I have a confession to make. A modern conundrum of a confession really; as of yet I am not 100 per cent glued to social media. Every thought or experience that comes my way generally goes by without any sort of online representation. I have moved whole countries and been in entire relationships unbeknown to Facebook. These omissions stem neither from a particularly private nature nor a lack of opinions that I wish to express but rather from an aversion to social media that I have silently and somewhat undecidedly been harbouring.
A new age
And yet, why is my ineptitude for/ vague dislike of social media something that I should have to confess to? Am I merely apologising for the social awkwardness of going against the grain? It goes without saying that social media pours open endless forums for expression. Used correctly social media can potentially emerge as a significant and creative form of self-expression. And the inclusivity is to be praised also- no longer must writing and freedom of speech exist as the privilege of a niche market. And yet I find myself mistrustful of the constant exposure of thought that is available online.
For any fellow technophobes or non-fluent social media users like myself I am about to describe a situation which I no doubt needs any introduction. To the vast majority of others out there though, I feel I must describe how not giving into social media can hinder you on a daily basis. I often find myself in a situation in which I’m in conversation with more social media inclined folk than myself. Typically, the conversation will take a turn towards some noteworthy remark made on twitter. Obviously I will have no idea and yeah one can feel a bit excluded; like being the last to be let in on some big secret or something. Or like talking about a movie you’ve never seen. A whole spectrum of knowledge and intrigue which you must remain dismissed from. Yet that’s not really what bothers me specifically.
I think what really instils fear within me is our permission to rip open any online personality that we come across. People express themselves freely online; yet their expression is far from free. We take their online statements as completely unabridged truth or factual statements and dissect what they have said to the point of obliteration. The distance between online discussion and actual live discussion makes it easier to criticise and poke fun at what others say. And from a removed distance of course I respond in this critical manner too.
Obviously people can deal with the backlash (to a certain extent) that they receive online- but what about everything that they don’t hear people say? Usually, the response to a statement glanced at online is either one of quickly forgotten praise or elongated and cruel criticism. I think it is the harsh opposites of under praising or overly criticising that makes me sceptical of exposing my ideas on social media. Yet, I find myself in an unfortunate paradoxical situation; all I want to do is to write but I find myself averse to social media.
To give in or not?
Maybe if writing was more detached from social media I would be less weary of it. I know that the position of a writer is something that constantly alters. As someone who gets a bit knocked by open criticism, by putting my work out there for all to judge could be detrimental. Yet conversely, social media is probably the way to gain praise and recognition also.
To give in or not? To trust either that my writing is passably good enough that the negative comments will be few? Or to merely trust myself that I can handle the negative reactions without discouraging myself? And could social media allow me to fall into the type of writing which I want to commit myself to? Potentially it is more open, more fluid, giving me the space to even see if this attachment to writing is more than a passing phase.
Writers of all sorts
The way I see it is there are only a few types of writers that exist out there today. One type to a certain extent can eschew social media- academic writers. These writers are privileged to have the skill to squeeze out something new from something well recognised. They can exist within the beautiful worlds of libraries and lecture halls, blissfully free from needing online followers. Another prominent type is the writer in possession of a blog. Some are insightful and individual yet sadly there also exists many ill-informed and cringe worthy overly personal ones; an unfortunate sub- category which no one wishes to fall into. And then there are the odd fortunate ones- paid journalists and published authors. I bow down to you and your literary merits.
The postmodern marriage
Despite the range of categories described above, I somehow just don’t see myself belonging to any of them in the immediate future. Perhaps a blog- but what if it is overly personal and full of unread and unappreciated cheese? I guess I could carry on for the rest of my life writing- anything- personal essays, poetry, attempts at short stories. Writing everything down on paper and feeling happy with the outcome and the purpose of what I have written. Yet, just leaving it somewhere to gather dust, unread and unpublished feels so wrong. If I left behind a giant box of notebooks brimming with my words and ideas, would anybody bother to read them? Would they just take a look at one bad drunkenly written poem and abort mission? Or just not be able to read my hand writing?
Sometimes I do just have to sigh over my favourite thing (writing) and one of my dislikes (technology/ social media) having this postmodern marriage. Can the two just not exist within their separate orbits? I’ve been weighing up the pros and cons of avoiding social media or dipping my toe in the water for some time now. Questioning whether to be staunch in my rejection or to free myself of scepticism? After a lot of humming and hawing, I feel that it couldn’t kill me (or my writing) to at least sample it for a while. Something I’ll write could be noticed and make someone laugh. Maybe an online vulture will attack and ridicule my words, tearing them into irrelevant and trite pieces. Or maybe just like before, I’ll be the only one who reads what I’ve written.