Why Social Media and I are in a fight

I love social media. Many of you are rolling your eyes and saying “duh” under you breath, because of course I love social media. I’m on Twitter all the time, on Facebook less, but still pretty frequently. I even Instagram from time to time. I don’t Snap or Tumbl or any of those other wacky things the kids are doing these days, but what I do I do with intensity and passion.

I won’t rehash too much why I love Twitter so much. The writing community is ace. Some of my closest friendships started there, people I talk to daily, who moved from imaginary status to real life friends. I have the most random, wonderful conversations there, on topics that make me literally laugh out loud, sometimes in inopportune places. It’s amazing to have the opportunity to connect with people I’d never have met otherwise. Not to mention what Twitter has done for my writing career.

And yet.

Lately I’ve noticed that Twitter is angry a lot. And for good reasons, I would say. There are a lot of crappy things going on in the world. So I do what I always do. I read. I listen. I try and learn from what people are saying. I research the things they’re talking about. Often it sparks conversations in my real life.

But I rarely engage in the conversation. Not because I don’t care. Not because I’m not listening. There are many reasons. One is that is not what I use my Twitter for. Maybe that makes me callous, but I don’t think so. I think anyone should be able to use their social media for whatever reasons and in whatever way works for them. I use mine to talk about writing and naps and tacos.

Another big reason I don’t often engage is for my own mental health. I can handle reading and researching on my own, but I need to think about things, stew in them for a while before I feel like I am prepared to enter a conversation about it. Engaging in things like that on social media makes me anxious. And honestly, I come to Twitter for a break. It’s one of my self-care tools, or it has been in the past. Between therapy sessions, after a tough phone call, I could log on, cruise through tweets, take a step back from the horrors that I hear about daily.

It became apparent that I needed to take a mini break when too many times my silence was confused with apathy. When people I had befriended, supported through book releases and tough times and everything in between, had conversations with on a regular basis, broke off our connection because I didn’t care enough. Because I didn’t tweet about their cause. Because not entering a conversation about a topic I’m unfamiliar with clearly means I’m apathetic, not worthy to be an ally.

My cause is my job. It’s being an advocate for children. I work more than 50 hours some weeks helping kids, or helping other therapists figure out how to help kids. I have called DHS more times than I care to count. Encountered angry parents. Held children as they cried over tragedies that they are far too young to be experiencing. Scolded abusive parents. I have stood between a teenager and her chain smoking/drinking mother while trying to make phone calls to ensure the child had a safe place to be for the night. I have been in some of the dirtiest houses you can imagine, and some of the nicest, and guess what…they all had problems. Some I could help with, some were beyond my ability to fix. And that was something I had to learn. I can’t fix everyone. I can’t fix everything. I can’t jump on every cause that I care about because then none of them would be getting the attention they deserve.

Oops. I went on a bit of a rant there. I guess it still frustrates me to be called apathetic by people who only know my online persona.

Therein lies another problem with social media, and the amount I use it. It has gotten to the point where people think that if they read my tweets or my Facebook posts, they know me. They know what’s going on in my life. And they consume my posts without responding, without engaging in any way, and that feeling of aloneness builds up again. Yes, my social media persona is me. It’s my wacky, goofy, sarcastic side. But it’s not all of me. Yet I’ve had people tell me that they don’t call or check in because they read my tweets, so they know I’m fine.

It got to the point where instead of being my escape, social media became a place of sadness and anxiety, a place I emerged from feeling worse than when I logged in.

I recently took a mini-hiatus from social media. Not super long, just three days, though a lot can happen on a site like Twitter in three days. I still scrolled through, but I refrained from posting for the most part, except a couple responses. I didn’t do it for attention, or to create drama. I just needed to step back for myself, to evaluate why I posted what I did, whether for conversation and connection or attention, and to figure out how to continue and still keep my own mental health intact. I still used DMs and messaging, and it was kind of amazing the deeper conversations I was able to have as people checked in with me.

I still love Twitter. And I’ll be going back, possibly posting a little less, but maybe not. It was interesting how the first couple days of not posting I was in super withdrawal, and I realized how much I feel compelled to tell Twitter. I learned a lot about myself, my own limits and expectations. I’m not willing to give up all the wonderful people I’ve met online. I am more aware of the world around me because of the people I follow on Twitter, and I hope they continue doing what they do, educating, sharing, talking. I just hope they understand why I can’t always jump in, and sometimes need to take a break completely.

Walk away

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6 Responses to Why Social Media and I are in a fight

  1. Aria Glazki says:

    I’ve had to take social media breaks before, & I think it’s a sign of being aware, and not being apathetic, and needing something more than tweeting into silence. I have to remind myself sometimes that social media is a tool for connecting with people, and I don’t owe *it* anything (though I do owe connections made through it something).

  2. Carolyn says:

    Rena, (not said snarkily at all), I hope you’re using twitter’s mute function. Like you, I love to sit back and learn and don’t always rt or jump into conversations because one of the greatest functions of all these conversations is how much I learn. However, depending on the (awesome) people you follow who are always in the thick of these important conversations, you can have a lot of tough subjects in your face when you’re just trying to relax. Everyone should be able to relax or have their space safe for what they need it to be. I have muted (and unmuted later when I could handle things) certain people who have big conversations a lot. Well, heck, I’ve muted people who are only sharing pictures of men when there’s actually big important conversations happening, so I use it exactly how I need it. I won’t feel bad about it, as anyone else can do the same to me (or unfollow me) if what I say isn’t to their taste. Simple as that. We all need to take care of ourselves and not be made to feel bad about whatever we are or aren’t in the mood for at any time.

    • Rena says:

      I don’t usually use the mute feature, but perhaps I should start. I figure if they’re saying things enough that are stressing me out, there’s really not a reason to be following anyway. But I see what you’re saying. I might have to try it out 😉

      • Carolyn says:

        Just think of it as walking to another room at a house party when things get super serious in one room while you’d rather be with the people talking about your favorite tv show. 😉 Hope you’ll give it a try. The only tip I have is, remember to unmute. They ARE people you want to hear from after all.

        (Because yes, what’s the point of following someone who you don’t want to hear from. Tangential note: it’s why I never follow anyone back who has thousands of people they’re “following.” It’s all about the numbers, and I’m about the community I’m trying to be part of. Not that I don’t follow people who have so many followers, I just don’t try to actually talk to them.)

        Hope you have a wonderful social (media) September! 🙂

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