A Necessary Evil
I’ve been thinking about social media recently, and a lot of what I’m going to say in this post is going to end up sounding extremely ironic, because you most likely got to this web page because I shared a link on social media.
Hold on to your hats, because here we go.
I view social media as a necessary evil. Evil because of the way it can grip lives, suck time out of days, and impact self esteem. Necessary, at least for me, because it is expected that if you’re an author you’ll have a following. As a college student who doesn’t have the time or money to travel around and get paid to give talks and build a following through word of mouth and general excitement, my options are limited. Social media allows me to reach a large number of people from wherever I happen to be, and allows those people to share it with whomever they wish.
But let’s get into why I call it “evil” a little more.
If you’re like me, you check Facebook when you wake up. When you catch up on your feed there, you check Instagram. It takes slightly less time to catch up on that feed, and you soon open Pinterest or tumblr or Twitter. Those last three seem to have neverending content and a million things to read, share, or laugh at.
Hear me when I say I love how connected the world is now. I love that I can see a funny post from where I sit in Colorado and send it in a matter of seconds to my friends in Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Michigan. I love that I can keep up with people so when I see them again in real life I can ask them about that trip they took, that book they read, or how their family is doing. These are all good things.
The problem comes when I spend an hour catching up on all of my feeds and then find myself rushing to get to work. The problem comes when I open Facebook at 9 pm for a quick escape and find myself still awake at midnight. The problem comes when I look in the mirror and find that I don’t look like my friends, or that their exciting adventures, the things they post on their social accounts about, sound like their everyday life, and my everyday life does not compare.
That is the trouble with social media. It is designed to be addictive and it is extremely easy to forget that you are in control of what you see and how you act.
Part of what has helped me separate the intense feelings of being left out or not being like the people I follow has been to follow my interests instead more than my friends. Instead of having my feed be full of lives to compare my own to, I end up watching videos of really cool inventions, new books I’m interested in reading, authors I want to know if there are updates for, people that post things that make me laugh, and adorable animals, like this cat:
This doesn’t mean I don’t follow my friends. I do. I just have changed the balance. Rather than having 90% of what I see be my friends and tempt me to be jealous of them, I have shifted the balance to 60% interesting things and 40% real people. That balance has allowed my social feeds to cause relaxation instead of stress.
On Instagram, I have two accounts. One for my friends to communicate with me on, and one for the general public. This respects my friends’ feeds by not flooding them with things they don’t want to see (while still giving them the option to follow my official page) and allows me to follow my interests instead of my people. I can follow my competitors. I can follow similar authors. I can learn from what they do without the distraction of my friends’ posts.
This approach won’t work for everyone. But I want to remind you that your online presence, your social media accounts, and how you feel when you look at those feeds are all under your control. Give yourself a break, and remember to engage with people offline. In the long run, you won’t regret it.
J. J. Hanna is a Professional Writing major at Taylor University. In her spare time she enjoys creating comics and Youtube videos and practicing Karate. She’d love to hear from you, so send her a note or leave a comment.