Social media struggles

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I’d forgotten to bring a magazine to read and someone else had already nabbed the Starbucks newspapers.

I sat down with my steaming soy latte and wondered how I was going to distract myself for the next twenty minutes or so. Because there’s a limit to the length of time you can gaze around a packed coffee shop before people start wondering what the heck you’re looking at.

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I don’t have a phone that does anything other than make calls, so scrolling wasn’t an option.

I rooted about in my bag and pulled out my little paper planner, turning to a blank page. I wrote at the top, “What is my problem with social media?” and underlined it.

It was time to get to the bottom of my years’-long uneasiness, once and for all.

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I was first drawn to Instagram because it gave me an outlet for my creative pursuits. In fact, in time, I found the very act of coming up with content for my feed a creative role in itself.

I enjoyed spotting pretty things to snap; I loved staging my pictures and posting them to form a patchwork quilt of pretty little glimpses into my world.

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Instagram also instantly drew me into a community of super-talented creatives and the place was so uber-positive, that it gave my fragile ego a much-needed boost.

It was a simple way to keep up with others’ lives and also quite the education when it came to glimpses into the global girls’ lives.

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It gave me a platform for expressing my views – especially those on simple living and spirituality. It also brought my work under the noses of the top creatives and did wonders for my papercrafting ‘career’.

It was *so* much better than facebook in my view (which I’d found utterly addictive and ditched pretty quickly anytime I’d attempted to make it work).

Okay, I needed to keep an eye on the length of time I was hanging out on Instagram, but overall, I found it exciting, thrilling and an enormous ego-boost.

Which is perhaps where I hit problems.

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When your online life is thrilling, sociable and ego-boosting, your somewhat ordinary, quiet and introverted real life can start to feel a little lacking by comparison.

And when your work starts to attract attention, you slip into a place of *needing* the likes without even realising it, feeling your mood dip when they don’t come – or don’t come as thick and fast as the next creative.

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Your process itself becomes affected, because before you even pick up a sheet of 12×12, you’re thinking in terms of which ‘make’ your feed needs next to keep it looking balanced and lovely.

You’re wondering which technique will impress and bring in the love; you’re picking your product and photos based on what you know will please, because – like it or not – those numbers do start to matter.

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Then before you know it, your little sanctuary of creative time has been trashed.

Gone is the gentle, contemplative joy of pouring out what’s in you to be expressed next, only to be replaced by a pounding heart, brimming with adrenaline at the prospect of being back out there, sharing and showing-off.

You’re rushing to get your page done before the light fades, so you can get a decent photo. Or you’re taking shots of your desk covered in pretty things, because that’s a nice low-effort way to get yourself back out there under everyone’s noses and quick.

If it sounds like I have issues, you’re right: there probably are questions that I need to be asking.

I just know that if creating that little grid becomes more important than creating the layout itself, alarm bells need to ring.

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Things venture into tricky waters in terms of friendships too.

Because as spiritual people, we’re created to care deeply about others’ pain, to enter into it and really try to be there for others. But that becomes a stretch when you’re attempting to walk alongside 200-odd people.

The alternative of course, is kind of being there, only sporadically and on a bit of a ‘friendship-lite’ basis… but it’s far from ideal.

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It raises the question of whether social media is the place for deep friendships in the first place; whether transparency even works online.

If I’m honest, the times I’ve tried to be upfront about struggles on social media have left me feeling more wounded than I did before I shared: my typed words perhaps failing to convey the depth of my pain and any typed responses failing to convey very much comfort, however much may have been intended.

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Perhaps social media is the place for pretty and happy only: bright smiles, shiny hair and cute cats in superman poses.

But does the entirety of anyone’s life look like that? Where are the sinks full of dirty crockery and un-made beds? Where are the struggles with loneliness, the breast-lump scares and the losses of temper with our kids?

All that pretty is just not the full story. I may assume that people realise that these sugar-sweet images are highly-edited snapshots – my life’s highlight reel – but do all of my followers necessarily realise that?

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And then there’s how we’re left feeling after our stints on social media. Whether all that comparison and sort-of-socialising does much that’s positive for our souls.

Whether the plunging sadness we feel when we clock how many people have ‘unfollowed’ us since we last checked becomes hugely disproportionate to the fact that these are people we don’t even know and that their ‘unfollow’ probably reflects nothing more than a routine feed-prune.

Whether we finally click off and go to bed feeling a little low that we don’t get to go to Disney; a little envious that we didn’t make the team; a little disappointed that we’re not courageous enough to get out there and let our hair down at the party… and a little sad that we weren’t actually invited, even if we were.

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And let’s not forget the question of addiction.

Of course, we could stop if we wanted to, but we don’t want to.

We could ditch any of these platforms at any point, but because we never do, we don’t ever find out for sure. It’s never, ever tested (which is lucky, as we have a hunch that quitting would be beyond hard, not to mention downright depressing).

As a person of faith, the uncomfortable concept of idolatry feels like it’s never that far from me, hanging around like an unwelcome cloud.

Who do you love?” it whispers, “Whose approval do you desire the most?”

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I think my main concern with social media though, is that we can fall into the trap of looking to it to provide something that it will never, ever be able to provide.

We each have a deep desire to be seen, heard, loved and understood.

And however many followers we have, however popular we become, however many times people tell us that we’re talented and fabulous and beautiful and clever, and however many companies fight to have us represent them – a social media platform will never satisfy our hearts’ deepest desire.

The desire to be known, loved and accepted – even at our very darkest.

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Alarm bells ring for me when ‘Scrappy Suse’ becomes more important than the real me: when I just start to like her more.

When I don’t want to meet people in real life, because they’ll see how I look my age away from the good lighting. When I’m picking out cute outfits in the morning, because today my feed requires a selfie. When I don’t want to teach a real-life class because people will realise that I don’t have *a single clue* what I’m doing ahead of that finished result.

And there’s a Hallelujah Chorus of alarm bells when I realise that I fear putting a pin in that online persona, because I’m frightened of facing up to how very plain my life is outside of her.

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Perhaps there’s a happy place where I can express the real me online – piled-high sink, greying roots and all – and be at peace with that.

Perhaps commenting, “I’m praying for you” on a depressed friends’ update is better than not showing up at all.

Perhaps I can determine to be so focussed on God’s view of my worth, that I don’t even notice that stupid little ‘followers’ figure.

I’m not sure.

But it certainly gave me something to think about over my latte.

17 thoughts on “Social media struggles

  1. Kim Smith (digigirl61 on IG)

    I see you. I hear you. I admire you. Do I think you’re perfect or lead the perfect life? No. But then nobody does and I recognize that. I found you and choose to continue following you because I am learning from you. No I don’t post my layouts anymore (by choice), but I still create. I enjoy your posts, whether they’re creative or just a tiny slice of your life.

    I get what you’re saying about social media and hope you don’t throw the towel in one day. But until then, I’ll be here cheering you on and learning from you. Thank you for all you do!

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  2. Lauren Hender

    Darling Suse, you are so tough on yourself. You understand SM being aware of its pros and cons. You are aware of how it impacts you (your self awareness is extraordinary) We don’t want to see you disappear and we do want to have a Suse that her sharing does not cause her anxiety and experiencing anything other than ‘just’sharing her creative projects. It’s about finding the tricky balance. I really hope that you find yours. You are right. The connections/relationships we make on SM are not the deep meaningful ones that are critical to life, but as long as we are aware of that and actively seek out those quality releationships also – there will be balance. I hope that makes sense. Hugs Suse

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  3. My husband bugs me sometimes because I look at my social media feeds so often. (Too often, really.) I tell him that it’s like having friends (in my Luna Lovegood voice)…all the while acknowledging to myself that I really do know most of it isn’t real. But it does still fill a lonely place I have in me.

    I liked this thought:

    Where are the sinks full of dirty crockery and un-made beds? Where are the struggles with loneliness, the breast-lump scares and the losses of temper with our kids?

    I am actually super comfortable with sharing those kinds of things…except I don’t very often because I worry people will think I’m too negative.

    Anyway, this is a long comment that really I just meant to convey: thank you for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate reading them!

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  4. Martha Strickland

    Dear Suse, thank you for sharing your heart. You really made me think about IG and my own response to it. I think about whether something I post will be loved and when only a few of my followers ‘like’ I wonder why. (I have very few so it is quite noticeable.) I appreciate the time and thought you put into your posts and would miss you if you decided to stop posting. There have been so many posts that have made me smile – like that adorable kitty who just loves to make an appearance or how I felt when you described your minimalist approach to supplies and I realized I needed to rethink my ‘gotta have it…gotta have it now’ attitude. So, regardless of how many likes or followers there are, you touch hearts and make them smile or make them think. Listen to the One who matters most, and He will guide you in this. God never fails and always has the perfect answer. Thanks for sharing this. Martha

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  5. Ginny

    Suse you are way too hard on yourself. No one expects you to be perfect or live the perfect life. I love you for you & all your quirks & insecurities. We all have them. Somedays I laugh with you & others I cry. Always I pray for you. I understand all that is lacking in Social Media but for me it has been a lifeline. I recently turned 70 (I still don’t know how that happened, I think I’m still years younger). 10 years ago we moved across country leaving all my creative friends behind. Gone were the people who understood me & my need to create. I have made friends but they’re not interested in did I leave enough white space, why I must find a perfect shade of pink,etc. Online I found people who understand creating is almost the same as breathing. I found my best friend. She lives hundreds of miles away(although we did live in the same city for a couple of wonderful years.) Without her & online friends like you my life wouldn’t be as full as it is. I hope you find a way to work social media out for your life because if you went away I would miss you terribly.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You have summed up exactly my thoughts far my eloquently than I could and I have to say that the reason I’m a fangirl isn’t because of your pretty pictures but because you apologise for the dishwasher being on in the background and the fact that you don’t spend ridiculous amounts of money on pointless crafty items for those 10 minutes of pleasure but recognise the importance of the process of crafting even if he finished result isn’t what you expected or wanted. Keep the realness and keep it you – you are an inspiration xx

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  7. I agree with Ginny. You are too hard on yourself. The fact that you hear the pull to draw back to your Lord and Savior says a lot about who you are. Stop listening to the negative voices in your mind because they aren’t coming from a loving source. When you hear those voice you have to say, “get behind me!” and look up to the One who loves you in your messiness. I would miss your kind words and insights and all the prettiness you share online.

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  8. Laura Rahel Crosby

    This post makes me want to cry. And tells me I need to do some deep thinking because I resonate with many of the fears and bullet points you have listed here.

    Liked by 1 person

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