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My Obligatory Manifesto

Why I don't post anything to Instagram.

Hello and thank you for clicking on the link that I probably sent you in a DM after you asked me what I look like. During the pandemic, I found myself typing out some version of this several times over as I met new friends, and doing it this way seemed like a better alternative so here we go!

I'm a weirdo, but not the bad kind.

I have always struggled with body dysmorphia and on top of that, I developed severe agoraphobia and was professionally diagnosed over 20 years ago. I don't leave my house anymore.

It started with a consistent state of unease when I was a child and it only got worse, with a crescendo in my late teens and early twenties. The first debilitating panic attack I had caused me to back out of being the best man in my best friend's wedding -- the day of. I didn't know what it was. I just thought I was sick or something. And then the flood gates opened.

The panic attacks started happening constantly. Going into grocery stores, gas stations, movie theaters -- anywhere there were people. I eventually couldn't even ride in a car from point A to point B, or stand on my front porch during the day.

It's not the world that bothers me, or the sunshine, or the open air. It's how I perceive my own physical form and the absolutely insane barrage of shit that fills my brain whenever anyone looks at me. I can't stop it. It feels like a form of schizophrenia (as I understand it) and it builds until I soak myself in sweat, shake uncontrollably, and have the gnarliest intrusive thoughts that you can imagine.

I eventually just stopped trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. I flipped a switch and I stopped fighting against the current. I made a decision in my early thirties to transition out of the physical world in its entirety to live my life digitally. To you, I will only exist as my thoughts and my voice, forever. I will probably be a mystery to you on some level in perpetuity. Hopefully that's okay. If it's not okay, I get that.

I am transdigital.

I don't have a webcam. There are no pictures of me online from within the last decade. Any friend that I've met within the past 7 years has never seen me. My wife, who I met right before this started happening to me, has become the only human being that I interact with physically.

It feels supremely cringey to create a label out of thin air to assign myself, but transdigital feels apt. I'm in the first generation of human beings that can live comfortably and successfully without presenting their physical form to the world.

The trans prefix comes with a history of hatred and struggle that I'm not a part of. I don't belong to that community in any capacity other than as an ally. I'm a standard CIS white male. Labeling myself as transdigital just seems like the shortest description of my who I am that is available and feels accurate. Also, it sounds cool and cyberpunky, which appeals to me, because I'm a huge fucking nerd.

The normies invaded my turf.

I've been on the Internet since 1993. The ability to be social without having to engage with the physical world appealed to me for obvious reasons. It was great. Everyone had a nickname and there weren't any pictures, selfies or otherwise. The term "doxxing" comes from this era because, unless someone made their own personal information publicly available on purpose, discovering anything about someone's real life was both rare and considered a triumph.

I felt like I was a part of a secret utopia; it was a relatively small community of like-minded nerds. It was great while it lasted, but it didn't last long. Technology was rapidly progressing. Bandwidth was getting cheaper and high speed Internet services were spreading. Digital cameras were becoming better and more affordable, and then videos started flooding onto the Internet. I felt the tide shifting away from a world of anonymous geeks and into the photogenic masses on social media platforms.

Gone were the days of cartoony avatars and cool lowercase nicknames. The Internet was flooded by a deluge of real names, pictures, and videos -- normal people with normal families living their normal lives for everyone to see. It became harder to find the pockets of personable nerds that I had plucked so many friends from prior. I started to feel like an alien once again.

I realized most people are cool.

The Internet is certainly not what I want it to be. There are real problems with bots and vile assholes leveraging our freedom of speech, to create false narratives, unchecked, in exchange for gobs of money. It feels how I'd imagine it feels for someone to see black mold inching up their closet's back wall. Sometimes it feels like the aftermath of a gut punch. I miss when it was just fun here.

But if you can tame the nausea, the Internet can still be a great place. I'm still in love with it and I'm still finding ways to meet and become friends with fellow nerds and creatives. And when I tell them about my way of life, they're always way more understanding than I'm initially prepared for them to be. They joke about me being a computer, or a secret agent, or in witness protection -- but it's all playful.

This period of my life is pretty great. I'm relatively happy, successful, and my creative output is exploding. And with each passing day, it's getting easier to live digitally.

I sometimes wonder if I'm at the head of a giant wave of people that will eventually realize that instead of using photo manipulation tools to make themselves feel acceptable, it's easier just to ditch the physical form and stop worrying about it altogether. Honestly, I kind of hope not. Not because I think a life like this sucks, but because I'm sure anyone else would be giving up a lot of things that make them happy to live how I live.

This life suits me perfectly because I truly do not miss much of anything about the physical world. IMAX movie theaters, and watching and listening to storms and waves at the beach, and that's basically it.

I also sometimes wonder if the pendulum is going to swing back towards an Internet of nicknames and relative anonymity. For the sake of the world, honestly, I kind of hope that it does because this shit can get scary sometimes when people know who you are. But even it doesn't, I think things will be okay. Most human beings seem to be generally progressive and good people.

In closing, I don't have a house full of garbage.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Hopefully I've convinced you I'm not a hoarder, or in witness protection, or some kind of sentient artificial general intelligence.