So, somewhere in Australia, there's a bird staring at its own reflection in a window.
Images of the bush stone curlew, which seems to like staring itself in a window of the Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, have gone viral on social media after a video was posted to Instagram by a bird-fan called Ben Carey, who joked that it was a short film entitled 'The Narcissist'.
Bird-based fact, though, tells us that bush stone curlews are largely nocturnal, so don't normally see their reflections, therefore becoming obsessed with 'the other bird in the window' when they do get out and see reflections during daylight hours.
If you don't believe me, you can see the curlew here: http://imgur.com/GnPdqPK
And if you still don't credit the story, you can see something similar all around you without having to travel to the other side of the world. You can see it here. It's a strange thing, writing a blog, which you hope will be published and read. I keep my blog updated - my Diary of a Nobody - and persuade myself it's just a five-finger exercise to keep my creative mind alert. I hope that people will identify a bit with some of what I say and maybe gain some kind of pleasure from what they read. Sometimes there's a bit of introspection; sometimes comments and irony about things that are in the news. Usually there's a strong element of behind-the-lines reference to one of my favourite poems by Seamus Heaney, Personal Helicon; writing about his inspiration and craft of poetry, Heaney concludes: 'I rhyme / To see myself, to set the darkness echoing.'
There's plenty of darkness; just like the bush stone curlew, I'm exploring a reflection, trying to find some kind of meaning, perhaps with the hope of learning something from the exercise. And yet, supposing this really is it? Non-narcissistic exploration of the echoing dark, a brief exposition now and then, which probably hardly anybody ever reads? So much for a life, so much for wanting to be a writer when I grow up...
... and yet, is this not simply typical of how we live these days? Is that lonely bush stone curlew simply not epitomising a way of life? So many of us document our lives on social media. Outings for coffee or cocktails or a meal don't seem to hold any validity at all if they haven't been immortalised on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter. Several friends were on such a night out recently, each posting a photo of the same table of drinks from a subtly different angle, with the same exultant weekend caption. Photos or it didn't happen is the unofficial motto of social media...
We live in the scrutiny of our own reality shows, and we invite the scrutineers along. It's as though we're subject to a public vote or a judge's score for everything we do. How we dress. Where we shop. What we weigh. Whether we still look young. Why we're not doing something more exciting, more rewarding. In these terms I am nobody... invisible in a crowd, a bit like a pair of small silver earrings beneath untidy mid-length hair. I don't have a Sat Nav, but if I did, I'm sure its imperious voice would be constantly shouting at me about roads not taken. But success is not actually definable by the 'likes' of others... true success has more to do with things that other people might not notice at all about your personal and working life. And after all, the photos and the words displayed on social media have all been through the manipulating process of posing, lighting, drafting... other people's perfect lives are not that perfect after all.
Research emerges, every so often, signalling the dangers of the social media world for the young generation growing up with it. There are the dangers of cyberbullying, sexting, grooming and the rest; the waning of the ability to converse, while some of the recent research points to the danger of the death of empathy. I see the point: I see how social media can be all about the scores, the likes, the retweets/regrams, and no thought for fellow feeling or really reaching out.
And yet: I empathise with that bird. Just as that bush stone curlew stares at its reflection in a window, I joke about avoiding mirrors when I can, but yet I blog, I tweet, I look at social media several times a day. I hope that I'll manage to put across my thoughts more clearly in writing than I sometimes can in talk; I hope that what I write will reach out to the like minded.
Maybe when the darkness clears I'll see a reflection which will make so much sense that my eyes will be fixed on it indefinitely. Maybe I'll find the words to explain that to those who empathise. Maybe then I'll 'set the darkness echoing' with reverberations worth hearing.
Until then, I'm just staring at my reflection in a screen.