Hi. My name is Tatum and I am a Facebook-Twitter-Instagram-aholic. I plan out my statuses and I post them at a time of day when I know, statistically, there are more people online, so I can get the most traffic. If a Facebook status doesn’t get whatever I deem to be enough likes, I sometimes delete it. I hashtag the bejesus out of my Instagram photos in an effort to gain followers and likes. When a celebrity or well-known yogi favorites, responds to or retweets me, I lose my mind.
See what I’m getting at? OB-sessed.
I now have personal rules about what I can and can’t post and how often I’m allowed to post per day. I’ve had to ground myself from social media because I’ve broken down into tears based on my interpretations of others’ updates/comments/likes. I would read things, think they were directed at me (they usually aren’t) and lose my sh*t. In fact, last week, I attempted to engage in a thoughtful discussion about pets vs. kids and two complete strangers called me a pussy and a bitch. (Full disclosure: I could have made my point in a more thoughtful way, but the name-calling came after I apologized).
Your social media habits may not be as effed as mine, but there’s still a decent chance that you get juiced when a post takes off or sparks a debate. Why, though? Why do we care? How did we get to a point where a mini-thumbs up, a butt-load of comments, an argument or a retweet had so much power that it can affect our mood? This is pretty scary, people. I’m 29 years old. Facebook came out when I was in college. What happens to the kids who have had this stuff since before they could remember? I’m nervous. The power we give these websites over our moods and self worth is staggering. Studies have been done on this ish.
Now, listen up. I have social media to thank for a LOT, though. Check it out:
- I met Mme. Sweet G on Instagram. You’re reading this today because one of us liked the other’s gram and then we started following each other. I found Lovely Healthy Life through her profile, fell in love (duh) and reached out to her on Facebook. I didn’t even have her phone number until a few weeks ago. But we’re pretty much twins now.
- Just over a year ago, some weirdo drummer dude friended me on Facebook, out of nowhere. I felt random one day, invited him to a baseball game and now he’s my best friend. Turns out, I’m super into weirdo drummer dudes.
- I have a real, live, snail mail pen pal friend whom I met on Instagram.
- Last summer, Elena Brower posted an Instagram that I loved. I painted an interpretation of it, posted it to her social media sites to say thank you for the inspiration and she asked to buy it from me. Painting is my secret hobby. I don’t actively peddle my wares. Now I have this note from her on my fridge and I’m attending her TT in NYC starting next month ( I’m not saying all those things are related. But, more importantly, DO YOU HEAR THAT, NYC?! I’M COMING FOR YOU).
Believe it or not, the list goes on from here. Some of my best, awesome what-the-hell? stories involve social media.
So what to do? I’m not going to give it up altogether, because it has proven to be so valuable to my goal of meeting everyone on the planet in some way or another. While my personal rules have helped keep me sane, I still have to be very careful. People constantly say, “It’s just Facebook. It’s not real life.” There’s some truth to that, but not all. No, liking a status is not the same as paying someone a direct compliment, but it’s kind of where we’re headed. I can’t remember the last time I shared good news in person and that resulted in going out to dinner or any sort of special celebration. The celebration comes in the form of online praise. In a negative realm, ending friendships is digital now. I’ve blocked, removed, and hidden friends based on their posts. One time, a friend deleted ME because of a comment someone ELSE made on a status of mine (yeah, enjoy that thought). We think we understand what social media etiquette is, but we don’t. What may be offensive to me, isn’t offensive to you. That’s just how it is.
I’m going to be honest. I don’t know how to close out this post. I don’t have a list of rules or a neatly packaged moral. But that’s the point, I guess. There are lot of areas of our lives that can’t be boxed up and categorized. Sometimes we do things or things happen to us and we can’t classify them into a neat little folder and file it away. Social media might actually be an amazing exercise in being present and letting go. By paying attention to how much of our self worth is invested in our interactions online may say a lot about how much control we give our egos.
I’m a huge fan of choosing an area in which to work and writing down what I observe before I make a change. If that works for you, try to take a day and write down how many times you check social media. Note your moods and how they shift when you use these sites. Just watch for a moment, then decide what you want to do next. Trust yourself. Only you know what’s best for you.
Tatum Fjerstad is a Minneapolis yoga teacher, writer and laughter expert. Learn more about her here.