In the End, which is Best: Curated or Constant Content?

Which is best, the extraverted affair of curating one’s life, or the steady documentation of living for living's sake?

Zoë Edwards by Vai Yu Law

Zoë Edwards by Vai Yu Law

On a summer night in 2014, I was introduced to the idea of entropy. Entropy is a concept that reveals the case for all things eventually evolving from order to disorder. The Universe, for one, is a perfect example. Once a dense mass of hydrogen and helium, it’s now home to an infinity of still-growing matter, expanding at a rate of 68 km/s per megaparsec. And - in our quest to understand our own personal expansions - aren’t we all fighting against entropy?

My question today focuses on how, in fact, we document our lives. And further, which method proves best?

Having grown up as an old soul in a new age, I was born embracing technology. Even still, I appreciate the process of putting pen to paper - it’s an economical version of the air-gapped device. I’ve spent the past 18 years documenting my experiences in hundreds of bloated journals, now hidden in boxes in my childhood bedroom. 

On particularly brave nights, I’ll sit at the foot of my bed and pour over past adventures. Some passages have me chuckling at my naïveté or staring, dumbfounded, at a piece of wisdom that perfectly speaks to a struggle I face presently. That’s the thing about sitting down and recording, relentlessly, that which most greatly impacted you. Eventually, the spines of these journals will press together so tightly that my experiences become universal; what was once thought to be the most unique feeling on earth becomes something at least 30% of us have felt. My existence does not stay mine, but becomes a sliver of the human experience.

At the foot of my bed, everything lives; vivid descriptions of revelations in foreign countries, quarrels heatedly recounted, answerless questions scribbled outside the lines. Everything to ever cross my mind and linger - like leeches on the back of a shark - has been documented. And in turn, each person to pick up these pages and read my words will define me differently. Like sand running through the gaps of our fingers, different grains will stand out to different people. My identity is malleable, but my is existence dense; just like the universe we’re all made up of. 

A curated identity is another topic worth exploring. The year 1826 marked our beginning with the photograph, but it wasn’t until the early aughts that social media nudged us towards thinking about the digital legacy we leave. Through online posts, we create an identity built on a foundation perhaps more porous than one constructed on paper, away from the influence of hashtags and KPIs. On Instagram, everything is calculated; post too much and worry about the “assault” of your constant presence, too little, and
 the buildup of expectation inhibits authenticity from the start. 

It appears we’re consumed more than ever with living for “a moment” versus living in the moment itself. I look at my earlier Instagram posts and am warmed by the carefree nature they possess; often I’d forget to share images until weeks had passed. Now, we plan our lives for their documentation; travelling to “that
 one spot” for the ‘gram, or participating in photography in anticipation of the online reveal.

Of course, documenting one’s life with pen and paper requires more dedication than ever. We’re evolving under the assumption that phones, not pencils, are the ultimate extension of the self. This highly-edited curation of life has become such a part of modern
 culture that even weddings and birthdays coax themselves into your “feed” with targeted hashtags and photobooths.

With journaling comes privacy, something that offers space and patience before it is defined. Your 800 followers will not be reading your journals, but if somehow they did - would they not be seeing the bigger, more authentic picture of what makes you real?

We return to my question: which is best, the extraverted affair of curating one’s life, or the steady documentation of living for living's sake?

I look back at my past social media musings and smile at a girl who wanted everyone to like her. Read my diaries, however, and you’ll find more of the same, peppered with the refreshing inner dialogue of a girl still figuring it all out.