An Open Letter to Social Media
Dear Social Media,
I have a love/hate relationship with you. Let me explain.
You’ve given me a lot of good things. One of your earliest spawn taught me how to code before I even knew what coding was, because a Myspace profile that didn’t automatically blast a Nelly chart-topper through my visitors’ speakers wasn’t a Myspace profile worth having. Facebook taught me self-control in times of political uncertainty and when people thought that dress was blue and black (it was not). Twitter sharpened my concise writings skills and self-perceived wit, and the thought of getting an Instagram post out of something is what gets me out of bed on Saturdays half of the time.
But my favorite thing about you is that you give creatives like me a voice and platform.
What other way could I have directed my friends and family to the jumbled, grammatical nightmares of blog posts that I posted as a young college student? You gave me the opportunity to share my work, even when the work wasn’t very good, and you gave me the encouragement to keep pushing. You have allowed my quiet and sweaty introvert self to receive some applause for a job well done without even leaving my apartment. For whatever reason, sometimes an extra push from a forgotten third-cousin is the push you need.
You are an incredible platform for me and many other aspiring writers, photographers, artists, musicians, and movers and shakers. The problem is, your ability to give anyone a voice has given people like me a bad rap.
Before you write this off as a whiny millennial tantrum, let me explain.
It’s never easy to put your work out there. Any creative can tell you that. Taking your baby, the product of your life experiences and your creative intuition, and giving it a comments section is big-time risky. You call it a way for our world to “connect,” but I call it a way to send me to the Wendy’s drive-thru for my third anxiety-induced order of fries of the day. (No, seriously. I gained probably seventeen pounds the day I was finishing up a personal, gut-wrenching piece that I knew would cause people to see me differently.) I usually used your power to show people how neat and tidy my life was, but putting these words in the world gave me some serious agita.
That sounds dramatic, and it probably is. But every time I put words onto a page and send them out in the world, my mind races with people’s reactions to it. Will they think I am stunningly intelligent? Do they think I’m the next Hemingway? Tolkien? Jim Gaffigan, preferably?
Or do they think I am a complete narcissist? Am I a show-off? Do I even know anything about what I’m writing? Those people in the comments of my first published piece didn’t think so. What good is doing what I love and sharing it when you’ve made the world such an open, small, and scary place? I feel the weight of people’s opinions every time I press the post button. And I’m not the only one that fears the comments that don’t show up below my post, but in people’s minds. It’s the weight that makes people disclaim that they want you to read their article or watch their video, but “if you don’t want to, that’s cool, too.”
I don’t know the answer, and I doubt you do either. Sometimes I think all you’re good for is recipe videos and pictures of dogs. Is it cool to assume that everyone wants to read my words? Of course not. But no one wants to risk that people might find their boldness of speaking words into the world annoying and pretentious, and it keeps mine and other people’s voices on a shelf unable to swallow our pride and put our work out there with confidence. And I’m not okay with it.
A Writer with Lots of Feelings
Dear Writer with Lots of Feelings (AKA Every Writer Ever),
Why is everything my fault? I mean, c’mon. It’s not enough that I help you remember literally every one of your friends’ birthdays. Or give you an excuse to hike. You know you would never do that without me and all of my hearts and likes. You’re dependent on me to give you affirmation and justification for the things you do and share with the world, and that’s not my fault.
Breathing your thoughts and ideas and art into the public world isn’t for the faint of heart. People kinda suck sometimes. I never said they didn’t. Just like people think that I’m only a bottomless pit of distraction and narcissism, people are going to take you out of context too. They’re always going to see the bad before the good. You imagine that someone (you know who) is sitting over coffee with someone more sophisticated and smarter than you talking about how lame it is that you think everyone cares about your words, because that happens. Maybe you’ve experienced it first-hand. Plenty of people don’t have good things to say about me either.
But you know what? I wasn’t created as a space to cultivate nasty political discussions and cyberbullying. If you scroll past the duck face selfies and pictures of espresso drinks, you’ll see that I’m a wealth of knowledge waiting to be tapped into. I provide a place where ideas can flourish and art can be celebrated. Ideas and art that would have never seen the light of day before. Important ideas and art that need to be seen.
People need to hear your voice. They need your characters, your humor, your brushstrokes that make them feel less alone. Isn’t that why people use me anyway? To feel less alone? People come to me to feel connected to something, but sometimes I can’t help but to do the opposite. But you have the power that even I can’t do--you can create something that reaches a hand out to those people that have also sent themselves through three Wendy’s drive-thrus today. You can be a power light of hope and humanity in their Facebook feed, and you can encourage them to do the same. Those are the things I want to share. The world needs your voice, and I want to give that to you.
You want to rest easier knowing that people out there could be judging you for your work? Then put in the hard work to make it the best that it can be. Type, snap, and play with confidence. Boldness doesn’t allow time for “what ifs.” Hard work doesn’t need “likes.”
Prove yourself wrong by putting authentic art in the world that people can’t help but notice and love, and prove that I’m more than a complete waste of time.