Why I’m giving up social media for a while

Helloooo, Internet Populace! So good to see you again after all this time. Indeed, it’s been too long, but hopefully we’ve all been holiday-ing too much to notice.

While this topic has already been written about in other places– a plethora of times, no less–I figured I would shed light on my own reasons for temporarily giving up social media in case anyone is curious about the process of giving up our favorite little time sinks.

Let’s start with the big impetus for this change in my life: a breakup. An inevitable fact of life for the vast majority of us, few of us know how to deal with breakups appropriately. After having a few, I’ve learned what does work (spending a lot of time alone, spending a lot of time with friends and family, investing myself in a goal) and what definitely doesn’t (rebounds, seeking attention, and using social media).

But other than not wanting to fall into an endless, downward spiral of self-hate and wishful thinking about my ex, there are other reasons why I’m pleasantly willing to give up the likes of Facebook and Instagram for a while*.

Let’s start with Facebook. While great for keeping up with friends I don’t get to see often, this has become my cop-out for real-life interaction with people– many of whom don’t actually live that far away. I see their activity on Facebook and it gives me a false sense that I’ve “caught up” with them on their life. But in reality, knowing that they just got a dog or are going to Peru for 2 months isn’t intimate knowledge. Knowing those facts doesn’t mean I’m a good friend or family member. Such bonds, whether we want to admit it or not, need to go beyond the digital wall.

There’s also the issue of “useless information inundation”. I’m just as entertained as anyone when I see Donald Trump in Photoshop drag or talking dog videos, but is it really healthy that I’m looking at that stuff for hours a day instead of reading, writing, or learning a new skill? You can argue that I’m evidently not good at moderation with social media, and I won’t argue with you. But you can’t argue that Facebook is not designed to be a ruinous, time-eating destroyer of moderation.

And it’s not just stuff that I like seeing that floods my feed. Everywhere I look on social media, I see something about the Kardashians or the Real Housewives or some other vapid celebrity. I see posts about their family drama, their relationships, their kids, their off-the-cuff remarks, their outfits. Not only is it completely annoying to me as someone who doesn’t care, it reminds me of the society we live in: you are only as valuable as your Louboutin heels/Tesla/yacht.

And then there’s Instagram. With such a simple platform (pictures + short captions), you’d think there’d be less room for drama and mayhem, right? Wrong.

I follow quite a few people on my feed–other than my friends and family, it’s mostly drag queens, makeup artists, transgender people, and other LGBQA people. Colorful, fun people who are passionate about the same causes I am and usually post fantastic things.

But once in a while, I’ll see a post that includes a ridiculously, out-of-this-world good-looking girl. And when I say out of this world, I mean “I have never seen a human being look like that, even in magazines or on runways, and I doubt the authenticity of this person’s existence”. So I check out her page. Her skin is flawlessly made up. Her lips are injected. Her hair–most likely comprised of extensions–is coiffed to perfection. Her body is the product of extremely restrictive dieting and plastic surgery. She mostly has pictures of herself modeling, but she also has slightly more casual pictures on boats, in Maldives, and at “exclusive night clubs”. I’ve never heard of her, but she has over a million followers.

And I start to wonder, even though I try not to: am I just nothing?

This Insta-Barbie doll can also take the form of a guy who seems to be traveling the world on his yacht brimming with champagne. Or the old college friend who’s become an actor or musician and seems to suddenly have everything they ever wanted. For this is a perfect representation of what Instagram aims to be: a series of images. Very little words backing these images. A beautiful representation, an idealization. A story with no conflict and very little character depth. In a way, because of how de-personified and unexplained people can be on Instagram, it makes it worse than Facebook.

And again, outside of feeling less-than after looking at Instagram (or Facebook, of course), there’s the issue of being inundated with useless information–pictures of people you don’t know having fun with other people you don’t know, pictures of people’s coffee cups or food, stupid vines that, while entertaining, add nothing to your life.

So I’m done for a while.

For now, I need to seriously focus on pole. I need to enhance my connections with friends. I need to make the effort to see family members who live an hour away, but whom I see maybe once a year (like, what????) I need to improve my waning French and get busy with learning more Japanese, Russian, German, and Spanish. I need to become a non-crappy photographer. I need to become a better painter so I can actually sell my little paintings someday. I need to finish my freaking book and get it published by the end of 2016.

And that’s just the basic stuff.

I want to get to a point where I can look at social media for what it is: an enhancement to my social life, not my entire social life for certain people. A lingering temptation that is fun in small doses but will axe my day if I’m not careful. A great platform for getting my work out there, but not the only platform. A potential self-esteem ruiner that I need to shove away sometimes.

Most importantly, I want to feel better about myself and love myself more, so that I can prove to myself that I’m more than what an app or a website tells me I am.

I don’t know when I’ll be back. I planned for at least two months, though I imagine it might be longer than that. I promise, I’ll still be blogging all the while.

*The star I put above there was to indicate that although the title implied that I’m giving up social media as a whole, I really mean Facebook and Instagram, the two that were taking more from my life than adding to it. For some reason, I can manage Twitter – so I’m keeping it so that you guys can see when I post a new video (oh yeah, I started doing that! Here’s my channel!) or write a new post.

If you’re reading this, I want you to know that I appreciate you. SO much. Thanks for working with me while I figure this out.

-H

Why I Hate Networking (and How I Get Around It)

I seriously think that I became another person for a few years out of desperation.

Growing up, I was the introverted-but-insane little girl who compulsively made up dance routines to Madonna songs and earnestly tried to adopt every living, breathing animal in my immediate vicinity. Later on, I wrote walkthroughs for N64 games on the GameFAQs.com forums and even had–gasp!–an imposter pretending to be me at one point (they were just jealous that I came up with certain theories about the overworld in Banjo Kazooie before they did, natch). But trying to mingle with an enormous group of people–especially big, important people–was scary. In fact, it’s been scary for me my whole life, even as an adult, and even when I did it for the purpose of landing myself a job a few years ago.

Despite attending many-a recruiting event, networking social, and “accounting mixer” (yes, those exist), I eventually ended up getting a job not by doing any of the above, but by talking to a super awesome recruiter one-on-one at an event I was co-hosting as the President of my business organization. It was sort of a fluke, as we had started our conversation talking about something completely unrelated. In the end, being (a polished and temporarily non-voguing version of) myself in a more relaxed got me a job; putting on airs in a tense one did not.

When I realized that I needed to change course and start doing something I loved, I knew that with my utterly pitiful lack of experience in my areas of interest (art, design, writing, and editing), I needed to get REALLY creative with selling myself. Not in that way, but, you know, for finding a creative job. And by creative, let me clarify that I mean related to writing.

Gosh dangit. Anyways…

The thought of going to big, fancy events with hundreds of other suit-clad hopefuls terrifies the crap out of me. It terrified me when I was trying to coax myself into an accounting-related career and it terrifies me now, even if the result of my networking could make me the next J.K. Rowling.

Why? Because it feels like I’m acting in a really, really boring movie.

It’s like there’s a director in my head saying, “Okay, we’re shooting the networking event scene tonight. Here’s your script. Look excited to get the job, but not too excited. Don’t forget to leave your resume with the person before you head out. Make sure you smile at all times. Wait–not at all times, that’s creepy. Smile adequately. Start getting into hair and makeup at 4:00 pm. Ready? And…ACTION!”

From then on, it’s all smoke and mirrors. It’s acting. It’s overwhelming and fake. All so that I can self-serve by getting a job. Obviously, I’m not the first person to take issue with the idea of “networking” and I’m hardly the first to suggest alternatives. But as someone who has a decent amount of experience in networking, I want to be a part of the movement away from networking and toward creating meaningful relationships with people.

So, where to start? Here are some things that have worked for me and other people. If you’re like me, you’re probably pretty introverted, so I promise that these are all introvert-friendly!

Use the Internet

Back to my old ways, hooray! Let’s face it: for the shy among us, it’s easier to be ourselves on the internet without nervousness creeping through and ruining our chances. Find Facebook groups, Meetups, and jobs/gigs to help get you connected with the community you want to be connected to. LinkedIn is also an amazing source that people take very seriously as a way to connect with others (and find jobs!) so make your LinkedIn profile amazing from head to toe and actually use it.

Have family and close friends sing your praises

I highly doubt that you’re surrounded by all introverts. Maybe your dad is the ultimate Chatty Cathy or your Aunt Estelle has a ridiculous amount of yoga friends who know famous artists or movie producers. No matter what, most of us have at least someone in our circle who knows someone. And because that person probably knows you pretty well, they’ll be able to legitimately speak highly of you and, at the very least, help you get your foot in the door. And if your family and friends are good people (and let’s face it, if you’re reading this blog, you’re awesome and everyone you know is probably awesome), chances are their connections are, too.

Go out and travel/try off-the-wall things

When you put yourself out there, people feel inclined to approach you. When I went to Japan by myself, I was approached at a museum by a man from New York who was an art enthusiast. His husband, whom he was with, was a curator at a museum! Had I been bent on finding a career in the same field, I could have absolutely let them know of my interest. It is entirely possible that it could have led somewhere. No expectations, no pressure, just a simple conversation. The possibilities could have ranged from, “Oh, how quaint” to “You need a job? We have an opening!” These are the little moments that can lead to lifelong careers, after all.

But you don’t have to go abroad to have this happen to you. Interesting people do interesting things, so the next person willing to offer you a job (or a connection to one) could be found at the next cooking class/concert/charity event you go to. The fact that people at these events will already have something in common with you makes the potential connection all the more genuine and the development of the conversation all the more natural. And before anyone steps in and says, “But I have no one to go to these things with!” I’m going to stop you right there. You don’t need anyone but you to go with. In early 2011, I randomly went to a meeting for “Beta Alpha Psi” (the accounting/business organization on campus) by myself, despite being surrounded by fifty other people. A year-and-a-half later, I was the President of the whole organization and had a job. When you put yourself out there, stuff just happens.

If all else fails, you can always do your own thing (remember: you don’t need permission!), but the above definitely applies if you are looking to work for someone, regardless of the field you’re looking at. Above all, just remember that finding a job is not easy–but you will find one if you’re willing to work hard and try new methods when needed.

Do you hate networking, too? Did you get your job without traditional “networking” and have any suggestions for others to do the same? What is the future of “networking”? Leave your responses in the comments below!

-H

Don’t let being bullied turn you into a bully

The month of December is generally AWESOME for many reasons, not the least of which is the reason of holiday fun. Here in the greater LA area, there’s outdoor ice skating at LA Live. There are festive holiday celebrations in the streets of Long Beach. Even the zoos and aquariums are on top of it with awesome light shows! And now that NaNoWriMo’s over (did I mention I finished on time?), I can finally return to writing at the more leisurely pace I prefer. So, December is ESPECIALLY awesome this time around.

Still, I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately. I haven’t been to pole in over 3 weeks, due in part to NaNoWriMo, Thanksgiving, and a bout of strep throat that had me thinking I would never recover. I’m trying not to get down on myself for this. We all have days, weeks, or even months where our bodies need a change, and sometimes that change means not doing quite as much. Unfortunately, not exercising has a profound effect on my self-esteem, and this leads me to places that I don’t  usually like to go.

Since my work’s busy season is over, I’ve been able to spend more time in the glorious black hole of self-loathing that is Facebook. While I am earnestly trying to reduce my consumption of social media, I am the first to admit that I can get absolutely ENRAPTURED by the stuff on there–even if it’s totally stupid. From debates about Donald Trump’s newest quips of ignorance, to the easy-access news feed (which usually references Ariana Grande more often than foreign policy, but I digress), to the delightful new baby and dog pictures that appear every day, there’s something for everyone to waste time with on Facebook. Which is fine, except I’d kind of like to look back on my day and go “I read/painted/competed in a pole competition/taught someone something/wrote something” versus “I pattered around the internet for a few hours and discovered the intimate details of some random celebrity’s divorce. Oh, and I found this funny cat video.”

But it goes further than cat videos, as we all know. Obviously, Facebook started as (and still is) a “place for friends” – as well as coworkers, family members, and basically every other human you could have possibly interacted with throughout your life.

Including, of course, your past bullies.

Now, first, let me pump the brakes right here and say that I don’t believe in dwelling on bullies or trying to figure out what their intentions were when they bullied you (unless you intend to confront them like an adult and find closure). I also don’t believe in trying to analyze bullies as they are in the present. We have absolutely no idea what people have been through unless we are them, and unless you feel truly marred and bothered by what a bully did to you, it’s best to just let it go and keep kicking ass on your own.

That said, I’m also a normal, curious human being who does occasionally wonder what various people who were mean to me are up to now. For some reason, I especially wonder about Ella*, the bully I first mentioned in a post I wrote earlier this year, “A Letter to Insecure Teenage Girls“.

This afternoon, I looked on one of my Facebook side panels to see a familiar name in the “People You May Know” section. It took me about five seconds to figure out that it was someone I knew from middle school. Since my brothers are exemplary extroverts and know virtually everyone in my hometown, they were both mutual friends with this person. It was then that the devil on my shoulder saw the perfect opportunity to tap away.

Check out their friend list. I bet they know [Meaniepants], [Poophead], and [Boogerbrain]Come on, it’ll be so juicy!”

I didn’t put up much of a fight; I was in the trenches within seconds.

I did, in fact, find Meaniepants, Poophead, and Boogerbrain, along with a score of others. Instead of moving on and not thinking anything of them, however, I am sad to admit that the following thoughts crossed my mind:

Wow, they’re still working at [x]? That’s kind of sad.”

“They posted about [x]. How ignorant can they be?”

“They’re posing like that? Wow, trying to get attention much?”

And so on and so forth.

When I found Ella’s profile again (I had already found it about a year ago, but decided to “check up” on her, to see if she had done anything new), I saw that she had posted pictures showing off her athletic prowess, with over a hundred likes and quite a few comments praising her as a wonderful person. Then, for a moment, I’m afraid to admit that I felt bitter.

I felt bitter because I couldn’t imagine how someone who had made it their M.O. to make me feel like a hideous pariah back in middle school could ever be seen as a “good” person. I felt bitter because here I was, barely exercising for almost a month, and this person has muscles that take a ludicrous amount of time and energy to cultivate. I (embarrassingly enough) felt bitter because I have never had 100+ people like something of mine on Facebook.

Even though I told no one that I did this or how I felt, I actually did stop myself later in the day. After a while, only one additional thought remained in my head:

Haley, you were kind of an immature dick today.

Even though my bullies haven’t bullied me for years,  I was the bully earlier. More importantly, as my older post describes, I have most DEFINITELY had my ugly moments as a human being too, especially when I was in high school. But do people love me less? No. Do I still have an incredibly rich life? Absolutely. And do I consider how I acted in high school to be representative of how I am today in any way? Not one bit.

Because of my socio-personal hardships as a young person, I let myself become a bully at times, too. And even at 25, it’s evident that I’m not immune to that type of behavior, albeit privately. But why even cloud your thoughts with such negativity? Why waste the brain power necessary to pick apart past bullies? Why waste the time? I could be learning a new language, picking up a new form of exercise, or finally learning about how I can cook kohlrabi. All of these things are way better and probably take a lot less negative energy (although, learning Japanese grammar does come with a fair bit of frustration, just FYI).

In conclusion:

  • Stop worrying about bullies unless you intend on having a sincere, mature conversation with one for closure. Otherwise, limit your conversations about them to therapy and try to move on.
  • Facebook is good for some things and terrible for (most) others. Do not go down the “Stalking People from the Past to Compare Yourself” rabbit hole on Facebook or any other form of social media. You’ll end up either feeling unnecessarily bad about yourself or feeling overly important because you see yourself as “doing better” than them. Thinking that alone is pretty rude.
  • I may be an atheist, but I’m a big believer in “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. We are ALL guilty of being rude, mean, snobbish, cold, or impolite at various times in our lives. Some of us, like me, even had full-fledged phases of being a giant douchebag. The important thing is that we move forward and aim to be as kind, patient, and understanding as we can be.

Alright, time for me to get off the computer and play the “let’s find a store to shop at that isn’t crawling with people buying peppermint chocolates and turkey dishes for holiday parties” game! Hint: Trader Joe’s does not fall into this category. 🙁

-H

*Note: As I mentioned in the “Letter” article, Ella’s name is not really “Ella”. But duh.