As all writers know, we are encouraged to build "author platforms" on as many social media sites as possible. For the introvert and the socially awkward, this can be exceedingly painful.
I've taken the Myers-Briggs Personality test, and at one time had a 50/50 split in introvert and extrovert. As I've grown older, I've slid more to the introvert side, but I still enjoy talking with and meeting new people. It's even better when I meet people who have the same interests I do, and that's the wonderful thing about social media. We are able to connect with people who are like us - for me it's people you might find at a Comic-Con or library event - but we don't have to go anywhere.
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The bad thing is that if you're socially awkward, social media can lead to Social Media Distress (SMD). SMD is the feeling that you're an idiot, have no right to interact with other people on any level, that everyone hates you and you should go eat worms.
I have identified three recurring ways I can be afflicted with Social Media Distress.
1. Where is everybody?
The feeling you are being social on social media to only yourself. I hate that feeling! Just by joining social media sites you are putting yourself out there to be ignored. Any insecurity you've ever had is magnified the moment you send your tweet or publish your post. It's like being the new kid in school, approaching the popular kids in class, and having them turn away from you.
2. Comment Diarrhea
I'm very talkative. I've had a therapist friend explain that I'm an "external processor" and I think he's right. I have to say "it" to process it and get it out of my head. It's probably why I'm a writer. However, I've had people be unkind about my inability to shut up. I've worked quite hard at learning to read bodily cues so I know when to stop. But, guess what?
You have nothing to help you out on social media. I can't see you! I don't know if your tone of voice is going "For God's sake, why doesn't she quit tweeting me!" I have no idea if I'm coming across as friendly, like some maniacal stalker, or, if I don't tweet back, as some arrogant jerk. Couple that with an Italian Grandmother who drilled it into me that we must be mannerly (How in God's name does one end a twitter conversation without being rude?), and social media conversations can totally set off an anxiety attack.
The sad thing? I love, love, love talking with people on twitter. I've met some really interesting people, but I don't want to freak anyone out by being too friendly. Does anyone know of some kind of cue people give to let you know you don't have to respond?
3. I Really Shouldn't Have Said/Done That
A past employer said I'm guileless. Many people who know me agree, and while that's a lovely trait to have, it also means that I don't have a good filter for what should remain unsaid. Add in being an external processor, and I have trouble, with a capital T.
I know enough to not talk about the hot button topics. It's more a matter of personal transparency and self-expression. Like, I express myself poorly, and make a fool of myself doing it. The moment after I push the publish button, I usually have a flood of thoughts like: "What did I just do?" "How stupid did I just sound?" "Is anyone ever going to be able to take me seriously again?"
For me, Social Media Distress occurs because I feel misunderstood. I'm really not a maniacal stalker, idiot, or arrogant jerk. Thankfully I am not important enough for people to really get uptight, but one misstep on social media for famous people and they can really be in trouble, which I don't think is very fair.
It's taken some time to figure out how I want to use social media to augment my personal and professional life. I've focused on a few sites for different purposes, instead of trying out every site for every purpose. I've tried to relax my personal and professional expectations for social media interactions. I'm learning how to enjoy social media, instead of letting it stress me out. And, amazingly, it's working.
Do you ever get Social Media Distress?
Do you have any tricks that helped you get over it?