fragments of self

a three dimensional web of green rope against a clay colored background

cw: existential meandering including dread, brief implication of suicidal ideation

A while ago when the social media internet was young, a lot of us tried to find ways to cross-post something from one service to other services; we wanted to either automatically share or easily manually share a post in one place at another place. Like putting your Flickr photo update in your Facebook feed, or sharing your Instagram image post to Twitter. It was ridiculously difficult because none of the services talked to each other, and most of them were — at least at that time — not just a walled garden for users, but walled off from one another as well.

Now, Meta owns both Instagram and Facebook, so it’s not so difficult to share one thing in two places. Some services are adding a simple ability to share content across to a Mastodon account as well, since Mastodon is currently the most talked-about ‘new’ social media, even though it’s one of many ways to access and create content in the Fediverse. (Not to confuse the hell out of you but I migrated my account to a Calckey instance, but it’s almost like using a Proton email account instead of a Gmail account, but there’s no interruption in service because everything forwards to the new account)

The thing that happens after things become temporarily easier because of corporations merging, is that cross-platform censorship eventually results. People do have the capacity to suck in all kinds of ways and in all sorts of places, including ruining nice things for everyone else. For example: today I wanted to post a song from Spotify to an Instagram story — a fairly routine thing that’s easy to do between both services — but found out that I wasn’t allowed to post or interact with anyone else’s content unless I removed the link in my bio. The link in question is a cute little links page that I built on, but for whatever reason, whether spammers ruined it, or heavier state censorship ruined it, it’s no longer an approved link and so I had to take it out of my Instagram bio.

y’all, I hate this.

We left Twitter (well, almost everyone that could, did) and chose different types of new social media to try out and decided what to keep. I started on Mastodon and after I got used to how the Fediverse is meant to work, I felt comfortable branching out and trying new services. And I discovered something that made me incredibly happy — all the services that are using the ActivityPub protocol, i.e. the thing that most of the Fediverse uses, are able to interface seamlessly with one another. So I have an account at a Bookwyrm instance that I’m updating instead of my old Goodreads profile, and since I’ve followed my Bookwyrm account, I can see my book updates and share them to my main account. I have an account at a Pixelfed instance that I’m using to post photos and images, and since I’ve followed that account as well, I can see my photo updates and share them to my main account.

I didn’t want the social media structures we all built together to be ruined, but that’s what is happening to them; or at least, that’s what is happening for me. I’m unhappy that Instagram (Meta, really) made me take out a link, an innocuous enough thing that most people have in their bio. I’m unhappy that I’ve been putting my finite effort into building relationships and community across social media outposts that are no longer usable for me. I’m unhappy that there isn’t an easy way to share the song I’m listening to with the people who might see it on Instagram. I’m unhappy that I had to make a personal ethical choice about using Substack and can’t take advantage of a service that was set up in a way that made it easier to do some of the tricky bits of publishing one’s writing. I’m unhappy that it’s been a while since I stopped using Facebook but so many of my people are still there and I can’t connect with them the way I used to.

to put it bluntly, the self that exists in meatspace and on the internet has become fragmented in a way that deeply upsets me.

I’m not just a queer person, I’m a queer trans person. I’m in danger in most places. There are states in this country that I can absolutely never go back to until history rolls back toward justice, and the timing of that keeps getting pushed further and further out because it’s getting worse and worse here.

I’m also a chronically ill person with a compromised immune system. To manage some of my chronic sicknesses, I had to take a medication that is a chemotherapy drug, so it completely changed what my body was doing. I made fewer white blood cells, and my doctor and I ran right up to the line with that med and then I had to stop taking it because it was making me differently sick. And now my immune system is going to be effectively ineffective for the next three to five years.

The fact that there is a common virus now that is so easy to catch that many people catch it multiple times, and it results in a whole set of chronic life-long conditions, makes it even less likely that I can safely go anywhere for just about any reason.

Building and existing in community matters a great deal to me, but I have to take so many safety measures for myself that I am often alone. During the summer, the complex conditions that include pollen, air quality, UV index, heat, and humidity, mean that I can rarely go outside and when I do go outside, I need to wear a mask. I was wearing a mask before it was cool (ha ha ha cryface dot gif). I don’t attend any of the conventions that I used to be involved in. I don’t go see live music any more. I don’t eat at restaurants. I don’t go for strolls through downtown areas. I don’t drive during the daytime.

So I do my best to look for and nurture community in the places I can still go; with my chosen family here in my house, and with people that interact with me on ye olde internet. Even in my house, I have to stay in my room a lot of the time, with the door shut so my air purifier can do its job, because I’m exposed to simple things like pollen since it sticks to everything and everyone if they go outside at all — which they should all be able to do without worrying about me. Even having a window open is asking for several sick days, which often means I have a sick tummy and can’t eat, my joints subluxate, and I feel like I have a cold with a sore throat and headache and fatigue. It has gotten stupidly, ridiculously complicated for me to exist, and a lot of people in my position would question whether it’s worth it at all.

With the degradation and outright censorship of all the places I used to hang out online, I’ve lost touch with so many people I care about. It’s not as difficult for me to adopt a new service or way of interfacing with the internet and other people, which means I’m often in a new place with none of my old friends, so I need to make new friends. I don’t know if it’s obvious, but I’m fucking neurodivergent, and I don’t know HOW to make friends.

The more I try to show up, the more I have to abandon the spaces I used to be found in. It used to be relatively easy to find me if you wanted to talk to me; I imagine that it’s probably overly complicated to do that now, at least for most people who don’t have the same hyperfixation that I do about learning how to use new software.

to change, things must first break down.

I know this. I know that change means upheaval, on a spectrum from uncomfortable to goddamn difficult. I know that we will all respond differently to change, that we’ll be making choices according to what we think is best for us, and that this means we won’t all end up in the same place as everyone else.

But I miss what we used to have and I’m sitting in my room wishing it was different.

But also? Seize the means of production, my friends. Giant corporations don’t give a fuck about us and will grind us to dust. Know that I’m cheering you on even if you can’t hear me.


featured image is a photo by Clint Adair on Unsplash

Nix Kelley
Co-parent to multiple kids. Writer. Death doula. Member of the Order of the Good Death. Seeker on the Path of Light. Queer, non-binary, & trans.


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