Awkward social media realisations and what motivates me to write.
What is more fictitious, rainbow-coloured unicorns or what I post on social media?
“Comparison is the thief of joy”
– Theodore Roosevelt.
Last year I read an article which fundamentally shifted my perspective of my twenty-something life. The article, entitled “Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy”, struck so many chords in me that I still have the tab open in my phone web browser. The article explains the relationship between the discontentment many Gen Ys feel and our use of social media.
Can I highly recommend that you go and read it? I can? Good. If you have not read it please, PLEASE STOP READING THIS and go there RIGHT NOW! Come back to this tomorrow. Just go. Go!! Yes, it is quite long, but yes, it is that good. Have you gone yet? There are unicorns spewing rainbows. Now have I convinced you? Good. Finally.
After having read the Wait But Why* article everything suddenly made so much more sense. The comparative inadequacy I felt, which I had let social media fuel, was able to be rationalised down to a competition where, unbeknownst to me, everyone else is cheating just as much as I am. (For anyone who spews rainbows must be a master of illusions.) I found this clarity and the realisation that no one actually has their sh!t together really quite comforting.
Since having these mini unicorn-illustrated revelations you would think that I would try and do my little bit to stop this really awful, toxic cycle, right? Right. Wrong.
Despite gaining this new perspective I have not demonstrated the maturity or security in myself to stop posting self-promoting status updates, tweets and photos. Posting on social media to (strategically) garner as many likes and follows as possible is Just. So. Addictive.
I’m guilty of it. I still am. It can range from the successful (“I got a full scholarship! I got a new job!”) to the vain (“Oh, did I just accidentally post a selfie? #notthataccidental”) to the envy-eliciting (“Casual check-in at a 5 star restaurant, darlings!”).
I am completely guilty of this. Yet, why do I still do this? Because it feeds my ego.
It makes me feel special.
It makes me feel important.
It makes me feel valued.
It makes me feel loved.
(And if that’s not f-ed up, then I don’t know what is.)
Is posting really inane, “real” details about our lives the solution? It’s a nice thought, but I don’t think so as that could be:
a) just as attention-seeking as the aforementioned types of posts. I’m sure you’ve encountered them, too – the vague, wallowing, woe-sharing without any explanation (think “Life is the worst!”) which often receive an outpouring of social media sympathy and “care”. (Perhaps that’s part of the issue – maybe we have conditioned ourselves to feel better by sharing our negative experiences on social media. Are we really that disconnected in real life?? If so, then that’s depressing.)
b) bloody boring (Posts of the “I just popped a really big pimple” variety. Too much reality. We do not need that much detail, thanks.)
Who the hell are we kidding? We all know rationally that real life does not have a vintage filter which enhances the colour of our days. Life can be wonderful, but life can be shit. This is nothing new. So, how come we are all buying into this big con, when we probably know that what we see on social media is only a fraction of someone else’s life – and it’s a fabricated fraction at that?
Perhaps the way to counter this isn’t by changing how and what we post, but by weaning ourselves off it altogether. Perhaps it’s time to migrate away from this behemoth that we incessantly feed. Perhaps it’s time to de-friend the fake friend that is social media.
(I mean, how has “de-friend” been allowed to become part of our vernacular?)
Personally, I’ve been challenged by my relationship with social media through this blog.
“How?” you inquisitively inquire?
Well, over time it has become apparent that certain types of posts garner more likes, follows and hits than others, which makes it tempting to only write pieces of that ilk. From working in marketing I also know that ensuring that there is new content posted on a regular basis is beneficial for organic search engine optimisation (which we marketing folk call “SEO” – sorry for the jargon) where, basically, you’re aiming to be the first result in a Google search of certain terms which are relevant to your business/website/blog. You can aid your SEO by using key terms relevant to the searches you want to appear in throughout your site and by adding new content on a regular basis.
So, I’ve gotten into the habit of coordinating my posts on certain days of the week not only for SEO, but to correspond with when I know I’ll get the most traffic. An example? I do not post on Saturday night because:
a) most people are engaged in other activities on Saturday night and thus are less likely to see that I have posted something new and
b) it has become Very Important to pretend that you are having an Awesome Time doing something Awesome on Saturday night (even if you’re at home studying or sitting on Facebook when you’re meant to be studying). No one wants to commit social (media) suicide. Duh.
But here’s the thing, I enjoy writing most when it is done out of a creative and emotional impulse. I need to express myself and it needs to happen now! And that means writing about things which are more or less sexy, controversial and happy-go-lucky than that which constitutes a popular post. Recently, I’ve been making myself post a new piece on certain nights each week which I fear is shifting my writing away from “impulse and expression” to “obligation”. The latter of which is the antithesis of what I want for this to be, because doing so would change the nature of this blog entirely.
See, I do not write for you; I write for us.
The “us” is imperative.
This blog would not be what it is if I didn’t write, firstly, for myself. See, if I was only writing to satisfy an external audience then I would find it less meaningful and fulfilling and the end product would reflect my being less emotionally invested in it.
Of course I write knowing that I have an audience and I greatly appreciate your readership, you gorgeous little bandicoots. It fills me with immense pleasure when you share that you have enjoyed reading a post or that it touched you. I love that. That really makes me so glad and it makes me feel pretty honoured, too. It is also, more often that not, comforting to hear that I am not the only one who is absolutely failing at life on a regular basis.
But of course not everyone likes this blog. And that’s perfectly ok – I am all for everyone having their own opinion. Furthermore, I am not under the illusion that this blog would appeal to everyone.
I have friends whom I respect and admire who have indicated that they do not like reading this blog. I let their unintentionally-hurtful, throwaway comments sting. Comments like, “I have another friend who has a blog. He’s a fantastic writer”. (I get what you’re implying. Cheers!) Look, I know they don’t approve of my sometimes less than G-rated vocabulary, content and cynicism. But that’s ok. I am not, after all, forcing them to read or specifically aiming to appeal to them.
But that isn’t going to stop me from writing.
I am not, after all, writing for any accolades or record-breaking number of website hits. I am not writing because I have to. I am not writing thinking that I am changing the world. I am not writing to please everyone. I am not writing to cast judgement on others (and if I do – please pull me up on it). I am not writing to perpetuate the life that I portray on Instagram.
I am writing because I find it therapeutic. I am writing because it allows me to unravel my thoughts and to learn from my experiences. I am writing because I love it.
And for the moment that is enough.
* A name so desperately lacking in punctuation that it hurts my eyes. (Would it be so hard to add a comma and question mark?)