted. The world looks different now.
But the person in the mirror feels the same.