disclaimer: this is an opinion piece
so let’s talk about the world of social media. also, about building community in the not so real life. and a tiny bit about my personal feelings of imposter syndrome.
a rebellious inner critic. adult cliques. and socially acceptable judgement.
i’m no expert on the subject but the thought spiral is enough to make me wanna delete every account I have and go off the grid. still, my personal desire to use writing and sharing as an outlet leads me to participate in the social media game of algorithms & photo editing & creating content. I enjoy the curating aspect of the medium and love connecting with people. because it’s not all bad. I am truly thankful for the people I’ve met. but if you think it’s all hash tags of support and community you would be wrong. I was speaking briefly with a friend about how easily we get our real life feelings hurt trying to fit in and that while most people find it trivial there are some of us who really look for the genuine comradery and look to the resources available through blogging and instagram.
it can be hard to find a space as someone who isn’t a wife or a size two or heterosexual and doesn’t have a well lit home to photograph, a business to hustle for, or the guts to share every detail of their life through a series of 15 second slides. this may be my own insecurity/projection but I can assure you there is certainly no shade intended. I respect it and follow along with so many beautiful creators. I spend my hard-earned single mom budget to support as many dreamers and makers as I can. I just know, or feel like, a participator in an arena where I will never quite be included. I’ve watched as mom friends and communities only seem to interact when I am proving my mom-ness. or style bloggers preach inclusivity while tokenizing minorities and favoring brands that cater to bigger spenders and idealize unrealistic body images. I have promoted pages I truly love only to watch them solely promote other pages that are largely followed in an effort to subsequently promote themselves. a lot of us listen intently as we are given advice from someone at a perfect angle in the best lighting about how to run a household and still have time to apply matte lipstick. of course there’s also the follow/unfollow method of acquiring numbers and the people who follow you but never like or comment on a single post you make, then watch all of your stories. it’s A LOT.
there’s an invisible threshold at which you decide to create content and call it conversation. where you refer to followers as friends but actually address them in a tone that conveys just how much you aware that they are followers. a clever switch from person to persona. the perks can be addicting. repping brands and getting free products is like, super cool. some people rely on it. I’m not opposed to it and have done it. and getting likes on photos is gratifying no matter how cool you think you are for saying it isn’t. that is in fact the point of social media. so if you don’t want to be validated then you showed up to the wrong party. confession: the first time someone called me by my instagram handle in real life I think my heart and ego swelled x 10. can you imagine what it’s like for people with thousands of followers?
here’s the harsh truth though…
IT IS A GAME; YOU ARE PLAYING.
and I gotta say… it is all starting to pretty much look the same. not much revolutionary stuff is happening in the realm of lifestyle representation. which lead me to do some market research, if you will, via my instagram stories. I wanted to know how people acquire their circle. what makes them choose the people in it. I also wanted to shed a little light on how people seem so different but all come together on social media with a similar purpose. (i’m an idealist, what else do you want from me?!) because it’s more than a hobby for some. it takes a lot of time. and if done well, can be very inspiring. the avoidable dark side though, is enough to make people crumble. and these instagram responses put numbers to the curiosities I’ve been having that lead to my real life feelings getting hurt in a social media world.
legit things I’ve encountered on my personal page:
- I’m too gay, too provocative, or not a mom often enough to be a mom blogger
- I look happiest when I’m “more of a mom”
- I’m too gay to follow the word of god or that my faith is “trendy”
- I’m not gay enough or too conservative for the gay community
- I’m sharing too many products to be relatable
- I’m too sensitive or vain for caring about social media
not all of these things were meant to cause the overthinking on my end that they did. but all of them have been said directly to me. a lot of people who messaged me yesterday had similar feelings of being not quite enough of whatever “it” is that would make them more successful. is there a fix for this other than open mindedness and exposure, uhhhh not really. and writing a whole blog post about it seems a little like I’m aggrandizing myself only to complain. but where do I draw the line personally? do I slowly go back to a non-cohesively themed instagram and hit that private button on my profile or dive in full force and make my own space? why would I want to be a part of this anyway? is this still fun?
before setting up these questions, my attitude was in a different place. uninspired and frustrated. my blog posts, fewer and far between. so were my instagram posts. I don’t share as much of my personal life or my writing as I’ve done in the past. and when I do, it’s barely seen. which is exhausting and can be discouraging. as a single mom, I already struggle with having time to split between everything in my life that is required to reach a peaceful balance. so I rely heavily on my “social media” friends because it can be done in my free time and doesn’t always require reciprocal attention. how handy is that?! I’d like to go back to the positive creative space I joined this for by using social media with more intention and openness and focus on what I really want to see. I know it starts with my own feed. so this year, I’m changing my directive because striving for these standards is not the norm. there’s nothing wrong, at all, with filtering your photos or using presets. there’s nothing wrong with structuring your feed to sell things. I just think it’s important to reiterate that these top instagrammers and life style bloggers are the minority. the algorithm is in place to pick up on similarities and encourage engagement but it also exposes the competitive side of it as a business. it’s become less human and more machine.
I spent the whole of yesterday responding to messages. most people are tired of the white walls, staged photos, and strategic friendships. my dm’s were filled with sweet friends who do some rad stuff who are kind of bored with the monotony. seems as thought it’s stifling or discouraging to know that other feeds only have numbers in mind when you’ve worked so hard at your craft. maybe the styles are changing. maybe we see through the people only out “win” at social media. in fact, I wasn’t surprised at all by who answered none of my questions but dropped a yes to the question- can I share your page. I hope there’s a shift. authenticity is really contagious and kindness multiplies with use. it’s that simple. we grew out of grade school cliques because they are harmful. why do it to ourselves as adults.
one of the questions I asked was, how many people do you follow who are unlike you, whether it be in style/beliefs/life situation. the results were pretty staggering. maybe the question was unclear or maybe people just set strict boundaries about who they follow. either way, a lot of you streamline the shit out of your feed. I won’t judge someone for how they work their social media but there is a giant world out there with things for you to learn from someone unlike yourself. we’ve gotten dangerously close to only acquiring friendships with people who are exactly like us. because, well, we can so easily find them online and never stray from that thought process. and a surprising number of people were a bit defensive about their reasonings here. I have my own feelings about this and they are that it’s a real bummer. but I won’t elaborate beyond saying, try harder people.
every single person that directly messaged me was looking to be heard, whether they agreed or disagreed or don’t even take social media seriously, at all. the point is that we are what we put our energy into. so my challenge to whoever reads this is to take a good look at you follow. and who you don’t. remove people that bring out the worst in you. follow that inspirational page or the maker of something you’d like to learn to do. adjust your view according to how you want to show up in this space and play the game a little less. and better yet, make your own space. share pages you love when you see them, tell those people you admire their hustle, celebrate their craft with them, and show up for yourself in case no one else does. if following people you don’t know, isn’t for you, totally get it. but if you have an extra second to read someone’s post, hit the like button, or even let them know you enjoy what they’re doing.