It is time to let you all in on a little secret. There is a whole lot of my life that I do not live out loud on social media.
I know, shocking…right?
There was a time when I, like many others, viewed the world through the lens of my camera phone. In fairness, I am a photographer and have spent much of my life framing moments for one audience or another. While I still enjoy the activity, time has afforded me a little wisdom about when I need to put the camera down and just be still in my moment.
I have read many posts and articles about the impact of social media on introverted personalities giving them a safe way to “connect” with other people. But let me tell you what social media does to this extrovert.
A typical day not so long ago…
5:00 am – I wonder what the stats are looking like on the blog? Open WordPress. Think on what strategy I’m missing on how to increase readership. Do I need to give the blog team an encouraging pep talk if the stats aren’t as high as we’d like?
5:30 am – Checking to see if I received any important messages across my platforms during the night. Someone might have been in crisis that I need to check on. Ugh, I have to get rid of all of those damn red dots.
6:00 am – Despair at the over 30,000 unread emails spread across my inboxes. Perform email triage. Make sure hubby makes it out the door to work safely.
6:30 am – Devotional. Oooh I wonder what everyone else is studying on the Bible App.
7:00 am – Shower. Figure out what to eat for breakfast. Look for inspiration on Instagram. Get excited because someone posted a comment on a blog post which is visible from a pop up notification. 12 rapid fire pop ups of scholarships for high school students from various Twitter accounts I follow. Oh look, my cousins on the East Coast are up and on Marco Polo…
7:35 am – CRAP! I’ve gotta put my clothes on and jump in the car. I guess I’ll just grab something to eat on the way to work.
Now I have already been up for three hours and I have managed to not make time to eat breakfast. I have managed not to do anything close to resembling a workout. I have managed to accomplish almost three hours of screen time and I have not even hit the office yet. I am still feeling like I need to do more to bring notice to this blog that I love and labor over (for free) because my friends and I want to share our stories with the broader world and they are counting on me because I recruited them into this venture.
See, social media can be a “safe place” for extroverts too. For those of us who worry about that moment when we are with our friends and loved ones and we see their eyes glaze over while we are talking to them and we realize it’s time to shut up. They do not mean any harm but you know you were just warming up and where are you going to find a place to put all of this stuff that is bursting to get out of you…
and the list goes on.
It is a safe space, right?
What happens when you do not get the likes you were expecting as quickly as you were expecting them?
What happens when you start to feel isolated and cut off in the social media world? This is the same place where cat videos get millions of views, but you get five people to read about the blog you labored over about your struggle with finding work-life balance and the tools you want to share that worked for you.
How do you deal with social media anonymity when you are an extroverted personality in need of “connecting” with others?
A good friend once told me that when you are facing a problem you need to look at the root cause, not the symptoms. So I have been going through the process of deconstructing this issue looking for a better solution.
1. Social media acceptance is not the root problem. It is in fact a byproduct of an ineffective solution.
So, working backwards I can see that at some point in being myself I determined that I needed to redirect some of my energies in order to protect relationships that are meaningful to me (friends and family).
2. Is the root cause related to how I manage my real world relationships?
Now here is where I need to spend a little time. If I am honest, prior to this exercise I never had the conversation with my loved ones to discuss my concern. Why is that? Was I afraid of them telling me that I am boring them? That the things I find fascinating and want to discuss have no meaning to them? Did I not want to make them uncomfortable and risk them lying to me in an attempt not to hurt my feelings?
These are not easy questions for me but there are two things that everyone who has met me should know about me. I will not be ruled by fear and I am not afraid of doing hard work.
This stage of my analysis was starting to smart which meant I was getting warm but it felt like something was still waiting for me to get down in the cracks to clean out. So I started having some of those tough conversations with my loved ones and lemme tell you, there were some tears spilling sorrow, relief, anger, regret and just enough joy to keep me from spiraling down into a deep dark place.
“I love you, but you can be intense.”
“When I listen to you I feel like I have not done much with my life and that is a downer.”
“Why should we talk about things like that? There is nothing WE can do about it.”
“You can be a bit overwhelming at times. Can we talk about this later?”
Those who remained silent to my query were the ones that cut the deepest. But when you are doing the hard work of maintaining the health of something hearty and beautiful like a garden, it is common practice to have to prune and weed on a regular basis. Why would we think that something as beautiful and complicated as a human life would require less effort?
Now here is where I am about to lay something on you that you need to think long and hard about… you ready?
Are you using social media, relationships, job commitments, etc. to distract you from the work of tending your own “garden”?
This is the hard question I had to make my way to get to in order to begin the process of understanding where this persistent pain I have been in took root in my life. I had to pull back, y’all. I had to get quiet. I had to retune my ear to hear that still small voice inside that was being drowned out by too much stuff. And I could not afford to run off to the woods like Thoreau. Shoot, I have bills just like most people. So I started with what I had in my hands.
I started setting down my phone or putting it away entirely at the dinner table. Sometimes I leave my phone at home when I run errands on Saturday mornings and stop off at the Farmers’ Market. I turned on my screen time monitor and you better believe I am tracking that time. My phone stays in silent mode permanently and I warn folks that if they need me while I am at work for something urgent, they would do best to call my work number. (And it needs to be urgent.) Otherwise, it will keep until I get home because work deserves my full attention while I am there so that it does it creep into my not work time.
More often than not when I first get home I turn on some smooth, calming music rather than jacking into a binge watching session on Netflix or Hulu.
I do not beat myself up if I pick up dinner on the way home because cooking every day is a LOT of work and sometimes I am too tired to stand over a stove.
Increasingly, I make time for myself to do the things I really love like travel to see friends and family. I am investing in experiences so that when I come to the end of my time I will have as few regrets as possible.
I tell my husband I love him probably close to the point of annoyance because tomorrow is not promised and we should all tell the people we love how we feel while we can.
The hardest change I have had to make to this point is allowing some of the people I have held onto for the sake of comfort and familiarity go on with their lives without me. God! Even looking at those words is hard because once a person imprints on me, I do not know how to stop caring about them. On my own, I can not fathom cutting off my support of them, their goals, dreams, ambitions. My support is more than a notion. When I am in, I am IN. For the people I love and believe in I invest time, money, energy…I sacrifice sleep and leverage contacts and relationships. I forgo things for myself…
I forget myself.
Aaah, there is that root. I can feel it throbbing and tender.
This is not about social media or other people.
This is about me.
So, I am doing this for me and I have got some more work to do.
Marta C. Youngblood is a writer, education and social entrepreneur based in Hot Springs, Arkansas. For more information on her current projects visit https://about.me/MCyoungblood.