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.
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.
Folk 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.