Can I make a confession? I don’t particularly like social media. Social media is supposed to be connecting us, allowing us to communicate with people that we would otherwise have lost touch with or people we would have never met at all. But, in many ways, social media seems to have become nothing more than a game of comparing ourselves with others, attempting to keep up, and feeling valuable or not based on how many likes, views, and reTweets we can get. Instead of sharing ourselves with others, it is very tempting to try to curate an image of ourselves for others to consume–an image we hope will be impressive and make us look cool or trendy.
We feel the need to post constantly, to make sure that people know that we have been going cool places, that we do have friends. We want people to know that we have been reading and we’re reading the “right” books, whether that means the latest releases or something “deep.” We check our stats constantly, worrying when we see a dip. We may be tempted to copy others and to do what they do, even if it means doing something we don’t see as “us.” Maybe, we think, if I wear clothes like that girl, I’ll get more likes. Maybe I’m not attractive enough. Or maybe, we think, I need to stop reading and reviewing MG books because all the views go to YA. Suddenly, we’re losing part of ourselves in an attempt to feel like the Internet loves us.
If we were in the 90s, we would probably have a campy high school film to teach us that the “mean girls” aren’t worth impressing. We would learn that our true friends are those who appreciate us for being us. However, the Internet has complicated things. We don’t see the faceless Internet as a pack of “mean girls” who really aren’t all that (because, you know, they’re mean). Our popularity is no longer measured by whom we talk to, but by numbers. And so maybe we don’t feel a need to fight for ourselves. After all, how do you fight numbers? How do you show up to the Internet in a unique but totally you dress and stun everyone with your boldness and your weird but somehow still cool because joyful dance moves?
For some of us, the fight to reclaim who we are and our joy in the things that used to matter–the books we used to read, the way we used to read–might mean withdrawing from social media altogether. It might not be worth it to update Goodreads every day in an attempt to make sure we are “on time,” that we’ve read all the latest releases, have reviewed the too-many ARCS we requested. It might not be worth having a Twitter account if we’re just sad to see every day that we asked questions or created polls that no one answered. It might not be worth it to scroll through Facebook aimlessly every day, only to feel when we were done that we wasted our time and that we’re never going to be as pretty as Jenny or as cool and adventurous as Maria.
However, some of us might just need to reframe the way we look at things. Why are we on social media? Why are we blogging? Numbers are nice–I won’t pretend they aren’t. We want someone to read what we wrote. We’d be keeping a private reading journal if we did not. However, why do we want people to read what we wrote? We probably didn’t start out thinking our worth was in the number of views we got. We probably started out because we wanted to share our love and enthusiasm of books. We wanted to talk to people. We wanted to carve out time and space to set down our thoughts on books, rather than rushing through them too fast.
Maybe it’s time to reclaim that attitude. What would it feel like, for just one day, to not look at the numbers? To simply talk to and interact with others? To be with them, instead of asking them to validate us through their likes and comments? What might we discover if we took a break from trying to be what we think other people want us to be?
Do you feel like social media is sometimes counter-productive for your goals? Next week I’ll be sharing some specific tips to help you reclaim you social media.