I popped back onto social media the other day to announce that I’ve decided to take another month away. I didn’t make this decision lightly, I mean, I’m trying to build up my business here and what kind of business will it be if not being marketed within social media? However, once this decision was made, I felt a huge pressure lift off my shoulders.
I don’t like who I become when I’m on social media. A friend on Facebook asked me a series of questions in relation to this comment, which I will attempt to answer here. Thank you, Kim for giving me the prompts to dive deeper into my relationship with social media which has been brewing for many years now.
I think a little bit of history is needed first, to illustrate where I’m coming from.
Prior to May 2015, Facebook was my social media of choice. I posted personal details, images and happenings but most of the time I used it to raise my profile. Through this social network, I gathered many friends and associates. Some I knew in person, while the majority, I had accumulated through the years of being a freelance writer. They were my colleagues and growing audience.
I had a thriving blog, where I shared my writing, my practice and my processes in an honest and open way. I’ve always felt that the writing world is a realm of mystery. Through public postings, I had hoped to breakdown some of that, making it easier for others to follow their dreams of becoming writers. I had a large following. Some posts being read by over 500 people. This popularity spurred me on to write and share further. My ego was in the driving seat here, for sure.
This life I created all disappeared after being accused of being a plagiarist via Facebook. This I have written about in detail in my book, rubedo. Through these allegations, I experienced the very vicious side of social media. The anonymity, the mob mentality accompanied with the lack of accountability meant that people said things about me that they wouldn’t dream of saying to my face. This is the beauty of social media; if you’re not using it, it using you.
For a time, I withdrew from public. I needed to heal and to find a way back to me, the authentic me. With creativity being my crime, creativity was also my cure. I started to put my toe back into social media, through Instagram. This was safer. I could share my images without anything coming back onto me. Through different online courses, I re-entered Facebook, but through closed groups only. Protection was my focus. Protection from further scrutiny and attacks. Protection from being hurt again.
Fast forward two years, I’ve come to understand my relationship with social media better. I find it beneficial for me and who I am becoming to take breaks from it. It started as a weekend, then a week and then a month.
I feel blessed to feel part of a community on social media again. I might have less ‘friends’ on there but I do know that what I’m putting out there is coming from the right place. The right place for me, from my authenticity. And if people are connecting with me on this basis then I’m happy about this. Grateful for this.
However, when things start to get on top of me, such as too many negative posts, too many hours spent mindlessly scrolling through feeds, and too many thoughts wishing my life looked more like someone else’s, then I feel it is time to take a break.
There are times that I find social media a distraction; as an illusion but which I’m buying into every time I go on there. I know each platform of social media has their different benefits and drawbacks, yet, I feel at times that there is a constant scrolling through feeds but without really taking anything in. But I think I continue to do so because of that fear of missing out. I continue to do so because I’m not sure how I’d be able to connect with people around the world.
There are the distractions, the happenings, and the glorious technicoloured lives that I wish were mine. There’s the jealousy and the envy. The need to be seen and not be seen. There’s the need to share the good stuff happening in my life and in the process collect the likes, loves and shares. There’s the constant swirling around of news about injustices, inequalities and violence within the world, with comments and shares but which really don’t create change in the real world. This frustrates me.
Yes I’m all vulnerable and authentic out there in social media but this is still just a slice of my life. There is little room to get to know the person, really, deeply on social media. That would take too much effort. And really does anyone see any value in doing so? I do. I miss the face to face experiences of talking to someone, really talking to someone when I spend time too much time on social media instead.
At present, I attempt to show all sides of me. The highs and the lows. But when I get into a funk, I don’t want to be seen, I don’t want the witnesses. But what that really means is that I don’t want to see myself. I want to hide from myself, and being off social media makes that so much easier. And then not so. There aren’t constant updates. There isn’t the need to put voice and an image to my life. I can just be in my reality 24/7 and hopefully through this process of silence and solitude, I can work myself through my funk.
In the first couple of weeks of being off social media, there’s a pattern of taking a photo and thinking straight away, ‘I have to share this on Instagram.’ If this is the only reason I’m capturing this moment in order to post it on social media, then that’s sad. This isn’t the way I want to live my life. I want to pay attention for me to be. To enrich my life, not for likes or comments on social media. Not for validation or recognition. I want to feel whole despite of this, not because of this.
I want to know in myself that I have created something of worth, because I think so, I feel it, not because someone on the internet comes along and says so. It’s about fostering that self-knowledge, self-belief of my own self-worth, independently of what anyone else says or thinks.
I know I still do things in this world for a reaction. To gain recognition, validation and acceptance. Much less than before but that itch is still there. Having time away from social media, aids me in weakening this need for someone else’s approval, at the same time as strengthening my belief in me being good enough just as I am.
Social media is addictive. Addictive in fostering desires for other people’s lives and not appreciating our own lives. In the past, I have used social media mindlessly, using it to fill a void within myself.
At this point, it ceases to be meaningful and becomes an added pressure, an added space in which to perform in a certain way, to a given standard.
I’m attempting to no longer use or be used by social media in this way anymore. I’m hyper-sensitive to the signs. When things start to slide this way, this is when I go on hiatus from social media. I take myself away from that arena, dive deep into my own life and continue the work on myself, away from public scrutiny.
I do come back out again but wiser and stronger each time. Changing in the process, growing and becoming the best version of myself through the process. This is self-care.
When I re-enter social media, I feel more safe and secure and stronger even in feeling that I’m showing up as me. I can once more expand in my own way, knowing that there will come a time when I need to contract again. I accept this cycle, it is part of life. My aim is not to avoid it. As I’ve mentioned before, if I knew of a way to do what I want to do and not be part of social media, I would take it (answers on a postcard would be greatly appreciated. Nevertheless, my aim is to show up in authenticity in the virtual and real world simultaneously.
I live and learn in the practice.