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Hiba Essa Al Ateek: An edited fraction of our story
March 20, 2015
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She woke up on the wrong side of bed. She stressed over unfinished errands, chores, a recent career shift and body issues. She wasted the next hour scrolling away through Instagram photos and Facebook statuses. An hour turned into two. She “liked” them all after analysing them a little too close.

She didn’t realise she had started to envy their lives. She thought to herself: Their pictures were nicer than mine. They had more likes on their photos. Their number of followers increased almost daily. Their lives were more interesting. I want their lives.

She needed to feel better. She made herself a cup of coffee. She cleared her coffee table. She waited for the perfect sunrays to shine through her windows. She stood in a strategically memorised angle and posture to get the perfect shot while she avoided shadows of her new mug. She then added her recent birthday purchases so effortlessly in the “square.” The red soles of her new shoes were targeted – an inch on the top right corner. She then spent a good 10 minutes finding the perfect filter. The decision was tough. Valenzia? F2? M5? B&W? Because, you see, those were voted as filters that made you insta-famous. But first, she visualised her feed and decided if her new picture distorted the flow of images (Oh horror!).

Next, she wrote a caption as if it were going to be graded by her English teacher in high school. She raved about her shopping experience the night before and that she couldn’t wait to enjoy her coffee and her new shoes. Hmm, but wait … she had a problem. It was only 9am. It was too early to post and many would miss her picture. She waited another hour. She refreshed the screen over and over and grinned as the numbers increased. 50 likes. 76. 179. 200! This was a new achievement. Her day was made. She won the lottery.

She was accepted. (Otherwise, she would have deleted it and reposted it with a different filter). Strangers commented, “Your life is perfect,” “I want to live your life.” That dose of social acceptance was enough to keep her high for a few hours.  She forgot to drink her cold coffee.

Hi, it’s me again. That image I described is real. It happened. Okay, I exaggerated a little. The desperation to be accepted online forced me to imagine a life where the number of likes we received in a given day didn’t exist – don’t worry it was only a hypothetical study.

The withdrawal symptoms were quite harsh on humans. People drank their coffee before it turned into iced coffee. They no longer stood in 90 degree angles to perfect those flat lay pictures. People got to know family members in person. They discovered they had hobbies and were talented – 24 hours in a day didn’t seem too short.

They noticed flowers blossoming and they appreciated natural light for purposes other than digital forums. Photos were printed and placed in photo albums. But also, businesses suffered. Communities were lost. People lost inspiration and the creative outlet. Oh, and meals no longer looked like they were Kinfolk or Pinterest inspired but tasted just as good.

The truth is, this little globalised world of an application pulled cultures together. It brought people together and encouraged many to be who they wished to be, or at least worked towards it. Many met kind-hearted people in person to become people they called and cried to at 4am. People shared the beautiful and the messy.

We needed to capture fragments of moments arranged so peacefully since it was an escape from a reality where all the yoga, meditation and coffee in the world can’t soothe.

Baggage existed behind all those little squares. Ugly and harsh battles were fought. We needed to remember that their feeds and ours was by no means the whole story; it’s an edited fraction. And that was okay.

We were real and authentic online so long as we worked toward our purpose of a judgment and comparison free community. We went there to escape the stress and rush in our lives. I guess sometimes we published things that would have otherwise been washed away unnoticed.
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Hiba Essa Al Ateek is an Emirati woman who swapped the
corporate world in Dubai for life in bustling Paris. Hiba is a
self-confessed coffee addict who, for the remainder of her journey
in France, is determined to master the French language and discover
what it really means to be a Parisienne in the 21st century.

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