Exposure: Authenticity in the Digital Age
Back in the days when photography development was manual, the exposure process was a mixture of excitement, patience and instinct. Timing was everything, and knowing ‘when’ meant the reward of imagination becoming reality…it meant discovering depth and line and a spectrum of hues and tones. I know these things not because I ever mastered the art of photography, but because as a young girl I watched my father in our basement dark room, sometimes getting it right (and sometimes not).
There have been moments in my life when I have felt exposed, and while it has sometimes been a conscious choice, timing has never had much to do with my experience, unless timing is a reference to a lack of control of it, mixed with a good dose of misunderstanding.
Of course, exposure in an of itself is not negative. Extroverts and performers-in-the-making may enjoy the unsolicited attention. Exposure becomes unwanted when it highlights the shadow side of life unwittingly; it’s as if a light shines on all of the little eccentricities that we hide away in the dark corners because we have learned to be ashamed, fearful of what people may think when they see the whole picture.
With the rise of Instagram and other forms of social media, the imbalance of tonality has been taken to a new level. Those that want to, have every opportunity to fabricate a fantasy avatar while whitewashing over their other attributes; by contrast, those who do not want to be seen in this light are largely forgotten. With an entire generation spending hours of their day consuming content and ideas through digital channels, the danger is that we are eradicating the principle of wholism without even batting an eye. We limit our potential for texture; we become one-dimensional as individuals and as a society. We may even begin to wonder whether all those things that we don’t see on social media are human after all (does everyone still poop?)
The past five years of my own life have taken me through a landscape of full exposure by blogging openly about my liver transplant and life in the hospital, to a recession into my own shadows in the aftermath. Life became complex and overwhelming, and frankly, difficult to articulate on a scale that I felt would be meaningful for anyone but myself. There is a fine line between sharing for the benefit of knowledge and solidarity versus mere complaining; I have always done my best to avoid the latter.
Needless to say, the years since my liver transplant have been arguably the most challenging in my life. Having spent two months in the hospital with many emergency procedures and several harrowing, near death experiences, I had my work cut out for me in the months and years afterwards in overcoming hospital trauma. This coupled with big life changes, including a long process of discovery that my son is autistic, has given me the sense, at times, of being swept away, unable to relate to the highly filtered images of people making shapes in bikinis on beaches. On the face of it though, because I can walk, breath and stand on my hands, most people assume things are going alright. The truth is, sometimes they are, and sometimes they aren’t.
As I grow older and observe the sterilization of a culture due to fear, groupthink mentality, and misuse of technology, I am more and more drawn to honesty. I relish and respect people who have a clairvoyant voice; who speak with simplicity and from experience; who choose to shed skin and expose their shadows as well as their light for the benefit or reminding us that is is okay, even beautiful to just be yourself.
Life is short. My work as a yoga teacher and as a Rolfer was never meant to inhibit myself from being me, but rather, to be honest and grounded so that I could better hold a space for others to release tension; to deconstruct old beliefs that no longer serve; to get lost in exploring new ideas; and to integrate all this in a place that is relevant and at ease.
Nevertheless, somewhere along the way I got lost. Fearful that people would see me as flawed or eccentric and unable to find traction and interest with trends in social media, modern yoga culture, modern family culture and social norms in general, I found myself withholding information when people asked the regular question ‘How are you?’ So as not to lie, my complex story was reduced to an abbreviation: O.K. (outstandingly klunky)
The truth is, I am okay. I’m more okay now than I ever have been, largely because I see value in exposing my challenges and my views; I’m okay because I remember every day what a gift it is to be alive, to do something of purpose. I’m okay because I have been blessed with amazing teachers who remind me to mind my own business and do my practice. All of these serve as a reminder that despite my story, or maybe because of it, I am whole, I am human…and you, with your unique challenges, fears and triumphs, are too.