I go through phases where I have trouble writing, and they can spiral into full-on writer’s block. I’ve found that changing formats helps. Right now, I’ve been staying in the habit of writing daily by microblogging on Instagram, and it’s been great. I’m having trouble putting together the kind of essays I want to, and don’t want to spin out low-quality content for the sake of “productivity” that’s meaningless. Instagram has surprisingly turned into the place where I’m the most comfortable writing. It’s a visual platform, so there’s the issue of choosing the graphic, but that’s not so difficult, and the 2,200 character limit helps me keep my thoughts focused on making specific points. It’s also a social network, and people do re-share my posts to their stories.
On its surface, Instagram doesn’t seem as writer-friendly as Twitter, but I think it might be. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the problems on Twitter are on Instagram as well: The bullies, the fake news, the conspiracy theories, the hatred; but, because the app doesn’t allow people to share content easily, it’s harder to chum the waters over there. I think writing on the platform is an experiment worth trying. I’d also note that my Instagram following caught up to my Twitter follower count pretty quickly, and will probably surpass it soon. Here’s some of what I’ve been writing:
Last summer, I started writing about @kaepernick7 regularly. After he settled his grievance with the NFL and fell out of the news, there wasn’t much to say. That’s changed with his announcement that he’s ready to play. I thought I’d give fair warning that I’ll be #Kaeperwatching, and my content here will reflect that.
Kaepernick looks ENORMOUS in his announcement video, and all the bulk appears to be muscle. Physically, he’s obviously ready to go. The video accomplished its goal: putting everyone on notice that Kaepernick is prepared to play, but its glib tone masks the power of what Kaepernick is doing. For years, he’s been getting up at 5 a.m. 5 days a week and working out without knowing if he’ll ever take another NFL snap. Think of the WILL, the discipline of mind and spirit it has taken to maintain that kind of consistency throughout all the paroxysms. I would have given up. Nearly anyone else would have. Kaepernick hasn’t. That story is missing. It was also missing in the content Kaepernick shared of him at a charity flag football game in April. Other people’s posts showed that he looked a bit uncertain and tight when he arrived. When he got out onto the field with other NFL players, he loosened up. His whole demeanor changed. There was a story there too about where Kaepernick belongs: plying the trade he apprenticed himself to as a child. There is a powerful, emotionally resonant narrative being left on the cutting room floor.
I understand how men can be about their pride and showing any signs of vulnerability. Even so, barring Kaepernick’s short speech, any gym rat could be slotted into his latest video. There’s a lot of ground between that and showing him curled up on the bathroom floor sobbing. There’s a way to communicate the emotional and spiritual journey Kaepernick is on, while maintaining his jealously guarded privacy. And, yes, it can be done in a 1-minute IG video. Something of the mood can be conveyed in a single frame. The strength Kaepernick is displaying goes much deeper than his bulging muscles. Each time he trains, Kaepernick is being defiant. It’s potent and remarkable. It makes the gym the right place to show him. The field, too.
I really didn’t expect the #Kaeperwatch to become so fervent so quickly, but events are occurring! Jay Z’s deal with the NFL includes a social justice component called Inspire Change. When asked about @kaepernick7, Jay Z said, “He absolutely brought this conversation alive. We like to think that the way we build the Inspire Change platform, that if anything close to that would happen in the future, then Kaepernick would have a platform, where he can express himself and maybe it doesn’t have to take place on the field.”
Maybe it doesn’t have to take place on the field.
Kaepernick may have to negotiate the tangle of being offered a spot on a roster in exchange for not taking a knee and grinning next to Jay Z in front of an Inspire Change banner. I hope Kaepernick doesn’t see Jay Z’s actions as betrayal. That would mean he took the show of support seriously. Anyone who knows the history of the shady, gentrifying Barclays Center development and Jay Z’s involvement knew he’d deal with the NFL to help cover its sins if they asked. Kaepernick seriously needs to take to heart that not everyone saying the right thing or wearing a shirt with his name or face on it is really in his corner. He should jettison those shallow pledges of loyalty as any kind of litmus test. It’s easy to put a shirt on. It’s easy to say, “#IMWITHKAP.” It’s not so easy to pass up an opportunity. It’s not so easy to be ethical.
The battle Kaepernick is fighting will become only fiercer if he doesn’t surrender. He needs to audit who is TRULY in his circle of supporters, and be brutally honest with himself about it. The ego bruise will be substantial, I’m sure, but there were people who believed in him and knew how special he was before he was famous. I hope they’re still in his life. If so, he should draw them closer. If not, he should reach out. A spirit-lifting visit to them might be in order. Who has uncomfortable conversations with Kaepernick and checks him when he’s wrong? Who mostly strokes his ego? That line will separate the sheep from the goats. As for the opportunists grasping for proximity to Kaepernick to burnish their images or for come ups? I hope they’re relegated to the fringes.
Reciprocity and compromise are part of every relationship. We can’t always get what we want. We have to accommodate other people. We have to inconvenience ourselves. Pathologically narcissistic people take advantage of this goodwill. There’s always an angle with them — usually something to do with status. Some chase money; others chase fame; others chase social media likes or other forms of attention. Once you figure out what is driving a narcissist, their manipulations to get it generally reveal themselves quickly. Even if you’re wise to it, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re getting over on them by withholding or trying to leverage it. Every time you negotiate with a narcissist, you’ve given them the victory of being in your life and affecting your behavior. Having some measure of influence or control over their targets is more important than the social proof they’re chasing.
The main reason you shouldn’t negotiate with narcissists is because they have no integrity. They’re incapable of acting in good faith. It’s why family members or intimate partners are usually the first or even the only people to see the narcissist’s true face. There are no invigilators or external monitors in the home, and these are what keep narcissists in line. Forming an agreement with another person requires a meeting of the minds. With a narcissist, your mind doesn’t matter. It’s all about them all the time. Most of them employ an assortment of manipulations that mask this, but, if you spend enough time with a narcissist, you’ll notice that you always end up back at square one — you’re trapped in a loop. It’s impossible for the relationship to progress. They’re very limited, emotionally stunted people. They can’t grow or change; they can only fine tune their manipulations or find new people to mirror. You should also avoid negotiations with narcissists, because they will almost certainly involve emotional blackmail and other abusive behavior. The conversation will never be honest, so it’s best not to have it at all. If you have no choice but to engage (e.g., you’re co-parenting with one), set and enforce boundaries of steel.