For the longest time, I had a cartoon avatar on my social media profiles. On the few occasions, it was not a cartoon; it was a poorly taken photograph of an object that was significant to me at the time or my logo, one I badgered a cousin of mine to design for me. I revelled in the anonymity. I only talked with the people who had my number and knew who I was in real life.
Once about eight months ago, I put up a photo of myself on a whim, and I ended up making a new friend, whom I later hurt in a fit of childish misogynistic behaviour. I took it down later and went back to my hiding ways.
My Facebook profile only has my name and the company banner. I deleted my Twitter account and only recently came back to WhatsApp (for a job role that went to someone else, so it turns out I still do not need a smartphone).
Part of the reason for this was to hide from the consequences of what were spectacularly poor decisions. I was cowardly pre-empting the fallout. A bigger part was because I have never been comfortable in my skin and to assuage this feeling; I made sure as few people as possible knew me well and even fewer saw me.
If you cannot see me, then I cannot be ugly and for a long time, I felt ugly. I have been working through my self-esteem issues for about three years now. That, the low self-worth, could be the reason why I never applied myself in pretty much all my romantic encounters.
I did not feel deserving of affection and love and so, subconsciously and otherwise, I found ways to ruin those relationships. It would have been much simpler to admit that I was dealing with some problems and even ask for help, but we are all wiser in hindsight and by this time, it is almost always too late.
About two weeks ago I decided to update my avatars to a picture of myself! I was not expecting anything to happen, just the usual close friends making the token comment about it and the obligatory why. Instead, I: got contacted by people who had never taken any initiative to keep in touch, added to a group I had quit and numbers I lost years ago popped up. I was no longer invisible.
It was thrilling and daunting at the same time. One of the people who got back in touch wanted a favour, most of the others were just newly curious. Can a simple picture change that much, even significantly alter the dynamics of interaction?
Why now? It is time to stop hiding. I have done a lot of good things in the last six months. I have also behaved recklessly and done a lot of stupid things in that same time. I reiterate that acknowledging my crimes is not enough and even in admitting my awareness of them I realize I have a lot to do to make things better.
It feels like I am standing on the edge of a cliff, with the noisiest and quietest parts of my mind both urging me to jump, to dare to be seen and to reach out to the people I have hurt and the ones I have neglected. I feel glued to that same edge. One of an old friend’s favourite sayings is “Leap and the net will find you”. I have leaped, showing my face again, realizing that I cannot hide for any long span of time.
Might be I will go back to Twitter, although not in the capacities of days past. I will just link the account to my blog(s?) in a way to lazily drive traffic. It goes back to what I touched on: if I am unseen, I cannot be unsightly, just like my work. You cannot judge the invisible, another layer to the cocoon, protecting a butterfly with already good wings. But, small steps, small steps.