An Uneasy Relationship

This entry is the first in an ongoing series about mindful social media. Visit me on Instagram for more on this topic. Click here for a Social Media Check-In downloadable pdf - the first of a series of tools I'll be creating to support and encourage mindful use of social media.

I have, since its inception, felt uneasy about social media. There has always been something about it that feels not quite real. The two-dimensional nature of digital communication makes this true, but it is also the way online exchanges enable everyone to say, post and share what they want behind a veil of sorts. This has had an influence on everything from basic social exchanges to emotionally charged debates. It's easier to cancel a lunch date at the last minute with a text message and it's easier to see someone we disagree with as a person to despise, because unless we know them personally, all they really are is an image on a screen.

There will always be something incomplete and lacking when it comes to electronic communication of any kind, which is why, every year, I have grown increasingly ambivalent about the whole thing. After riding that first wave of excitement about this brave new world - a period that lasted about three years starting in 2005 - and coming out of it a bit bruised and battered, I started approaching social media and digital communication with a more discerning eye and stricter guidelines for myself regarding its usage. Which is not to say I always kept to them and never succumbed to some of the more shadowy sides of social media, but I started to learn how to avoid the pitfalls I'd stumbled into during those first few years of THE INTERNET.

In that first thrilling expansion of what was then basically only blogs and Flickr, I dove in with my arms wide open. I met kindred spirits all over the globe, not only online but in person, and was soon singing the familiar chorus of, "I've finally found my tribe." I had a blog that was getting 500,000 hits a month and I organized everything from postcard projects, group art shows, and retreats in my home, all with women I'd met online. I envisioned my place in the world as being centrally located in the midst of a wide circle of creative kindreds who I felt fiercely devoted to and gave me a proud sense of belonging.

The thing about anything new is that the first community of users is going to have to work out the kinks as they go along. The wrinkles I had to iron out had to do mainly with my own assumptions about certain relationships as well as my own reactions to situations that didn't go the way I expected them to. The good news is that all of this turmoil gave me the impetus I needed to start taking better care of myself. The short story is that I learned to set better boundaries - not only between myself and others, but with social media and electronic communication.

Through all of this I have developed quite a fascination with our usage of social media, the internet and technology. I have written about this here and there, but never really stood up and announced to the world that I am an advocate of anything specific related to social media. But now, more than ever, I feel called to speak up about my curiosity about this topic, and hopefully, in the process, pique the interest of others enough to think more carefully about all the ways social media influences our lives.