Do I Exist? | How Social Media Affects Self-Perception
Updated: Jul 11, 2022
My last Instagram post was on August 23rd. My last email newsletter was July 11th, 2020 — yikes. My last Facebook post was on December 5th — ok, that one’s not so bad.
But if I’ve dipped under the posting frequency requirement that keeps me “relevant” — does that make me irrelevant?
It sure does feel that way, but couldn’t be farther from the truth of who we are as human-souls.
Social media has successfully run off with our autonomous concept of Self, and twisted our self-image into a comparison trap that values viral content over real worth.
For a decade, I’ve had an online presence. It’s evolved as I have, encompassing passions and career aspirations. I’ve had both short and long periods of stepping away, recalibrating, going at it differently.
My last online disappearance was unplanned, and I was honestly surprised it’d been so long since I’d so much as posted a single pic on my main social media platform. The reason — in June, I accomplished something big for myself. I finished writing my first book, a lifelong dream packed with expectations and fears, desires burning so hot within me I’ve crumpled under the weight of the pressure I, myself, have put on the outcome.
Then something else happened.
As someone who’s at least on version 7.0, I realized my whole life had to change, again.
I stepped away and drew energetic separations from all of my longest standing relationships, infused boundaries for the first time ever in life. Shook off the stagnancy that had accumulated after five years of reclusiveness, and committed to daily movement. I directed my energy into rich relationships I wanted to grow. I began standing up for myself. And I kept writing.
I published my first story on Medium on August 22nd, and every week since, I’ve added to this body of work.
Anyone who’s doing anything online knows how vital it is to have systems, software and support behind you in order to share your work. Scheduling apps for social media, brand-reflective stock photography . . . Bit.ly and Linktr.ee are your best buds. Creating is half of the pie. Savvy sharing that also serves as marketing is everything, because without that consistent output of content, you’re invisible.
I knew this then, at the very beginning of creating an online image, and I know this now. And still, over the last chunk of years, I’ve failed to maintain regularity on social media. My sharing has been spotty and erratic, not near up to snuff to compete with the production machines that pop in our feeds with such certainty that, no matter the weather, ebbs and flows of life — literally a catastrophe can happen and instead of stepping back to pause, it’s time to jump on and chime in, be that “relevant” voice — they are there, with the next TikTok dance challenge, plant propagation Reel or love&light meme.
More and more, it feels like a chase to work harder to create tantalizing content. We have to not only create our magic, but bend over backwards to innovate in graphics, audio and video that will hook people longer than a fifth of a second. So hopefully they like, even better — double tap. They follow, even better — keep peeking in (You’ve gotta post a lotta good schtuff for them to do this.) They subscribe, even better — read the newsletter. Even better, invest in us aka buy something.
The pressure’s on to creatively reconstitute content and pump out gems that make people smile, reflect, engage.
Even before there’s a shot of making money from a passion, there’s gotta be a brand behind it. A vibe, color scheme, legit website (not the early 2000s-looking template with no images and an email signup tucked away on the contact page), video, writing — and a backlog of content across myriad platforms to assure someone of interest that this is real.
It’s a lot to keep up with.
Especially for those of us who have been goin’ it solo, without virtual assistant support or a marketing team behind us.
As I’ve walked an independent path, seeking a career in authorship, entrenched in amassing all the knowledge on self-development, spirituality, business, success, growth, mindset, self-care, health — just so I can have a shot at fucking making it in this crazy game of life — I’ve struggled with the role of social media, of casting myself into an online space in order to be seen and heard by the world at large.
I’ve produced hundreds of my own videos, gone on podcast interviews, blogged, posted and posted and fucking posted more, designed website after website (entrepreneurs update sites as often as they change their clothes), created email signup freebies . . . after years of all these things at differing levels, through massive changes in purpose and message, my following has remained around the same. Smatterings of a few hundred, here’n’there.
I have 23 subscribers on my email list.
I feel a pang of embarrassment admitting that. I feel like it should be so many more by now.
Sometimes I relegate my worth to the numbers, or lack thereof. I perceive my success and my Self based on how many people follow me, or don’t.
I’ve made countless determinations on the value of my creation based on response.
That has left me bankrupt and seeking attention.
It’s a garbage place to be.
After I finished writing my first book, an unexpected wave of depression took me down. I’d also taken on commitments that pulled me away from me. The perfect storm put me in a hole that took lots of gentle, deliberate SelfLove to crawl out of and really open up to life again.
As I’ve really started living, and stopped compulsively sharing every moment of my life in real time, I’ve felt into the very real truth that life is so much bigger than what we post. Meaning, purpose, connection, abundance, health — it’s all here for us, both through the screen and beyond it. But my real focus today, is beyond it. Because this is the vehicle. This MacBook Pro takes all the words pouring through me from a greater place and conveys them in a format that anyone in the world can access. Medium is a holder of ideas for people to either delight in or overwhelm themselves with. Instagram is one of the best platforms for artists to showcase their talent in colorful, vibrant, personalized visual ways.
It all has its place.
But life must be lived, first.
The inspiration flows through us from beyond. The internet disperses it. The web of connectivity that is us aligns those in need of something with that something.
It’s not followership first. Numbers first. Metrics above all.
It’s the other way around.
I exist outside of social media, and choose to engage with it consciously, carefully and with clear intention.
Because I am me, not who my followers deem me to be. No amount of taps, comments or shares — or lack thereof — can ever reflect the deservedness I possess by simply being myself.
Mantra: I no longer wait to be acknowledged. I live beyond the numbers. I see, hear, know and listen to my Self. I am intimately connected to a source that defies all algorithms.