Maya Man Is Escaping The Instagram Identity Crisis

The artist on being perceived and burying her past self online.


At my first job out of college, I engaged in the forbidden and began dating my coworker. We worked at the small and mysterious “creative” arm of a large technology company. Terrified of the gossip it might spur amidst our open office plan, he and I kept it a secret. The classic tactics: different names for each other in our phones, staggered arrivals through the office door, and of course, no posts on Instagram, not even a surreptitious soft launch. At first, this seemed like a necessary precaution. What if everyone found out we were seeing each other just for everyone to find out, weeks later, that we broke up? But even as the relationship became more serious, we kept it classified. In an office culture that boasted a friendly, everyone shares their weekend plans kind of energy, I became aloof, never revealing a single detail about my love life. I desired everyone to see me as a young, promising professional rather than someone else’s 22-year-old girlfriend.

Although we tried to be careful, at times we were sloppy. One weekday morning after spending the night at his apartment, we boarded the C train together. Our gloved hands touched as we gripped the metal pole in the train car, we exchanged remnants of last night’s dreams. “But do you remember if he was someone you actually knew or if he was a stranger?” I asked. Suddenly, his eyes widened. “Jake,” he whispered. I turned around and I see him too, our coworker steps away. We sprang apart. I quickly shuffled to the opposite end of the car and buried myself in a book, unable to actually read anything over the pound of my heart beat. At the next stop, I bolted out, switching to the car ahead. Did he see us? Would he tell? I longed to erase the incident from his mind and my own. We never rode in the same train car to the office again.

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