In early July, I decided to take a short break from my social media apps. I removed them from my cell phone with the intention of keeping them off until the 1st of August. In actuality, I didn’t put them back until this past weekend. Here are some major questions and takeaways that came about as a result:
Am I Connecting?
One of the main reasons I wanted to fast from social media is because I really wanted to take a step back and analyze how much I’m really maximizing it. In other words, am I really connecting with anyone I follow (or anyone who follows me)? Somehow, the idea of following someone’s life and daily activities while at the same time not having a genuine connection with that person really started to irritate me. After all, with social media we’re mainly just seeing someone’s highlight reel. It’s not as if we can really assess a person’s true character, integrity, etc. through what they post on their social media pages. We do get some insight on what they care about, what interests them, and sometimes their deep desires and beliefs. However, if we are only relying on someone’s social media to learn about them, we’re always just going to be viewing the tip of the iceberg of this person.
I like to talk to strangers. Sometimes if I’m out and about and I notice something about someone I come across in passing, I’ll ask them about it. Example: “I really like your hair; what products are you using?” “Where did you get that maxi dress? I can never find one that fits right.” I’ve had a couple of friendships form and grow simply because I asked a stranger a question.
So if I’m able to create connection and friendships with complete strangers out of the blue, then why am I struggling to do the same thing to people on social media with whom I have already established rapport? Even if I did want to initiate conversation with someone regarding something they posted, what was keeping me from doing so? What I came to realize is that, somewhere along the line, I assumed that none of these people (whether friend or vague acquaintance) had any interest in talking to me. I somehow came to this conclusion that, even though people have made a conscious decision to “follow” me and vice versa, neither I or they would be interested in a genuine connection or friendship. Thinking about it, this conclusion makes absolutely no sense. But it’s really funny how we can get so used to “how things are” that we are willing to accept whatever happens to us as fact.
Who Are These People?
It took me being away from social media for a brief period of time to realize that I actually wasn’t familiar with several people that I was following. I was shocked to go into my Facebook friends list and see that I’m “friends” with nearly 1000 people….there’s no way I know every single one of these people. I’m not friends with these people “IRL”, but somehow they (or I) have made the decision to follow their lives. Now, this isn’t to say that I’m not open to getting to know some of these people. But what it does tell me is that a lot of us seem to be obsessed with that follower/friends number. So much so that some of us will follow complete strangers with the hopes of them following us back to increase that number. Countless times I will get a notification about some new person following me. I’ll check who it is and, if I know that person and want to follow them, then I will. If I don’t, I just close my app and move on. Wouldn’t you know that much later (or maybe even a few days later, who knows) I’ll see that my follower number has decreased. I don’t really care to rake through to find out who unfollowed me (because who even has that kind of time) but I can usually assume it’s that stranger who realized I had no intention of following them back.
What am I Allowing In (and What am I Putting Out)?
One thing I’ve been learning from my mentors is how to filter. What am I allowing myself to view? What am I allowing myself to listen to? With whom do I surround myself? A recurring joke I hear is this: If you are trying to catch a cold, then surround yourself with people who have a cold. The same goes for anything. If we want to be positive, if we want to be successful, if we want to be valuable, then we must surround ourselves with people who possess these qualities.
Social Media is no different. If I’m constantly viewing things that aren’t adding value to my life but instead are instilling negative into me, won’t I just put out negativity? If I’m scrolling through my feed and all I see are the horrible things that are going on in the world, what kind of effect is it going to have on my mindset and attitude? I’m not saying that we should all just cut ourselves off from the world and live without a clue of what’s going on around us. We can’t make a change for the world if we aren’t informed. But what I am saying is that I’m not going to stare at 15 different versions of the same tragic news story all day. I get my news and highlights and then I quickly move on. It’s very easy for us to get bogged down by all of this; so much so that it leaves us disheartened, angry, depressed, and irritable. Whether we realize it or not, it does have an effect on how we interact with others and how we go about our day-to-day activities.
This goes for myself as well. Maybe I’m having a really bad day and I want to vent about it. Maybe I just want to get all of that negativity out of my system so I can move on to something else. I think we all know at least one person like this on social media. They have a woe-is-me mindset. It seems like there’s always something in their life going wrong. I used to follow someone like this and, to be honest, it wore me out. While I did sympathize with her situation to a certain extent, I couldn’t deny that her pity party was always bumming me out. What made it worse is that when people would offer suggestions or words of encouragement, she would quickly refute it with more negativity and excuses. Why did she post about this if she didn’t want to talk about it? It’s because she was looking for an outlet, and not necessarily an answer.
I’m in no way discrediting anyone’s struggles. I’m also not saying that you should bottle up your feelings. However, we have to realize that there are much more healthy and productive ways to go about it. For some people, that’s writing all of these things in a personal journal. Or maybe having a confidant with whom you can talk these things through in-person. Or picking up a hobby that allows you to transfer that energy into something positive. Whatever the method is, just make sure it is helpful in getting you through the emotional turmoil without dragging other people down with you. At the end of the day, what you put into yourself is what you will ultimately give out to others.
Am I Personable?
The short answer to that is no. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not very social media savvy. In fact, for a long time I viewed social media outlets as ‘work’. I never felt like posting much of anything to be honest. Even when something great happened in my life, or if I got to witness a pretty cool event, I wasn’t very pressed about posting about it on social media. One reason for this was because I just genuinely don’t think about it most of the time. It’s a habit that I grew a lot more conscious about when I would have in-person conversations with people whom I haven’t seen in a long time. Not too long ago I ran into a friend I knew through high school and college. Despite the fact that I’ve been living in the area for years now, he had no idea that I never moved away! In his mind, I had went back to my hometown after graduating. On another occasion I reconnected with an old friend and she was shocked to know that I had quit graduate school (something that occurred about 4 years ago). And then more recently when I was telling a friend about something my mentor explained to me, she had no idea who I was talking about (despite knowing this particular mentor for about 3 years now).
The only person I had to blame about all of my friends’ lack of knowledge about life was myself. I really hadn’t been making much of an effort to keep anyone informed about what I was doing or what I had going on, whether it was positive or negative. Somehow I thought that sharing all of my accomplishments was just a form of bragging; it would just be a way for me to gain validation and praise from people so I didn’t want to take part. And while I don’t encourage posting overly negative content, it would have been nice to at least share a negative experience I had while also telling how I was able to overcome said experience. While I am still going to be conscious about what I’m posting, I have come to the realization that people do have a genuine interest in me. I can’t say this for every single person on my list of followers, but there are some people who would like to know what I’m accomplishing or experiencing so that we can discuss those things together. I had to understand that I’m not expected to brag about my accomplishments, but to share them with people who have expressed a genuine interest in them.
Overall, I’m really glad I decided to conduct this little experiment of sorts. Having more of an analytical personality, it’s a lot easier for me to assess a situation if I’m able to remove myself from it, take a step back, and just think about it. In any case, I do plan to be more active on social media than I used to be and really work on being more open and personable as those aren’t my strongest suits just yet.