In my email the other day was one of those generated Facebook reminders that say something like “Your followers haven’t heard from you in a while!”. Usually, this reminds me that I haven’t posted anything to be shared to my Facebook page for this blog and that I should probably write something. But this time, instead of just stoking that guilt, it hit me in a different section of my vast guilt landscape.
Not only do I lack in being providing consistent blog content (that’s a problem that lies in dedication and laziness), I also lack in keeping up with the interactive part of having an online presence. I just really am not that social. And that might be my Achilles heel when it comes to making this blog, and my writing, a serious thing.
Instead of interacting with others, I’m a long time lurker. I read rather than interact. I like and share rather than comment and DM. Just like in real life, I have trouble starting conversations online. I often find it easy to leave a “THIS!” or “OMG I LOVE IT!” comment but I am not one for entering into heavy online conversations. I know people who have fingers and brains whose speed match that of Usain Bolt when it comes to Facebook interaction. They are wizards at whipping up well thought out and intelligently crafted responses to some hard-hitting conversations. Meanwhile, I usually just follow either sharing my thoughts with my screen or looking for a somewhat related .gif I could post.
Just like in real life, I’m once again standing on the wall, watching as other people interact. I’m smiling, nodding, and sending my encouragement but really I’m just a bystander. I’m not in the conversation. I’m as active as the person who is yelling at the ump while watching a baseball game at home. And in a world that is dominated by social media, networking connections,and online interactions like is are akin to being exiled to the Wastelands
And it’s just not Facebooking that I’m awkward and unskilled in. Twitter for me is still like learning to ice skate after the first thaw. Just when it starts making sense, the rhythm of it slips away from me. And while everyone has been on Twitter for what feels like decades, I’m still trying to figure it out. I really, really want to sit with the cool kids, I just don’t know how to quite get to that table. So, after following some people, and dropping some hashtags, and trying so hard to interact, I’m back to scrolling, hearting and just reading.
If, like me, you aren’t a social butterfly, why should you bother trying to fly? Because the sky is where everything is happening now. At the risk of sounding like a cheesy real estate agent or equally cheesy life coach, the ground is no longer home to the innovative. If you want to succeed in today’s world, if you want to get noticed, or even just get heard, you have to interact.
It’s simply not enough these days to just do the thing. You have to polish the thing, present the thing, SEO the thing, tweet the thing, hashtag it, give it a fancy graphic and share it until you’re sick of seeing it yourself. And all the while, you have to think up your next thing, juggle your real life, and field all the interactions from fans and or detractors.
This is where I fail. I see bloggers and podcaster who I admire who are able to do all these things wonderfully and I know I do not measure up. (That’s not said in a self-deprecating “oh woe is me” way, it’s just an acknowledgment)
Aaron Mahnke is someone who I look up to immensely. Not only does he knock it out of the park with Lore, he also does both the Unobscured podcast and his Cabinet of Curiosities podcast. Oh, and he writes books too. And he tours. And there’s an Amazon Prime show based on his stuff. And in the middle of all of that, he’s active on Twitter. He’s creating and supporting and allowing himself not to get lost in it and deter his ability to do the damn thing. And that’s pretty inspiring.
Other inspiration for me comes from the duo behind Welcome To Night Vale, Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. They have more irons in the fire than most people I’ve ever been aware of. Give the Night Vale universe a check, and you’ll see how much they have going on. As if Night Vale isn’t enough, there are books, merch, and tours. They have a slew of other podcasts (as part of Night Vale Presents) which are all awesome and they just started a new podcast about, of all things, the art of creating. They are active on Twitter and still have time to do the things that make them happy and STILL pump out new content. So they too prove that you can do it all and still accomplish your goals.
So what’s the solution? How do you cope with being the social part of social media when you’d rather stay in the shadows?
After some soul searching here are three ideas I’ve put into action:
Find out what you want.
Like they say at my kids’ school, “begin with the end in mind”. What are you looking to get out of your social media usage? More followers? More friends? A support group? Or are you just trying to get your ideas a bigger audience? Figure out what your purpose is, then decide on what path you’re going to take to get there.
If it doesn’t come easy, learn how to do it.
We need to break the habit of just lurking by setting goals and making it a job until socializing starts to feel fun. If we set aside a certain amount of time a day to interact and chat people up on the interwebs, then it will eventually become something we get used to. I don’t think doing this makes it any less meaningful than just randomly opening an app and killing time scrolling around. Pick a time during the day, set a timer, and have that be your daily social media blitz.
Take a big breath and get over yourself.
Anxiety and impostor syndrome will destroy whatever momentum you have. Try to let go and just be you. For the longest time, I thought that you had to always present this polished perfect image of the idea of who you were. From what I’ve observed, in 2019 online interactions are all about being real. The world has been filled to the brim with Photoshopped and airbrushed commercial AI. We crave honest interactions now. So people are out there being the change they want and are just being themselves. My biggest struggle has always been trying to be what I thought others wanted out of me. That translates into often putting on a “face” for the internet. But after watching how others act online, it’s pretty clear that being disingenuous doesn’t really win you any favors. In an era where we’ve been choked on fake news, it’s time to get over who you think you should be, and just be who you are.
Stepping off the wall and being a social person may never be an easy thing for me. Social anxiety is a bitch and one does not simply become a social person overnight. But knowing is at least a fourth of the battle. Doing is the rest.
I am not deluded enough to think it will be an overnight change, but I’m sure if I give it enough time and dedication then one day the things I feel I lack in could be things I’m proud of.
I hope that if you struggle with the same things you can feel that way too. Let’s work on it together. We can all be awkward and weird on social media together. I’ll be looking for you!