I don’t know about you, but my thoughts can often be misunderstood when I’m interacting online, and I understand with social media it can be easy to do. After all it’s hard to pick up on tone and context of a situation from a single tweet. I believe that’s what happened recently with me.
As a general rule I try not to look at my follower count on Twitter, because I don’t think it should be important and I certainly don’t think it should equate someone’s worth, but the other day I was losing such a large amount in such a short space of time that it was becoming harder to ignore. I started to think maybe it was something I had done (as I always do!) So, I tweeted this just to put my mind at ease;
I figured if I had upset people, they would know I didn’t intend to do that. Ridiculously paranoid thought process, I know. But hear me out.
I can imagine what the naysayers are probably thinking ‘Oh another millennial with her first world problems she doesn’t have enough people to worship her boo hoo!’ Instantly many people assumed that I was worried about my follower count. On the plus side of this lots of lovely people began to connect with me and it cheered me up. Yet, a lot of the comments were really dismissive of how I actually felt. Some commented that I had 8 thousand, how I should be grateful as that was way more than most people and one woman said I needed professional help if my self-esteem depended on social media. I appreciate that most of the comments (bar a few vile ones) were said with the best intentions, but it wasn’t what I was getting at. It would be easy to assume that people who worry about losing followers are people who just want their numbers up and that’s it nothing more than a ply to get them back to where they were, but it really wasn’t the case.
Whilst I’d guess a small percentage do act like this online to gain a larger audience, I know for a fact that the majority of people I interact with suffer with the same issues as me in regard to self-esteem, paranoia, imposter syndrome and internalising every action they can’t control. These are common symptoms of mental illness and luckily the mental health community online understand this, so most can empathise. When I was upset that my follow count was dropping so rapidly my first thoughts weren’t selfish ones, my first thoughts were:
‘Oh no, what have I said?
‘Oh no, what have I done?’
‘Am I annoying?’
‘Maybe I’m tweeting too much’
‘I hope I haven’t upset anyone’
I know there may be people reading this now and thinking, why do you even care? And if you are then congratulations because where you are in your line of thinking, is where I long to be. I’ve struggled with people pleasing in the past, sitting on the fence, not wanting to upset anyone. I’m a bit pathetic to be honest, I can’t even tell my father how I really feel. I need therapy because of him and my mother and their actions, but if I saw him now, I wouldn’t direct my anger towards him. Instead I keep it in because I fear rejection and abandonment. I do have days where I’m able to be strong and stand up for myself or feel confident in my ability but generally it’s something I struggle with and even though I’m learning with age not to care about the opinions of others, it still creeps up on me.
My mum has told me time and time again to get off social media if it makes me feel like this, but she’s missing the point. It isn’t social media that’s the problem. I’ve always been like it, even in my everyday life. From walking into a party as a teenager and assuming everyone hates me to attending meetings and convincing myself that what I have to say isn’t important to the point I stay silent. The only difference now is that the way I feel in everyday life has transferred to my online interaction. I hate it. People tend to think I’m confident and I get that, I’m putting myself out there and I do appear to have my shit together sometimes but that isn’t the truth. I cry every single day, I have extreme body dysmorphia, I think my friends all secretly hate me, I don’t think I deserve anything good, and I just think I’m a failure.
I try not to be irrational and deep down I’m smart enough to know it’s not personal with social media, but I struggle so much with intrusive thoughts, and in that moment of feeling absolutely worthless I convince myself it’s me – I’m a horrible person and it’s something I’ve done. In the meantime, I’m working on it, I’m trying my best and I understand that I will not be everyone’s cup of tea but that doesn’t mean I’m a bad person. I’m a person who cares way too much and I need to stop, but I’m also a person who has an illness that can exacerbate these feelings, and that I won’t apologise for.
So please don’t assume that our generation and the next are all self-obsessed idiots playing a numbers game because it’s simply not true. Caring about losing an audience or wanting to gain more of an audience is not always an ego thing. Yes, worrying about the opinions of others is pointless but just because we know this it doesn’t mean that we should invalidate the feelings of people who struggle mentally with their worth and how they see it reflected. Whether it be in their career, the number of friends they have or how well they are doing at blogging, there are moments where all of us can struggle with our self-esteem, and in those moments, kindness is all that is needed.