Creative Advice, Writing

Taking Back Social Media

For a while, I was not liking social media. I didn’t like Facebook, I didn’t like Twitter, I didn’t even like Instagram.

I was burnt out. I had gotten tired of ‘social media’ seeming synonymous with ‘I am going to show you all the worst things about myself.’ There was a tiny percentage of people whose thoughts and opinions I actually cared about, and they were like those tiny clams you see at the beach when the waves are receding. You catch just the quickest glimpse and by the time you leaned down for a closer look, there’s another wave, and they’re gone.

For a while, it was easy to just say ‘no thanks’ and spend my time online on websites that I enjoyed. But then I realized that I missed the feeling of connection and community I had in those spaces online. I missed seeing stuff from writers I liked. I missed getting to keep up with friends who lived far away.

And then I had a bit of a duh-piphany (that’s an epiphany that, at second look, you realize that it’s kind of dumb you didn’t realize it before).

I get to choose the type of experience I have online.

When I started “building my platform” as a writer, I found myself feeling like I had to be consistently following everyone. As if I was going to regret it someday if I didn’t follow them and they were suddenly looking for me. Or, in the case of my more familiar crowd like on Facebook, I thought that somehow I would be compromising my integrity unfollowing people just because I didn’t agree with them.

Now, I’m unfollowing with reckless abandon! I’m kicking people out of my feeds like it’s going out of style! I’m finding artists and writers and creative people and I’m filling in the gaps with stuff that makes me smile.

I’ve heard it said at writer’s conferences that when you deal with social media, you should focus on the ones that work for you. But the other part of that is also focusing on what works for you within the ones you choose. You don’t owe it to anyone to be miserable when you’re online. Keep joy close and the people who are watching will feel that warmth come from you.

And limit how many news sources you follow. Damn, the news is depressing.

 

Advertisements
essays, Personal, Uncategorized

On Walking Away

I used to love drama.

Not the awesome spoken word kind, or plays about people kind, or even the crazy Greek ones that had weirder sex than Game of Thrones. No, I used to love hearing all the scoop, all the kerfuffle, all the flibbertigibbet. I was the undercover scandalmonger, who would just happen to be around when the most chaotic people would appear, obviously full of angst about someone else. “You can talk to me about it,” I’d say, “you can get it out.” And I wouldn’t just drink it all up. I would gulp it. I would gorge myself on it.

This only got bigger and stronger with my increasing online presence after college. The Internet is a lot like an adorable card and gift shop. You can walk around forever and ever and keep finding things to pick up and marvel at. Comments sections of news articles about things I already didn’t agree with were the best. Lists of all the things guys find wrong with women? Sign me up. Articles about how awful things I love are? Yes, please!

And I always found these things through my best friends, the people who think like me, the people who go, “This is so messed up” and “Am I crazy to think that this person doing this is not okay?” so that I could join the loud, cheerful choir of “Yes! That is the worst! It’s all awful and we are such better people for not agreeing with that garbage!” Because who doesn’t want to have that with their friends?

At some point, though, I realized that I wasn’t actually enjoying this feeling. I would start getting angrier, and I would seethe and look for any place to release all the fire I thought was building up in my stomach. I got into angry fights with people I had never met, and I would rip them apart. And despite the fact that, sure, most of the causes were pretty justified, I found that a few truths were becoming clear:

  • Many of these things were either outside my control or distant to my circle of experience.
  • A lot of it was pointless anger and frustration.
  • There wasn’t anything I was doing about whatever I was feeling not good about.
  • Most importantly, when I came back to the screeds later, I really didn’t like the person I was seeing online.

This step back also brought a lot of other things on the Internet into focus. I saw how often I just complained and griped. I saw how I would rant about these things that seemed like nothing a few days later. Mountains, molehills, anthills. It became very clear to me how negative I was, and I really didn’t like that. I also realized it wasn’t just on the Internet, that this was affecting the Real Life Me. I had started hiding away when I was angry instead of confronting people close to me. I would seethe and snarl in private, backstab, hurt under a cover of darkness. I had been for a while but now I knew that I was not being a good person. That is something that still haunts me.

So the first thing I did was decide that I was going to stop being utterly negative, both online in social media and in life. I started to recognize when I was repeatedly complaining without taking action. On Facebook and Twitter, instead of posting about how bad my day was, I’d share a cute video that made me smile. Instead of talking about how much something sucked, I would bring up something that I really enjoyed. I used the Internet as a force of good – literally, good things, good news, good times. I felt a lot better.

Recently, it’s become much more apparent that there is a part of the web that is what I call a Hateful Shame Machine. A lot of people use it as not a vehicle for their anger but more like a remote-controlled car they can run into people’s lives. They capitalize on the safety of distance and anonymity to respond in a way that doesn’t directly impact them and hurts the subject of their disdain. But, like with a remote-controlled car, they think what they are doing is only annoying at most and couldn’t actually do any lasting damage.

Have you ever imagined what could happen to a single person being struck by a hundred remote-controlled cars? A thousand? A million?

I’m not saying that it isn’t okay to be mad or to react to something unjust. But once you realize that what you’re doing is not only making you feel toxic but is raising a red flag in your subconscious that says, “This really isn’t good, is it?” it’s time to take a step back. Are you making a difference, or are you just adding to the screaming? Are you being the person online that you are in your heart, or are you wearing a mask? Are you treating everyone the way you would to their face, or are you exploiting the fact that you can attack them without attaching yourself to it?

Most importantly, though, you can stop. You can change. Get some distance. Unplug. Go do something by yourself and clear your head. Forgive yourself. Say you’re sorry, if it isn’t too late. Understand that you deserve love and comfort and every human is cracked and flawed. And if you are the victim, these things all apply to you, tenfold.

I dare you to walk away. It’s never too late.

Writing, Writing challenge

Things You Can Write in 5 Minutes

“I don’t have time.”

Yes you do. Grab your tablet/notebook/phone/index card and a pen and go into the bathroom.

Write a blog post (I challenged myself to write this one in 5 minutes).
Write a haiku.
Write a limerick.
Write a note to someone and tell them that you love them in the most beautiful way you can.
Edit a paragraph in that thing you’ve been working on.
Post on a friend or cowriter’s blog and talk about something that has worked for you.
Take a picture and write about it – like one or two sentences.
Write down a memory and put it in a book.
Scrawl a secret and stick it in your local bookstore/library’s Postsecret section.
Tell someone you’re a writer.
Tweet to a writer you admire and tell them how awesome they are.
Fill in post-its with ideas for your next story/poem/chapter/whatever.
Pinterest a picture that makes you think of a character.

You have time.

Hoard every second of it.