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Writing to the World: Navigating The World Of Social Media As A Poet
Contributor
Written by
She Writes
October 2019
Contributor
Written by
She Writes
October 2019

This guest post was written by Jasmin Kaur, author of When You Ask Me Where I'm Going. As a poet sharing her work on Instagram, she discusses the highs and lows of going public with her art and how the ever-changing landscape of social media impacts her work. 

About the Book

Perfect for fans of Rupi Kaur and Elizabeth Acevedo, Jasmin Kaur’s stunning debut novel is a collection of poetry, illustrations, and prose.

scream
so that one day
a hundred years from now
another sister will not have to
dry her tears wondering
where in history
she lost her voice

The six sections of the book explore what it means to be a young woman living in a world that doesn’t always hear her and tell the story of Kiran as she flees a history of trauma and raises her daughter, Sahaara, while living undocumented in North America.

Delving into current cultural conversations including sexual assault, mental health, feminism, and immigration, this narrative of resilience, healing, empowerment, and love will galvanize readers to fight for what is right in their world.

Writing to the World: Navigating The World Of Social Media As A Poet

As an artist, I have a love-hate relationship with Instagram. These days, more often than not, the scales tip towards disdain, given the way Instagram’s algorithm changes mean that most of my audience doesn’t easily get to see my work. It’s a point of frustration shared by most Instagram-utilizing creatives who I’ve interacted with recently. But it wasn’t always like this. Once upon a time, when I was a fledgling poet in search of community, I came to Instagram because it seemed like the place to be heard and find work that spoke to me.

Entering the Instagram Landscape

I made my first Instagram account in 2012. At the time, I had just fallen in love with poetry, both as a fan and a writer. I’d spend hours on YouTube searching for spoken word pieces about everything from love to loss to social justice. Experiencing the power of poetry as a performance, my horizons were expanded, and I would return to my own journal or writing app inspired and ready to contribute to the craft. When I first dared to share one of my poems on Instagram, my account was private, and it would stay that way for many years. I loved the idea of sharing my work online but was frightened by the notion of strangers reading my work. For a long time, I shared my work anonymously on Tumblr, which was, at the time, the place to be if you were a poet or a poetry reader. Tumblr felt like a safer, more insulated world than Instagram. It was a place where I could build enough separation from people who personally knew me to build a positive relationship with my own vulnerability. If contemporary poetry writing is a craft of being candid and bearing your soul, it isn’t surprising that so many poets, like me, have been nervous to go completely public with their work.

Going Public

When I finally created my public Instagram account in 2016, it came with a flood of complicated emotions. On one hand, I felt like I had just exposed myself to the eyes and attention of everyone—an unsettling feeling for any solitude-loving introvert. I was anxious about how strangers would react to my work, especially men in my community who I was certain would treat my public platform as target practice for their anti-feminist aims (I was right). On the other hand, I was certain that this step was long overdue. For years, I had followed the journeys of my favourite poets on their public social media accounts and long to have the same courage to share my voice so openly. I had witnessed Rupi Kaur share “the period post” and face the ire of misogynistic internet trolls while remaining true to her convictions. The memory of this moment and others propelled me to take the leap and no longer limit my growth as a poet. By 2016, I had performed poetry in three different countries and over a dozen cities, but I had just started my journey on social media.

The Pressure to Build an Audience

I spent a lot of time feeling a strange sense of guilt about not having created an Instagram account sooner. Perhaps, it reflected the pressures placed upon creatives to produce content for the internet in order to remain relevant. I would wonder whether I’d missed my moment, whether I should have started building an audience sooner in order to have had a chance at being heard.

I had to continually return to my purpose as an artist and writer: I wanted to build human connection through my work. Where social media often teaches us that our worth depends on our output and onlookers, I wanted to use it as a platform for building community. Like many people in my generation, I’ve found some of my closest, most meaningful friendships on Tumblr, Instagram and Twitter (to the perpetual fright of my mom. I can’t exactly blame her, though). As a poet, social media has allowed me to personally connect with fellow writers who I once could have only admired from a distance. I’ve met writers and readers who resonate with my work around the world and the concept is still mind-boggling that my words can have such distant reach.

The Future of Social Media and Art

Instagram’s algorithm changes have, arguably, been set in place to monetize the platform and push content producers to invest money in advertising. While using Instagram today feels like a constant struggle to be seen by my own audience, I first fell in love with the platform because it seemed like an open space to share my truth on my own terms. Social media has changed the way artists—especially artists of colour—are able to craft their narratives. We no longer live in a world where the worth of our stories and voices as people of colour must be filtered through gatekeepers in order to be heard. We no longer live in a world where community-building among poets can only take place locally. Instagram, at its very best, can be a space where ideas and creativity are shared among our found communities. With my debut poetry and prose collection finally in hand in a very physical way, I still have a deep-rooted love for sharing work through the internet, for sharing at a world-wide scale with the click of a button. Will I always be sharing on a Facebook-owned platform? Only time and the next social media innovation will tell.

About Jasmin

Jasmin Kaur

Jasmin Kaur is a writer, illustrator and poet living on unceded Sto:lo territory. Her writing, which explores themes of feminism, womanhood, social justice and love, acts as a means of healing and reclaiming identity. As a spoken word artist and creative writing facilitator, she has toured across North America, the UK and Australia to connect with youth through the power of artistic expression.

One of The Tempest’s 40 Women to Watch in 2019, her work has been celebrated at the American Music Awards by musical icon Jennifer Lopez and shared by celebrity activists, including Tessa Mae Thompson, Reese Witherspoon, Cara Delevigne and Sophia Bush. She has been featured in Harper’s Bazaar IndiaHuffington PostThe Indy 100KaurLife MagazineSikh Formations Journal and other publications.

Her debut poetry and prose collection, When You Ask Me Where I’m Going (October 2019), is now available with HarperTeen in North America and will be published in the Indian subcontinent by Penguin Random House India. ​

You can find her on Instagram at @jusmun.

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