Social Media – the catch-all phrase for internet outlets like Facebook, Twitter, websites, Pinterest, Foursquare, and about a gazillion more and counting – has revolutionized how human beings interact with each other. With a single click of your mouse, you can connect with celebrities, politicians, and just regular people from all corners of the globe. You can find out what Rhianna had for breakfast. You can “talk” with your best friend who moved across the country. You can reconnect with friends from years ago and see pictures of their dog.
We often get so lost in the minutia of all this information that we forget just how powerful this is. Seriously, I can meet people from all over the world that share my love of Quentin Tarantino movies, coffee, and George Takei. I can get breaking news before it breaks. Those who share my tree-hugging, liberal views inform and humor me. Those who happen to support the other side also inform and humor me. All of this information and connection is truly magical.
However, there are also the stereotypes and negative connotations associated with Social Media. The biggest misconception is that anyone who posts about one’s own personal accomplishments and personal details on a regular basis is automatically labeled narcissistic. The label suggests that only a person with an inflated ego would share their life on a continuous basis via Social Media. I would like to dispel that myth and say that not all of us who are active on multiple Social Media outlets are narcissistic. In fact, many of us are quite the opposite of self-indulgent.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are clear examples of pure ego-maniacs sprinkled throughout every social media outlet. Can I get a Kim Kardashian? I’m sure you have the “friend” who doesn’t just post one picture of herself, it has to be multiple shots at 37 different angles, and all of them pop up in your newsfeed. Or you may have written a status update about your dog, and their comment somehow shifts the conversation back to those recently posted 37 pictures. That could potentially qualify that particular person as slightly self-indulgent. And hey, we all have our moments of wanting a taste of self-promotion or ego boost. Social Media is the queen of instant gratification. It can feel really good to get a bunch of ReTweets and Likes. No doubt.
Yet, for the most part, many of us who are active on Social Media are not narcissists or self-indulgent. We are truly looking for that selfless connection with other human beings. To hear and be heard. I know what it is like to not have someone to talk to. To not feel confident and comfortable in my own skin. One of my main goals with utilizing various forms of Social Media is to help those who feel stigmatized, alone, unheard. I have shared their feelings. I have seen the other side and can assist in providing hope that it will get better. This is the power of Social Media. Many amazing people have helped me feel less alone; now I can pass along that sense of hope.
People are able to use Social Media to find a voice when they may be silent in their lives. The It Gets Better Campaign in a great example of this. Many LGBTQ youth feel isolated and stigmatized in their physical surroundings. They can log onto the internet and instantly enter a welcoming, loving, and accepting community that embraces them for who they are. They can feel empowered to share their thoughts and feelings without judgment. This platform allows them to build confidence, not narcissism.
This has been the experience for me as I was struggling with PostPartum Depression. I was so confused, sad, overwhelmed, and just not myself. I literally put myself on hold to care for my daughter. I felt I had no other choice. And I certainly didn’t have the energy to do much else. Then I joined Facebook and Twitter and found an entire community of moms and dads writing about PPD. They shared their thoughts and feelings, there were “chat” sessions, there were seasoned PPD survivors who provided hope to those of us in the depths of our struggle. I met so many loving, caring, warm, amazing people who gave me the strength to know I could get through it. I am still very connected to this community for a daily dose of hope and inspiration. It’s such a powerful and amazing community that would not exist if it were not for Social Media. Pure magic.
Years ago, I never would have shared something positive about myself. I would also not share any personal details about myself, especially when it relates to my own mental health. My sense of worthlessness would tell me that it was wrong to do that. I also fed into the stigma that is so pervasive in our culture. Now my confident voice wants to shout out all aspects of who I am and what I am proud of. There are so many people struggling to find their voice. To find their place in the world. Social Media helps connect us and show us that it is okay to be who we are. To be confident and proud and vivacious and alive.
So when I hear or read yet another complaint about the Social Media Narcissist, I want to pull out my soapbox and shout out my rebuttal. Or write a post about it and share it on every Social Media outlet I am connected to. We cannot all be lumped together as ego-maniacs or showoffs. Remember that some of us never had a voice and we are enjoying our new found self expression. It’s that simple. And that powerful.