The Wrong End of the Stick
I’ve always had a very love/hate relationship with social media. I was one of the first people I knew to be on Friends Reunited, and then on the highly underrated MySpace. When Facebook started to become popular I resisted for months because it felt disloyal to my beloved MySpace. At MySpace I could be super creative and design the page just how I liked it. I loved the comforting presence of Tom in my inbox and felt way cool making out to the world that I was really into bands. (I am into bands, but maybe not quite enough to justify the amount of actual space they took up on my MySpace).
When I finally gave in and got Facebook, I didn’t know what I was doing. And looking back on some of my earlier posts, you can really tell. “Watching neighbours”, “Trying to decide what to have in her sandwich” and “Tired”. Really? Wow. I suppose we were all a bit like that, weren’t we (god, please make me feel better that we all had shit posts in the early days of FB)?
As time has gone on Facebook has been both a blessing and a curse. I was largely absent from it for a few years because of the now so prevalent “Memories” app. For those who don’t use FB, Memories reminds you every single day of your posts from this day in previous years. As I had used Facebook so much in the past, the Memories function was showing daily interactions from a time which was just too painful to be reminded of. So I avoided Facebook and those pesky Memories almost entirely. And it was then that my loyalties switched to Instagram.
I bloody LOVE Instagram. I love seeing and being inspired by everyone else’s pictures and what they are doing with their lives. Instagram have been really clever in the way they have created this mood from an app, it feels like a positive space, where people want to really share the best side of themselves. But as both consumers and creators of the content, we all must retain the healthy knowledge that its only one side.
Case in point. I recently spent a day painstakingly removing all the bad crap from my Facebook so that the Memories app won’t trigger any trauma and I could use it again. You could argue that in doing so I am attempting to rewrite history. Yeah well, sometimes it’s got to be done.
Another case in point. After a friend recently pointed out to me that old social media posts of her current boyfriend with his ex were haunting her, I now archive (rather than delete) most pictures or tags with my exes. This way I can still see the posts but anyone stalking my page can’t.
So no, I don’t suppose that anyone stalking my socials would get a very in-depth handle on who I actually am. But they would see that I’m generally positive, that I like reading, music, food and fitness, and that I love to be everybody’s cheerleader. I want everyone to do well, be happy and let’s all have a round of Kumbaya while I fire up the bubble machine, yeah?
So you can imagine my disdain when I recently posted one of my self-helpy, “you can do it even if you’re in the depths of despair” posts only to discover that my mum didn’t like it. I’ve got to admit I was hurt. Generally I like or love everything that anyone posts (it’s part of the cheerleader clapping thing). Double tapping is an automatic punctuation to scrolling for me. If someone I know pops up on my feed, I usually like it simply because if I’m following them it means I like them, and if I’ve got time and something to say, I try to comment too.
When I asked my mum about not liking my post, she said she thought it sounded a bit bossy and privileged aka entitled (ouch). But I knew she’d got the wrong end of the stick. I suppose I posted it safe in the knowledge that people would just know that 1, my “bossy” suggestions are for myself first and foremost, and 2, I mean well and would be devasted if anyone genuinely thought I was bossy and entitled.
After spending half an hour unsuccessfully trying to convince my mum that I didn’t mean what she thought (clearly got way too much time on my hands) I went back and re-read and yes, I suppose I could have come across as bossy and if read in the wrong light, might even have sounded entitled. Suddenly I felt all panicky and worried that other people might have reached the same conclusion. And then I started to think god, why do I even do this? Then came the obligatory existential crisis and questioning every single thing I’ve ever said, done or posted online, ever. So a standard Saturday afternoon really.
Because this happens to me a lot. I’ll fire off a message or a comment and then afterwards worry that it might have been taken in the wrong way. Did I accidentally sound angry? Judgey? Nosey? Like I was coming on to them? It’s no wonder that so many people just lurk and say nothing. Its much safer that way because getting the wrong end of the stick is likely way more common than even I really want to think about for too long.
Social media isn’t the be all and end all of course but it does provide a cross section of society from which we draw conclusions about people’s thoughts and behaviours, and in that way, it does shape our own lives to an extent. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but it’s here and not going anywhere so I might as well get involved.
But for my own sanity I must learn to relinquish control over whether someone takes something the wrong way. Because really our only requirement is to be ourselves and trust that people will just get it and know that at the end of the day, we all mean well. Frankly, anything else is just exhausting.