On Twitter and Being “Popular”

21 Apr

I love social media.  No, really.  It’s connected me to amazing people, provided incredible opportunities, and has allowed me not only to stay in touch with friends and family from my past but also to make new ones.  It was through twitter that I found my online tribe of #ppdchat mamas – women who have been through an identical hell and teach me daily to value myself and my journey.  Because of Postpartum Progress, I found my perinatal psychiatrist, Dr. Marlene Freeman at MGH.  She was absolutely essential to the diagnosis and treatment of my antenatal depression during my pregnancy with No2.  And now, I find myself on the other side of the coin, helping other new moms navigate a frightening period in their lives that I promise they will look back on one day in memory instead of agony.

But all this social media?  Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, blogging?  Has its dark side.

Twitter Profile

See, when you tweet something, whether it’s a “good morning” to a friend you know is drinking her coffee on the other side of the world at the same time, or a link to a selfie taken because of a good hair day, you put it out there for everyone to see.  It’s a bit different from calling up a friend for a chat, because when the tweet or status is public, you are also advertising your conversation.  And that is how people end up feeling left out.

I like to think of twitter as a big cocktail party.  I take the elevator up to a large terrace, the doors open, and there are hundreds of people having interesting conversations.  All the interesting people, all these conversations, are served up for my choosing like a menu at a restaurant.  All it takes is a well placed #buttingin hashtag or a quick “hello, everyone” to announce your presence and you’re in. At least that’s how it used to be.

Twitter QuoteFolk who have been on the twitters for the past 2 years will also tell you it’s changed.  People who are following social media “rules” (created to increase traffic and readership) are less concerned with just having conversations.  So now, many of the interesting people I follow are taciturn, leaving me to look like that girl you know who never stops talking.  I genuinely don’t have a problem with how people use social media.  It’s perfectly okay to feel that following the “rules” is in your best interest.  But like my friend A’Driane says, “It’s just not authentic to who I am.”

Anyway.  When you enter into a twitter or facebook conversation that the rest of your followers can see, you unintentionally do several things:  You open up the conversation to others who might want to jump in.  You namedrop, as everyone can see who you are talking to.  And you make it obvious to others that you are not talking to them.

There is only so much time in the day, and I only want to spend a small percentage of it online.  So I do tend to focus that time on the women I already know.  I think it’s only natural to find your tribe and interact mainly with them.  But I found that tribe and met these women because they opened up their group to me and welcomed me with open arms.  I admire bloggers who excel at this.  Galit Breen is one of the best.  Though “popular,” she always returns comments with a genuine response, and strives to leave no one out.  I honestly don’t know how she does it all and still has time for her family and to write, but she’s inspiring.

Which brings me to the dreaded word.  Popular.  I was the queen of awkward middle schoolers.  I was a band geek in high school.  And college.  And I still struggle in social situations.  I always feel so… awkward.  So to hear myself described as “popular” was at first laughable.  Then after reading a few posts and twitter conversations, I realized that because I had become close with a few women who started blogging around the same time I did, and because some of us roomed together at BlogHer in 2012, I had unintentionally become part of an “in crowd.”  And I felt terrible.  I suddenly understood that to some of the newer bloggers out there, our group appeared as a closed-off huddle, with no room for outsiders.

Finding people like you and forming communities is a normal, natural part of the human experience. So I don’t feel guilty.  But I do feel regret.  It was never my intention to leave anyone out.  Truly.

So.  Please know that in the social media world?  My huddle always has room for more.  Just like in preschool, we will join hands, all take a step back, and make the circle bigger for new voices and stories.  You just gotta ask.  And if you’re only interested in using social media to create elite communities? I want no part of it.  You’ve been warned.

18 Responses to “On Twitter and Being “Popular””

  1. Lauren April 21, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

    You address SO much in this post.

    So much.

    Twitter has changed over the past couple of years and I’ve had several discussions with a lot of people about why or how it’s changed. Sadly, the discussions about what’s WRONG with Twitter are often the more lively conversations I have on Twitter these days.

    Twitter helped me through my divorce, and it’s what I use to stay in touch with Moms who struggle with PPD as well. But it has totally changed and I think intimidates some people.

    I think there’s such a “perception” of popularity based on things that really shouldn’t matter. For instance, someone could look at my numbers and think that I wouldn’t have the time to respond given that I follow quite a few people and tweet so much. But if you look at my timeline, it’s primarily engaging with people because I believe that’s why twitter exists.

    I respond to just about everyone who @’s me, unless they’re obviously spam or I’m asleep or well, off doing something like actually living life (in which case, I’ll respond once I’m back to living online too).

    Thank you for this post – it hit home on SO many points for me.

    ❤ you!

    -lauren

    • learnedhappiness April 21, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

      Thanks Lauren! You were one of my first twitter followers! You were so welcoming and I feel like you helped me learn my way around. You are always so inclusive and I’m glad to have you in my tribe!

  2. Andrea B (@goodgirlgonered) April 21, 2013 at 3:41 pm #

    Crazy. It’s all crazy out there. I didn’t even KNOW you were at BlogHer, or who you roomed with, so how could anyone think you were excluding others? Weird. I think that’s a given, though, especially with women. We take our own insecurities and feel left out, even if we haven’t been. As someone who recently HAS been intentionally left out of something and feels crappy because of it I try to shove aside those feelings because I know who MY peeps are. If only each and every one of y’all lived closer. Then we could be our own in-crowd and welcome everyone into it. xo

    • learnedhappiness April 21, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

      I can’t believe we were both at BlogHer and didn’t meet. ::face palm::

  3. Chibi Jeebs April 21, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

    It’s so hard to straddle that line between exclusivity and inclusivity. At the same time, the only person/thing/feeling/impression/opinion you can control is yourself: if someone is going to be hurt that you’ve “left her out,” that (unfortunately) is on her (and I say this as someone who feels left out more often than I care to admit; I just recognize that it’s MY perception and that the other person very likely has no IDEA how I feel, never mind is doing it intentionally). Long comment short, try not to beat yourself up: you’re doing your very best – it’s obvious by this post. ❤

    • learnedhappiness April 21, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

      Thanks, Chibi. I think there’s definitely an aspect to the whole online popularity mess that is all in our heads. There are times when I feel left out or sad that no one thought to include me, but it wasn’t about me at all. I’ve also learned that I can’t expect folks to include me if I don’t ask to be included, you know? If I want to join in the fun, I gotta show up. But thanks for your comment. It was very kind.

  4. Lance April 21, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    If I get asked one more time why I’ve never attended a blogging conference, I’m just going to refer them to your post and drop the mic like Chris Rock.

    I don’t understand cliqueish behavior outside of high schools or professional sports teams. I also don’t understand why people don’t respond to tweets @ them, blog comments, or emails asking questions or making comments about what they write. Why are you on the twitter, book o face, blogs, etc if you aren’t going to discuss?

    I feel awful every time I advertise my book or blog on the twitter or book of face because I know it’s self-promotion and not conversation. I bristle each time I see a parody account or someone with an alias or self appointed nickname playing a part. I use my real name everywhere. I wouldn’t know any other way.

    This is an excellent post and I’m shocked I haven’t read, commented or tweeted with you before. Problem corrected. *fistbump* from a fellow anxiety freak

    • learnedhappiness April 21, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

      Hi Lance! Yes, I have Yo Gabba Gabba playing in my head now. That guy ruined that name, huh? I don’t mind when folks promote their books or posts as long as there’s a balance of conversation in their twitter/facebook feeds. In fact, I think people should be proud of their work and promote themselves – but I like to get a whole picture from social media. If all I see from someone is self-promotion or elite conversations, I stop following them. Not because I think they’re bad people – just because it doesn’t interest me.

      *fistbump explosion*

  5. Mamaintheburbs April 21, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

    I really liked this post! Thank you. I’m new to twitter. I have a huge following on Facebook (personal page) and always ran with the “in crowd” in school. I was VP of my high school class and played sports. I never really cared about popularity bc I was friends with just about everybody. But you come on twitter and you def recognize the cliques and the popular people and it can get overwhelming. It also sucks when you try to engage with people and they don’t respond to you. That I will never understand. I need to just unfollow and so far I don’t. But I will. Anyway, the PPD army has always been a group that is there when I need something. And the past few weeks I have had some great twitter conversations with ppl who are interested in talking to me. You included!!!! So thank you! So while I do feel like this sometimes is a popularity contest, you do have to try to make friends. If they aren’t interested in being friendly back… I need to move on. (I need to repeat this now in my head over and over.)

    • learnedhappiness April 22, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

      It’s intimidating at first, isn’t it? Everyone knows each other (or at least it appears that way) and they have all this history. But I think the beauty of twitter is that it can help you meet people who like to engage the same way you do. If you converse, they will converse. And if you just read sometimes, that’s okay, too.

  6. Amiyrah Martin (@4hatsandfrugal) April 21, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

    For the life of me I can’t imagine anyone thinking that you would purposely leave them out of something, including a social media “relationship.” Yes, there are people that we are very very close with online and offline; real friends that we can call on the phone or have G+ hangouts with and what-have-you. But, as one of my favorite people, I can say that you will never be a leader of a clique and are not currently in one. I agree with you about the limiting interaction on social media. I don’t think that has anything to do with people talking to their friends more, but has to do with people not willing to make new ones. I’ve attributed twitter to bringing some of the best people into my life, and because I’ve been blessed by it, I’ll continue to look for more friends through it. Found a tweep that just doesn’t interact with you or you find “cliquish?” Unfollow. Say hello to someone else and keep it moving. No one likes a twitter Eeyore.

    • learnedhappiness April 21, 2013 at 6:42 pm #

      Twitter Eeyore! That’s genius! Yes, I try to just move on buy sometimes it’s hard not to get feelings hurt. More importantly, I think it’s important that we all acknowledge that we might, at times, unintentionally leave someone out. And when we do and it hurts someone, we should become better for the experience. When you know better you do better, right?

  7. uppoppedafox April 21, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

    The fact that you care about people feeling left out says so much about you. I worry about this too because I stumble through social media stuff and may unintentionally exclude (for example I’m horrible about checking to see if I’m followin people back). But I hope that people give the benefit of the doubt. Anyway…good stuff here.

    • learnedhappiness April 21, 2013 at 6:49 pm #

      Oh, Vikki. You are great at including people. Of course we can’t be everything to everyone. It’s a two-way street, right? I tend to do a “am I following you” tweet every now and then. That way I don’t miss out on anyone who wants to engage.

      I’m so glad I was brave enough to butt in on your convertwations (eh?) and you were kind enough to include me. 🙂

      • Vikki April 22, 2013 at 11:39 am #

        It’s never butting in to me but I’m glad we connect 🙂

  8. quinn0808 April 21, 2013 at 11:29 pm #

    This was a good write! It’s nice to read the other’s point of view and know what they are thinking. I’ve only been in twitter for a year now and I guess I’m just now getting the rule?. I didn’t know until you told me that it was alright to #butin I thought it was like regular life and thought it was rude to but in to others conversations. I still struggle sometimes with that, and after I #butin I start second guessing thinking I wonder if they think I was being rude. I do feel like it’s a popularity thing at times and feel left out of the clique. It’s like when you are the new girl and everyone else has this history and inside jokes and you have NO IDEA what they are talking about. But we’ve had this discussion and I feel tons better since then, and hope our friendship will have “history” one day. Lets face it you’re a special person, who wouldn’t want to be in a crowd with you.

    • learnedhappiness April 21, 2013 at 11:32 pm #

      Aww, sweetie. You’re special too! Anyone who thinks you’re being rude butting in on twitter shouldn’t be conversing on twitter. They should be DMing. Lol. I’m glad we’ve become friends. Thanks for trusting me enough to share how you were feeling with me. It means a ton.

  9. tranquilamama May 8, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    This post gave me so much to think about. I have met so many wonderful people and learned so much from the communities that are on Twitter. I love your analogy of Twitter as a cocktail party. That’s exactly how I imagine it.

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