A lot of energy is spent by people on social media, complaining about social media. Have you noticed this? We fight algorithms that don’t help us grow a business. We shout at one another for not living to an unwritten standard that only we define the parameters for. We read meaning into tweets simply not directed at us. We feel bruised by perfection but don’t want to feel miserable at all the reality being shared either. We detox, delete apps, take time out, make rules and lists and goodness me, don’t we all like a group message safe from prying eyes?
And yet, I adore being online. I do understand the frustrations, I really do. I fall victim to the same self-comparison or prickling discomfort about myself more often than I’d like. Still, I’d be sadder for not having these phrases and images delivered in a messy tangle that give me a little glimpse into somebody else’s day. Whether they’re curated or off the cuff, these snippets provide an insight into a life I’m not living and gives me the same feeling I get from hearing neighbours close by. It’s comforting to know other humans exist even if sometimes you yearn for that mute button facility.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own role in feeling good online. In the past, I’ve invested a lot of emotional energy into the potential for others to make me feel small. If I expect to only find bad online, then perhaps that is all I will find? Perhaps then, the catalyst for change needs to be me.
I’ve been following Nayyirah Waheed for some time on Instagram. The fact I follow her there, a place often described as toxic and inauthentic, seems particularly apt to me. Instagram is the place I go to for messages of love these days and this one, with its all-encompassing call to love ourselves is just the balm I seek.
What if we took that sentiment and started that revolution? What if everything we shared was pure self-acceptance that burst from our photography, our captions, our tweets and our posts? What if in the face of what someone might think, we just quietly shared whatever the heck we felt good about that day? Better yet, what if instead of investing in the potential for others to make our efforts seem worthless, we took that focus away and turned to ourselves for comfort? If I am at peace with myself, you can’t break me. That’s a solid truth.
If the things that made you feel good was lovingly scattering around your breakfast things to make them look even prettier in the image? I hope you enjoyed that moment with yourself. If that idea feels too indulgent and contrived and you just shot in the moment, good. I hope that moment found you filled with a cast iron self-determination that made it all the more powerful in its spontaneity. It’s ok to occupy your online space. You don’t apologise for furnishing your home how you wish so criticising someone’s right to self-edit their online home seems wrong to me. Create the space you wish to exist because I promise you, others need to see it too.
I want to be honest here and admit to not always sharing with joy. I’ve been ugly once or twice online and regretted it instantly. I recently had my first experience of intentionally subtweeting. It left a bad taste in my mouth like wine gone sour and I won’t be doing it again. We won’t always bring joy or get it right. It’s the same as any social interaction in that sometimes we have to graze our knees to figure out it doesn’t feel good to take that path.
I’m saying all of this as someone who is fully aware of the crappier sides of the social media experience. I have a hard boundary around not opening up any app on a day I feel too likely to bruise. However, sometimes it’s the painful experience of bruising that has given me strength. Hear me out:
What if that self-acceptance began with the liberation of sharing your story however the fuck you wanted at the time as a direct result of feeling like you shouldn’t? To put it another way, when you feel like you’re being judged anyway, what the hell do you have to lose? As someone who has been the subject of scorn I can assure you, it’s not that big a deal. You got to be very important in someone’s day that time they spent so much time talking about your blog post or tweets. Don’t shrink, bask in it. You clearly matter.
Rather than hold ourselves back or pull away, why not explore our identity, figure things out and do so unapologetically? After all, it’s your online home. Yes, there’s a responsibility to not harm others but I think ultimately, the majority of people are trying to share with good intentions. Maybe I’m naïve but I know I’ve not always got it right and hate it when I’ve got it wrong. I never meant any harm caused. We live. We learn.
Starting from the premise that those who click follow or like a post are doing so of their own free will, then what are we so worried about? This is a self-selecting crowd. Those that don’t like it, will leave. Do you need those followers so badly that you’re all just shuffling round like the odd squad in the garden at a house party that’s flagging? Far better to live fully, in great company and assume there’s support in the fact that these people chose to be there.
I do have one pretty big worry about people assuming the worst about social media. If we clam up or opt out, who do we leave the internet for? Are we leaving it for the messaging needs of men who believe that they are ‘involuntarily celibate’?. Are we staying mute while articles about the importance of anti-ageing frown down on us and make us feel less than worthy? No, I opt to step in and accept that sometimes, I will get it wrong. I will fall, skin my knees and probably, disappoint someone. I hope not. I do. However, social media isn’t going anywhere any time soon. I can moan about it or I can make it my own playground.
Maybe you wanna come along too. There’s room on the swings. Bagsies I get first run on the slide after.
If you’ve been feeling a little worn thin by social media lately, you might want to check out a session that I’ll be running at Woollinn Dublin that’s aiming to put the feel good back into taking pictures and sharing them online. (Bargainous) ticket details are here: https://www.tickettailor.com/checkout/view-event/id/158882/