#20 - overthinking my social bio

And why I am changing it every week

I have a thing for bios on social media. I look at bios obsessively. For the brief period, I was on Bumble, my order of interest was: bio, mutual friends, face. I suppose this isn’t surprising given my affection for language and especially how writers unpack complexity into prose. Social bios are different than conference bios, which are longer and squarely achievements focused, conveniently leaving out the tough times inbetween. In contrast, social bios give you more creative liberty to add sass, activism and cheekiness to your persona, and while they are still sanitized versions of ourselves, they can be a window into our aspirational selves; the selves we are becoming in public view.

These days, I am changing my social bios weekly. It is an act of intimacy and self-determination between myself, my phone, and whatever algorithmic fly is on the anamorphic wall between us. Or, at least that’s what I tell myself. While in this liminal dark moon phase, its been a site for tinkering with my identity - allowing me to try on labels with low stakes and let it find a home in my body. Generally I wake up the next morning feeling slightly nauseous by the exposure that I have overblown in my head; dreading committing to an identity that already feels limiting. It can all feel so serious - how we define ourselves to the ‘world’, but sometimes I can catch the amusing flair of this public performance. At some point, when Instagram ceases to exist, I hope they gift me the archive of bio iterations stored somewhere in Forest City, North Carolina, so I can relive the evolution (and crisis) of my public identity.

In some ways, bios can feel like the equivalent of the widely detested (yet still widely used) introduction question, ‘so, what do you do?’ Does anyone ever answer this question without having to compose themselves for a second? Take a deep breath, laugh to stall, or make an awful Dad joke while fishing out something cohesive, interesting, and worthy from an internal universe? Some respond well-rehearsed, reciting their bio like a prayer, and a few don’t flinch, as self-assured as Stonehenge. Often when responding, I find people’s eyes unsteady, which makes sense considering our distaste for this question stems from the assumption that we are being sized up. Our words steadily filtered through a calculation of worthiness. Though our respective math may differ, we are conditioned to light up at the sound of buzzy words (and attractiveness and charm) that designate status in our hierarchal structure. Fundamentally, there is nothing unsound in celebrating achievement and being curious about what abilities, tenacity, and privileges led to someone, who I don’t know, is getting paid $750,000 from a Substack newsletter. The universal cringe of this opening question is our vapid relationship between status, class, and worthiness, and an inherent belief that if someone does not pass a performance test, then their existence and mere being is not a valuable use of time. If you’ve never had anyone immediately scan the room after you’ve responded to this question, consider yourself a person of interest. When we transcend transactional relationships, this question is not all malevolent and can indicate a genuine desire to find a point of connection, of which our work and vocations are sites ripe for this kind of human combing.

My relationship to this question is similar to my relationship with bios - it, like I, is always evolving into new forms and expressions. ‘We die to each other daily,’ says American poet, T.S. Eliot. ‘What we know of other people is only our memory of the moments during which we knew them. And they have changed since then. To pretend that they and we are the same is a useful and convenient social convention which must sometimes be broken.” In the process of unfolding, I am always meeting, seeing, and letting go of parts of myself. Maybe this is my social bio?

Hence, the question ‘so, what do you do?’ gives me so much anxiety. My work over the last almost two decades has been a reflection of following my spirit to participate and create what I need to deconstruct, heal, learn, and integrate to in short, get free. Much less about any respectable career title. When I was self-employed, I cycled through so many career titles, constantly trying on labels for size to be located and understood. Some days I was an experience designer and entrepreneur, and other days I was a cultural producer and community builder. Every time someone would introduce me, it was as if they were gifting me new language to consider on how to define myself.

I struggle to define myself in a social bio because I experience the complexity of my humanity. I know myself as both everything and nothing and accept being an infinite work in progress. I am equally a reflection of all creation nested in a complex and indiscernible web of interconnectedness with responsibility, and floating matter with no specific meaning or purpose except to be here right now. Take what you will with this abstrusity. It is possible I am just a healthy multi-potentialite. Or that I choose not to define myself as a rebellious act against capitalism’s reduction of identity into labor categories and have equated job titles with a feeling of suffocating captivity. Maybe I’ve just never had a title that fully captures and enraptures me.

This is probably why I am so fascinated by social bios and the process of self-definition. How does everyone choose which parts of themselves to centre? Which parts to conceal? The most obvious direction is defaulting to job titles, which I know is probably the majority case - but social bios give us the autonomy to be more than what we do. Even when considered through the frame of capitalism as merely narcissistic self-promotion and routine personal branding, a social bio can tell us so much about what a person might need to feel seen and what they value about themselves. Through the string of language and tone one chooses to use within the few characters available, an ineffable essence is expressed. Am I overthinking this?

When reading social bios, I often wonder whose gaze and interest we are vying for, and how we want to be perceived, liked, admired, or respected. When we decide to be funny or inspirational, straight-forward or coy. If we feel confined or prone to judgment by our social bio, or liberated and proud in owning a part of ourselves publically. If they make us feel like a fraud during creative ruts and tough transitions. When do we decide to forgo a social bio, surmounting definition because either we’re too famous or deliberately mysterious? Like wisdom, a short bio is a potent distillation of a human story. It’s not the full story, and the gaps of paddling through tunnels of heartbreak, grief, tragedy and isolation are no where to be found in any bio, long or short - but its a snack-size story; a piece of chocolate if you will. It is the culmination of innumerable decisions, considerations, reflections, and knowings to succinctly describe the expansive self. For some, it is a place of declaration and manifestation, a righteous claiming of visibility when drowned out by a popular majority. Again, have I completely overthought this?

A few years ago, my mom and I participated in a play produced by Why Not Theatre, called ‘Like Mother, Like Daughter,’ which featured us live having unscripted conversations using question cards chosen by the producers. The questions ranged from everything to ‘what business would we start together?’ to ‘what would you change about how I raised you?’ When applying to participate, I asked my mom for a short bio over WhatsApp to include in the application. She sent it to me without hesitation, which first surprised me and then stunned me. I had never read her bio before. I had never asked, and likely, neither had anyone else. Early on, my dad and her decided she would stay home and raise us. Daycare for three kids was unaffordable, and perhaps it also aligned with their vision for family. Though my mom picked up various jobs over the years — canvasing for local politicians, working at a call centre, and opening a flower shop, no one was knocking on her door to be part of a panel discussion. Without saying so much, I presume most saw her as merely a ‘stay at home mom,’ erasing the complexity of her human story. What is a constant negotiation of public visibility to me, was a reality of invisibility to her.

Self-defining ourselves on the Internet feels like a minimum requirement to participate in capitalism today, which at times is an unpleasant truth that I suspect at some point everyone considers leaving it all behind. But, in a small way, self-defining ourselves on a tiny piece of the Internet, owning the narrative of our visibility, is also a priviledge. Yesterday, I changed my social bio to ‘liberated futures writer, artist, and doula.’ I don’t even know if this makes any sense, but it doesn’t really matter, because I will probably change it again next week.

Much love,

Hima


Clubhouse Convos #1: Decolonizing the mind and body

Next week, Sapna Chitta (artist, teacher, conscious parenting coach) and myself are hosting a conversation on ‘Decolonizing the mind and body,’ on Wednesday, March 31 @ 8 pm on Clubhouse. Decolonizing is a process of unlearning and deconstructing colonial ideas that have shaped how we think and feel and return to our divinity. For Sapna and I, the work is ongoing, and while it can be confronting, is so crucial to our liberation. This is a space to process, share learnings and what is real for you right now, listen, and be held in love and community.

Message me if you would like to join + need a Clubhouse invite.


Audio Experience: Futures of Sacred Space

The second episode of Desire Paths is released! Desire Paths is a six-episode series I am curating with Luminato and FromLater that explores futures of Toronto built by artists.

This episode focuses on Futures of Sacred Space with multi-disciplinary artist, Javid Jah, whose practice is inspired by Sufism and rooted in connecting sacred geometries with metaphysical realms to return us to our origin.

In collaborating with Javid on this episode, I was so moved by his depth of practice and spiritual clarity. We talked a lot about the fallacy of Toronto identifying itself as a secular society and the traditional knowledge lost in trying to ‘include everyone’ versus creating space for folks of different faiths and traditions to take up permanent and meaningful visibility in the public realm. His vision is to see reminders of the sacred throughout the city, giving pause to moving lives to connect to the vast cosmic reality to that which we belong to.

Listen here.