I’ve been trying to write a post for the 4Thoughts prompt for a couple of weeks now, but I have finally managed to get my thoughts down on how I am navigating social media. It is such a big topic, and I have mixed feelings on the way that I use it, and the way that I see others embrace the strangeness of these online worlds.
A quick look at my use of each platform shows a varied relationship.
I use Facebook for family and friends, an entirely vanilla space.
Even those I know through kink are in their vanilla worlds on there. It’s a stipulation of friend request acceptance for me. I keep my friends list small, and regularly sift through to make sure everyone I interact with on adds value to my world. By keeping this list small I can keep watch over those who are important to me. (Not in a stalkerish way, I promise!) When I see a post that goes against what I expect of that person when they are well, what do I do? I pick up the phone! Facebook may be social media, but for me it provides clues on how my friends are doing. Not because of what they say, but more what they don’t.
Instagram is mixed.
I have two accounts, one for (mostly) running, the other for (mainly) rope. These are my digital photo albums, and spaces I visit for inspiration. Joyful echo chambers for those two hobbies. The friends lists are related, for the main part, to those areas of interest and both are happy places in their own way.
Well, this is a great space. Photo album, social networking (kinky Facebook?) learning platform, inspiration… Moderately toxic at times, I spend very little time on there these days. But when events are up and running again I shall be back on there searching for events locally, and further afield.
And then there is Twitter.
Or in my case NSFW Twitter, which I can only guess is similar to SFW Twitter, just with more body parts on display? I struggle with this platform sometimes. I started the account soon after I started my blog following advice from experienced bloggers. (Next came memes, but that is a different post entirely.) I have made some wonderful friends through twitter; some I have met in real life, others I don’t expect our paths will ever cross.
I genuinely enjoy my timeline.
Generally I’m less invested in those I scroll through there than on other platforms. But still, the behaviours I see often make me sad. More so on twitter than anywhere else, likely because I have a broader spectrum of accounts populating my timeline.
It isn’t opinions of others that affect me, when they are the opposite to mine, though the way these are voiced can often make me cross. It is a great way to start conversation, in no small part because I am genuinely fascinated by people and the way we all see the world so differently. I don’t enjoy the bitching and the back-biting, and (what often feels like) people shouting for the sake of scoring points, but it is an education. It’s true, we never know when the opportunity to learn something new may occur. And I take it wherever I can, whether that is about myself or what I like/dislike in others.
I often feel like an observer on Twitter, and I like that. Perhaps even a voyeur?
Anyway, back to my thoughts…
In a world where social media has become so important to us in our everyday, many users appear to gauge their worth on the opinion of strangers. This is what I find most upsetting. I want to scream “you are worth so much more than the opinion of internet strangers!!! We all are. Please stop using their approval- or not- as your yardstick!”
This isn’t a phenomenon exclusive to Twitter.
It is why I keep my Facebook small, often avoid Fetlife and keep my Instagram accounts focused on my hobbies. But I have seen this come up in relation to Strava too- of all places! Users will say (in a Facebook group) “If you don’t give me kudos on Strava then I’ll unfollow you!”.
Feeding that need for validation puts us at risk.
We become easy targets for those who are only too happy to knock us down. On occasion I take offence to comments on social media, but I always reply for clarification. I try to remember that a lot gets lost in a short text response. Sometimes, I will be right to be offended, and that is the person’s first warning- Mr Marks had a severe telling off from myself (and SWL) on my Facebook account. Oops! (A second violation of Barefoot’s terms of engagement gets a block- usually temporary- until I can figure out a way forward for myself. Usually though it is a misunderstanding, just as I imagined it would be. And by being open and honest then I learn something about myself. And those I interact with learn something about me- usually not to post on my timeline!
When my mental health deteriorates I change my use of this little social media bubble.
I tend to vanish from other networks and gravitate to Facebook. Remember, I keep it small and safe. I scroll through my friends posts, like EVERYTHING! Share tunes, and pictures, and organise my photo albums and comment, and like some more posts, and join some groups, and shop on marketplace, and comment on some more posts and… Goodness!! It’s exhausting!
I check to see who has liked this image, or that post. For me it is less about the content and more about the connection. It is my way of reaching out and asking people to notice that I’m here, I exist, I’m not OK. And I’m lucky. I do this on a carefully curated account where my friends notice unusual activity and… What do they do?
They do what I do. They pick up the phone.
Recently I’ve taken on a couple more responsibilities in my vanilla world. I’ve also been struggling with an ongoing task for Sir. And I have been pushing myself harder in my work. But I noticed something different in my emotional reaction. As soon as I noticed the overwhelm I changed the way I have been navigating social media. I didn’t hop onto Facebook and scroll without meaning for hours. Instead I switched off notifications, across all platforms. Took the time to be kinder to myself, and gave ME the space I needed to just be.
I consider myself lucky though. I haven’t noticed much nastiness directed at me online from those “internet strangers”. I’ve only experienced that kind of unpleasantness in person or, if online, from two men who I’ve ended things with. I also have Sir, who has shown me that you can’t please everyone all of the time, and that’s ok. And then there are my friends who love the authentic me as much as I do, even if we do have differing opinions.
I am not going to lie. It isn’t always easy to maintain emotional distance from what I see online. But it has certainly become easier through having very strict boundaries in place, helped no end by Siur’s “ignore anyone who is being inappropriate”. I am so glad I have found a way of navigating social media, being kinder to myself, and learning to step away at times.
I hope you found Navigating Social Media helpful. If so, please consider buying me a coffee so I can keep sharing my thoughts, pictures and mischief!