Tuesday, April 25, 2017

To Be Or Not To Be: That Is The Question I Am Working On When It Comes To Social Media And Being An Introvert


Earth Day this past Saturday was beautiful in my neck of the woods (Seguin, Texas), and since my family and I had such a full Saturday schedule, I decided to spend the day as unplugged as possible. I wanted to do this in order to make the most of the weekend with my family, but I also wanted to give my brain a bit of a tech break.

Then, I saw these gorgeous grasses dancing in the unexpected April cold front, and decided to let the muse move me to capture the movement on video with my smart phone.




And, I wanted to share it...right that instant.

I'm shocked at how quickly my mind jumps to thinking about how I might share a quirky image I've run across, a picture of a drawing I'm working on, or a random observation I've just had about the meaning of life onto the many social media accounts that I run for myself professionally and personally. On a scale of 1 to 10 for introversion, I rate pretty close to the "I'm allergic to people" intensity (I even need a break from my beloved family on weeks where I have to spend consecutive days out in the world of extroverts). And yet, social media and technology has created in me a desire to make what I once considered my internal world and monologue more a part of public discourse open to scrutiny, yes, but more interestingly to me, the introvert, open to social engagement.

My son spied this soap in the McNay Museum
 gift shop on Earth Day. "Wait, I have to snap a pic of that!" I said.
I knew instantly where I wanted to share it (Twitter),
 and I did, the next day, to a rather large response for me:
 24 likes & 5 retweets (I'm not much of a tweeter).
Apparently, introverts love to talk about
how the world isn't designed for us...I know I do;)
It's such a powerful thing to be able to preserve every moment on film (really, a data cloud) or in text, and then share it with a wider audience, but I am finding myself asking the question "why do I feel the need to share this?" more and more probably because I read this fascinating article about the addictive properties of our smart phones in The Atlantic late last year. When I ask myself this question, I'm looking to clarify my motivations for sharing. Sometimes my answers are immediate: certain friend groups will find something funny/exciting/informative, or it's an important event, moment, decision that needs to reach a large number of people and social media is the easiest way to do that, or I want to promote something I think is great to a larger audience, or simply because I want to. But lately, when I am feeling compelled to share something on social media, asking myself that question comes up with a "I dunno."

As an introvert, the balance between sharing my experiences and ideas on social media and actually living and processing my life is always a little fraught. It is so amazing to be able to connect with family across the country in a heartbeat, to be able to maintain friendships from various points in my life as if everyone still lived next door, to discover new kindred spirits across the world and share our common passions and interests as well as collaborate on projects (This post will not be another one of the million rants that are out there about how social media is the end of civilization; I am definitely not in the social-media-is-evil-and-has-made-us-all-into-self-absorbed-nut-jobs crowd), but the ability to do so leaves little room for just moving thoughtfully through life, or at least it feels that way to me sometimes.

When I share my life and ideas widely, while it brings me happiness (I love seeing that folks are excited about the new coloring books that I'm working on, or that they plan to join me at my next creativity workshop:) and makes me feel connected to the world at large (who doesn't want to hear about folks' new jobs, babies, pets, greatest adventures, deepest sorrows?), it also makes me feel like I am split into a million pieces, that I am in all these places at once and nowhere at all simultaneously. I have no idea if this response to social media is common (I only have my closest confidants to discuss these matters with), but I do believe that for me this response is due to my introverted personality.

To recharge my batteries so I can be awesome with humans each day, I need solitude, plain and simple. This is true of most folks who identify as introverted. And, even though there are many who claim that social media is not the same as actual face-to-face human interaction, as an introvert, I beg to differ. A few hours spent working on social media leaves me sometimes even more emotionally and psychologically drained than spending an entire weekend with friends and family. I think this is because social media engagement has no boundaries, no timeline; our phones go with us everywhere (well, ours never come into our bedrooms) and little lights and gentle beeps and boops pop up and sound off 24 hours a day. What I felt I had the energy to share at 9:00 am one day could, theoretically, continue asking me to engage socially well into the following week.

This truth about social media for me, that it is a never ending social engagement merry-go-round, is I think, why I have recently pulled back from sharing content that I deem worthy of posting up. I have moved social media apps buttons deep within my phone's additional screens, have shut down all notifications, have changed my phone's wallpaper to be images that remind me to respect my introverted nature's need for the same firm boundaries on engagement that I place on face to face encounters, but the only thing that really helps me to avoid the overwhelm that can come with social media is to avoid in-the-moment posting and cut back on posting altogether if I am feeling drained and distracted.

I suppose engagement in the world is a delicate balance we all struggle to maintain: what to capture vs. what to allow ourselves to just live, what to share widely vs. what to allow to be a simple moment lived privately. In the end, I did not post the video clip of the green grasses swirling in the wind. Nor did I post about the great museum exhibits we saw that day or the fabulous pizza place we discovered or the hilarious cat-picture-covered shoes that I bought. I'm glad I caught all of these images and experiences on my phone, but I'm also glad that I resisted the urge to share these moments right away on any social media platform because the day unplugged was just what I needed to build up the endurance to face this week. I may share some of those images and thoughts at a later date (food pics are awesome, and well, CATS!), but it will not be before I ask myself a new question: "Do you have the emotional energy to be engaged in social media right now?" 

2 comments:

  1. ��������������
    Growing up I didn't figure us to be introverts but looking back I see the clues on how we handled the world before us.
    Nowadays I like to have control over my interaction with people - with social media or face to face. I Will start asking the same question because there arw times I don't care what others have to say. ��

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    1. :) Being an introvert gets even more challenging when you are a parent, especially as your children get into middle and high school, I have found. There is a lot of engagement you simply have very little control over.
      Most of my life's close friends have discovered themselves to be introverts, so I am not surprised that you perceive yourself so:) I'm glad my wonderings have given you a little additional armor to protect yourself with in this wacky, overwhelming, extrovert world.

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