Disenchanted

Love does not exist;
at least, not that
splendid thing described by
the romantic and empathetic.

Now we search for something
to fulfill ourselves, rather than another.
What they give to me is
of import; more than anything
I could give them.

We compare ourselves and,
in a self-serving delusion to force influence,
coach others on how to be
beautiful, or
successful, or
better
like us.

We justify and force ourselves to
believe that sharing our
“success” stories
somehow uplifts others, even
when we spew the same platitudes as
every other entrepreneur.

by Erik Shinker

Meaning

Capable of carrying weight and power, but
only when allowed by the
speaker, the
receiver.

A thump to the chest, the
sinking feeling as
the world rises to crush with
gripping tentacles that drag down to drown.
The decision of whether words drip like venom, or
become a soothing salve for
cracking hearts is
yours, and yours alone.

Words are not inherently infallible,
just sounds and symbols in which we place
meaning.
But don’t over-analyze;
they’re all made up anyway.

by Erik Shinker

Projection

Boast and brag through
false modesty;
post and paste images on your profile
accompanied by hashing tags
in your attempt to influence.

Dragged down by my jealousy,
I am no better.
While I wish your life was as
fulfilling as you’d have us believe, it is
only through spite.

We project ourselves onto others;
the aspects we wish and want,
whether to hide or flaunt.

by Erik Shinker

Data, Mine

A built-in search bar for manipulated memories;
interconnected social media
producing profiles easily uncovered
(with the right information).

Digging through the past, with
digital shovel at hand, seeking to
uncover through the upset pixels:
are the pictures current?
Do we have mutual “connections”?
What do they choose to show the world?

But that isn’t the whole truth.

Hoping to find
something
that reveals whether
this is worth going through with;
if this is time well spent.

But that isn’t the whole truth.

Looking for some reason to drop the conversation;
I cowardly cup the possibility of off-putting
or contradictory information to my chest.

Hoping to find
something
to make it easier when
I lose interest and
decide to disappear.

by Erik Shinker

Seer

A read receipt through
no fault of my own other than the wish to
clear another nosy notification.
A daily deluge,
the multitude of messages unwarranted
and unsought,
from more than I care to count;
all claiming to be different than the rest with
their choice of synonyms being the
only difference.

Click an “X” and close the chat,
your entreaty for “friendship” left in languor.
A sigh of frustration, the folly of believing a
social network could ever be beneficial.

There are actual stresses in my life, so
I do my best to minimize what I can.
Sure, you were nice to meet, but
don’t read anymore into what wasn’t there;
that book’s pages are blank, and will remain so.
the only one who is responsible for your
interminable imagination is yourself.

Yes,
you have been “Seen“;
what more do you want?

by Erik Shinker

Seen

The Seer leaves
a check mark;
read receipt and acknowledgement despite your
wish to remain silent.
A shoulder no colder than those
received and perceived rude in person.

Slumping, staring blank and
worrisome; wont to read too much
into something trifling.
A shrieking emptiness
allowing my imagination to do what it will.

Thoughts meander and find my
worst fears fruitful in their
delusional search for an excuse.
All the practical, reasonable, logical explanations became
too far-fetched to arrest this
terminal spiral.

I have been “Seen”;
dismissed.

by Erik Shinker

Horror Story

I’ll tell you a story,
about a man and a woman,
whose souls never met despite
their complete surrender to each other.

They spoke every day,
slept entangled in one another;
their bodies pantomiming
what they were told by
their parents,
their culture,
and their society was
the ultimate goal.

Intimacy, forced through expectation.
He bragged to his friends about his
erotic escapades;
she doted over her lover’s ligaments
to lady and lummox alike.

They routinely posted online and
kept to a schedule; spreading their
manicured manure in search
of influence.
Tagging pictures of filtered flirtation,
they checked into hot-spots and date nights;
alert to become
the envy of all their
connections and
followers and
“friends”.

But they knew it was hollow.
They lived in fear of losing the game,
the race to the finish line of perfection.
They continued to feed on the
ugliest of emotions;
vampires leeching from
any unlucky enough to
come into contact.

These magnificent monsters
parade and display their
selfishness in a way  to
justify.
Don’t mislabel something
horrible as love.
Fear these creatures;
there is nothing
human
about them.

by Erik Shinker

Posturing

Edit.

Show only what elevates and
discard the real.

Tell others how to live, but
call it “leading by example”.
Coach a life,
whatever that means.

Be the envy;
picturesque products of our
wants and desire.

Hide the snot, and
shit, and
refuse of
who you are;
spew the aesthetic
you would have others
perceive.

Sell yourself, and a
life; if only there was a
Devil to take your soul, but
even he would balk
at your narcissism.

by Erik Shinker

Why Does Everyone Look So Happy?

The following essay is what was published in the 2018 editions of Minnesota’s Emerging Writers: A Nonfiction Anthology and America’s Emerging Writers: A Nonfiction Anthology. I felt that it would now be appropriate to share the piece since I am posting personal blogs . I hope you enjoy it and pick up a copy of either anthology to own not only my essay, but those of my fellow emerging writers in Minnesota and around the United States.

Why does everyone look so happy? This is a question that I ask myself often and it finally has bugged me enough to try and answer. Why does everyone look so happy? I am primarily talking about social media, and I believe the obvious answer is that we are able to edit our lives down into 280 characters or 6-second videos that are bite sized attempts at escape from the dreary and weary troubles which wear us down on a daily basis.

The inherent properties of social media mean we don’t need to have original thoughts because we can share and repost content created by someone else. I don’t mean to say this as something strictly negative, especially because I have done so as well. I think it speaks to the human condition of sharing our lives; the comfort in knowing that yes, things are bad for me right now, but they are probably bad for someone else too. This solidarity through suffering seems to be one of the main facets of why we regurgitate and share the things we see on the Internet and various other forms of media.

But why does everyone look so happy? Are we smiling only when the camera is pointed at us? Do we create situations or go to events simply for the photo opportunity? If I go out to dinner with friends or family, why do I feel like I have to take pictures and post about it as soon as possible? Who am I trying to impress? It clearly isn’t those I am with in person since I took the time to post about the moment rather than thriving in it.

Why does everyone look so damn happy? Are we kidding ourselves? Does the “fake it ‘til you make it” mentality permeate the underlying motivation in our daily activities? Much like photography and film, which are two prevalent types of media on the Internet, what we decide to post and share goes through a process of elimination and editing. I can choose to write a status that would be read how it would be heard if I had said it aloud, but I would be doing that on purpose.

For example, um, if I decided to put vocalized pause and, uh, ellipses… my apprehension becomes apparent because I have crafted the sentence in such a way as to convince you of how difficult it is to say what I want.

I have calculated and chosen what to show you in my sentence and, through this, you don’t get an honest picture of what I am feeling. I can write to tone and inflection, I can change my vocabulary to increase the verisimilitude and wax poetic in order to belittle and condescend if I so wish. I can choose whether or not to tell you that I checked the definition of verisimilitude to ensure that I was using it correctly.

The Internet gifts us with precious seconds or minutes in order to bolster our defenses in an argument, or to google a snippet of poetry or song lyrics to better caption an Instagram post. We have control over what we show others and often that control is relinquished due to the fact that many people don’t often think before they post. Perhaps this is something that I have come across more since starting my own blog; I must be cognizant of my intentions as a writer and the way in which I use my voice, because it is surely not something that was in the forefront of my mind in the last nine or so years that I have had a Facebook account.

So the question is no longer, why does everyone look so happy; the question is, if everyone is able to look so happy, why can’t I? I have watched a few TED talks that cover happiness and self-fulfillment, and from what I have gathered, happiness is something that we must each qualify for ourselves. Now, I realize this might sound a bit like common sense, but I’m not sure that it is routinely thought of as such. When we think about what would make us happy, we generally dream of a better car, a bigger house, the love of someone else, the life of someone else. If only I could make more money, if only I could talk to that guy or girl, if only I could be discovered by a talent agent. We leave so much of this up to circumstance; we blame not ourselves, but the world around us for our lack of contentment in our search for happiness.

I include myself in this and it has taken more than a few harsh, but honest, words from friends and family to make me realize this truth. I am lucky to have such wonderful and strange bedfellows in my life, and their contentment with themselves comes at a different cost than mine. In my family, we talk about picking our battles, and though some may compare it to an ostrich sticking their head in the sand when frightened, I believe that focusing on what is right in front of me rather than all of the injustice in the world will help retain my sanity.

What can I change about my life to make it better for myself and those wrapped up in it? Maybe this means I don’t have intimate knowledge about certain social issues, and though solidarity and empathy are important to me, I also know that I cannot take on the weight of everyone else’s suffering. Perhaps that is the secret known to everyone smiling in those photographs; they are concerned simply with the moment and those around them. We can only change what is in our power to control, and it is through exercising this agency that we can fake the smiles, focus on those around us, and perhaps one day feel the pull of our cheek muscles in genuine glee.