When I sat down to start writing this blog, I got stuck on the title. Originally, I had something like “Is Social Media Toxic?” But the fact is, as a normal human being, I don’t think social media is all bad. I’ve made some amazing friends since moving thanks to Facebook. It’s how I’ve managed to keep in touch with a variety of old friends, even if all I do is passive stalking by seeing their posts when they come up in my feed. I LOVE Twitter as a place to get my news and commentary, as well as a direct line to people I’d never get in touch with otherwise – I tweeted at my favorite morning news lady this weekend to say her dress was gorgeous, and she told me where to get it. How cool is that?!
But I also use social media as a blogger, and apparently, I’m doing it all wrong. If you’ve read any of the books about how to grow a business or a brand, the advice seems to be fairly consistent across the board. Use social media to grow a personal brand. Post constantly. Advertise your products. Always be hustling, always be building a mailing list, always be growing. But I’m increasingly worried that it plays into burn out culture, especially for entrepreneurs, and encourages creating a persona of authenticity instead of really just being yourself online. Also, it doesn’t help that I’ve recently watched the Fyre Festival documentary and American Meme on Netflix. So, let’s break it down a bit.
The ways social media is awesome as a person
I’ve already raved to all of you about how amazing it was for me to be able to make friends with local ladies on Facebook. Having a working moms group in my neighborhood has helped me meet smart, busy moms who are also only free to meet up on nights and weekends, instead of the usual mom groups that seem determined to only gather at 10am on a Tuesday. It was a lifeline for me and has turned into real friendships with some of the women and their families. It even inspired me to make more Facebook groups, like this one for Expat Moms with Jonelle from Tyranny of Pink, and this one for Lady Geeks with Sam from Tech Girl.
I also really like it as a way to keep up with what’s going on with friends. No, I don’t care what people had for lunch or for selfies of the day, but thankfully most of my friends don’t share that kind of stuff. They share updates on fun family vacations, or ask for luck while interviewing for new jobs, or show off cool outings with their kids, or talk about deaths in their families. It’s the kind of thing that helps me feel connected, lets me comment and occasionally prompts me to reach out with private messages. Whether it’s old school friends, first loves from summer camp, or university buddies, it’s reassuring and lovely.
But also how it sucks as a person
I still laugh about when my mom joined Facebook. She finally signed up, and a few weeks later, after she’d stalked all her old friends, she called me on the verge of tears. She felt like her life sucked compared to all these other people. Everyone else had gorgeous pictures with their grandkids, had amazing images of their homes or holidays, fabulous restaurants and the meals they ate. I told her that it’s all pretty much a lie.
No, I’m not saying that friends post fake images to their Facebook profiles, although some do. But rather that no one posts the full picture on there. People don’t post the picture of their husband silently glaring all through that beautiful dinner together. No one posts the pictures of the months spent estranged from family before coming together for a special occasion and posting a picture. Very few people share their struggles on Facebook, instead sharing successes. And as that quote that goes around from time to time says, you can’t compare your life with someone else’s highlight reel.
Also, can we just talk about how gross neighborhood groups are? I swear, every neighborhood group I’ve ever been in has been filled with racist, hate-filled people that make me wonder where I’m living. It’s obviously not everyone, but it makes EVERY neighborhood group on Facebook, WhatsApp or anywhere else feel disgusting. I’ve started blocking a bunch of people on those groups and my experience is way better, but still. Gross.
How social media is vital for a blogger/influencer/YouTuber/brand
This one is fairly well known in the blogging and influencer world, but it’s worth saying again. You need to share your stuff on social media. You need to make sure that your blog works well as “shareable content” that people will post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and wherever else. You also need to use social media to build your tribe.
Basically, the idea is to get people to follow you who will find you interesting, helpful, or entertaining. While in the past people were just desperate to get their follower counts up, recent developments have influencers hoping for engagement. You want people to follow you, read what you write, comment on your posts, engage with you on social media and somehow PROVE that they’re invested in what you’re doing or saying.
It’s also a pretty awesome way to interact with people who read your words and have them resonate. I can’t even tell you how cool it is when I get a message from someone saying that something I wrote helped them. Or asking me for emigration advice. Or sharing their own stories because something I wrote touched them so much. That is seriously amazing.
What it does to bloggers/influencers/public people
So part of what prompted this post in the first place was that I watched An American Meme over the weekend. The weekend before this one, I finally watched the documentary about the Fyre Festival. Thanks to both of these, I sorta feel like social media breaks all the people who gain enough influence.
Maybe not everyone. But there have been so many stories about mommy bloggers who quit blogging after they do four father’s day celebrations to cater to all the brands who want to be involved. Or how they have to drag their kids places to do blogging stuff. Or how they ALWAYS need to be working, to be hustling.
I’ve read Crushing It. I have followed Rachel Hollis (the woman who wrote Girl Wash Your Face). I have seen all the advice and guidelines to grow an influence, to grow as a blogger or personal brand. It’s awful. Like, really awful. If you read the advice, it basically says that you need to put everything into your business. Whether you’re working a fulltime job as well or not, you need to be putting in hours every day towards the goal of “making it”, whatever that means to you. Post on social media consistently. Go get photographed. Go to events. Network. Do online courses.
There was one point where Rachel Hollis was on a podcast and told the host that she hasn’t watched any of the popular series. That when people say they want to be successful, but also know what’s going on in pop culture, her response is that they must not really want it that much. But such a big part of being creative, of making something fun and worthwhile is to have a life outside of it all. To have work, to have family and friends, to have great books to read, and amazing series to watch. To play video games or make crafts or whatever it is that sets your soul on fire or helps you to unwind.
If you’ve watched American Meme or anything about the Fyre festival, you begin to realize that it’s all a sham. Social media personas aren’t real. The people behind those creations have found a way to attract people, to build an audience. But that fills every moment of the day. All they do is “make content”, but they don’t have actual meaningful connections. They are the most popular, the most social, and yet are completely socially inept and kind of awful human beings. As a result, they bring out the worst in themselves and others.
So no, I’m not going to quit social media. I won’t go off Facebook or Twitter. In fact, I’ll probably be sharing this blog on there. But it really has helped me realize that while I want to keep reaching people with this blog, I want to keep helping people or connecting with others, the goal really isn’t to hit a bajillion followers. I don’t need or want to have millions of subscribers, as cool as that might sound. I want my tribe of people. I want readers like you, who understand me, who go through similar struggles, who find similar things amusing. I want to watch random series and not feel bad about it. I want to read great books. I want to play tea party with my kid. I don’t want to get burnt out. I don’t want to become some fake persona online.
Social media can be amazing, but it’s also a monster of our own creation. Have you quit any social media platforms recently? Do you take breaks from them? How do you find balance, or are you sucked into it all?