The Internet has created an opportunity for us to connect like never before. Distance no longer defines contact or our ability to communicate with one another. However, there can be a dark side, a side where we look to social media interaction to define us or validate us. When we become dependant on social networks to give us happiness, it can become dangerous. I very nearly toed the line of the dark side.
I think it’s safe to assume that the Internet has an impact on all of us. Whether you experience it directly or passively, it’s becoming inescapable. We can do pretty much everything online; except eat, sleep and excrete. Apologies for the crudeness, however, you get the point. It seems as if the Internet is quickly become a substitute for the natural.
In 2011, I made my mark online by going viral. Reaching close to 500,000 unique views when I shared my experience as a young black woman whose identity was heavily influenced by the discrimination women of colour face Motivated by an absence of colour in the beauty industry, I decided to start blogging. Fast forward five years and oh has it changed. I started when YouTube was genuinely about sharing. It was a space for people to connect, express themselves and be real. In many ways, by sharing my story online, I developed as a person and found a truth through sharing and connecting with so many other women who could relate to my story.
A few years ago, I was on the verge of being utterly obsessed with everyone’s perfect life portrayed on Instagram with the likes to back it up. When the first thing you do before you brush your teeth is to check twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social platforms, I realised that something had to change. I quickly became disenchanted so I decided to take a nine-month break before my life became consumed by the internet. I started to question if truth could really be found online, and decided to commit the cardinal sin of social media: disappear. I had to lose my online identity to find my real, physical self.
With the rise of the Instagram it seems that most people want to be some sort of internet celebrity. This being said, social platforms like Instagram and Facebook become a source of validation, the yardstick for which we measure ourselves with. We put up a status and check our likes, like it gave birth to us. I’m sure some of us check these sites more than checking the wellbeing of the loved ones. Now, whilst I completely appreciate that this may just be my obsession, I’ve come to realise there’s many people in the same position as me.
As a blogger, I feel I have so many more things to check other than the Facebook and Instagram. There’s Twitter, Vine, Snapchat, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube, the list is endless. To be honest, some I’ve let them fall by the waist side, and others pretty much shape my week.
I wrote a post on my website that literally cost me my weekend, and weekends are so precious when you work full time and blog part time. To my excitement I posted it, and left it for a few days. As you do, you check how many people have read it. It was less than 50 people. I’ve never received such a low hits. It hasn’t been this low since I started 5 years ago. Immediately I assumed it was down to the fact no one cared, no one was interested, even not written well. All the content I had scheduled for the week, stayed as a draft, and I posted nothing. I retreated, and felt ashamed. Isn’t it strange that a blog post had the power to determine my mood, even my emotion? I sought validation from the number of people who had read my blog post. Don’t worry; I won’t be checking how many people have read this particular post because I am not in charge of the numbers. I digress, my point is this, sometimes we focus solely on the bad, or seemingly bad, that even if a post, a status or a comment does touch one person, one isn’t enough.
Whether there’s 1 view or 10 likes or 100,000 hits. You are still you. You’ve not gained or lost from likes. You are still you! Let’s enjoy social media for what it is; an opportunity to connect with like-minded people, but there is absolutely no reason to determine your inner-happiness around it.
Words by Wande Alugo