Learning to Share... on the Internet

“It’s very hard to have ideas. It’s very hard to put yourself out there, it’s very hard to be vulnerable, but those people who do that are the dreamers, the thinkers and the creators. They are the magic people of the world.” 
― Amy Poehler

indian peaks

I share a lot on the internet. I’m sure, in some people’s minds, too much. I post an Instagram photo just about every day, I post Facebook statuses, share articles, and then — of course — this blog. And I have mixed feelings about it. 

There are thousands of people who look at my blog and Instagram posts. The great majority who I don’t know. And it’s weird. And wonderful. But weird for sure that a blog I wrote after three glasses of rosé from some notes I scrawled down on a napkin is seen by anyone. 

That weirdness has got me thinking lately about why I do any of this. What’s the purpose? Am I just a narcissist? Out of touch? Did I believe my parents when they told me I was the most special, beautiful, and unique girl in the world? I mean, yeah maybe to some of those (haha yikes) but, I think there’s more to it. A lot more. 

mt audubon

So I recently somehow have acquired over 1,000 followers on Instagram. This is extremely small potatoes in the Instagram world, I know. The interesting part, to me, is that I don’t know at least 75% of these people, who are indeed real people, and not people who I even follow back. The thought that over 1,000 people want to see anything that I do is kind of a shocking thought. And again, while this isn’t a lot compared to pretty much every other person on the internet, it struck me as an opportunity. 

Social media, to me, is a way to connect. Connect with the people you don’t see often, or with the people you have never or would ever meet irl. And the fact that anyone wants to connect with me is kind of incredible. 

The fact that anyone wants to read my blog posts is also kind of incredible. Shocking, really. I mean, even if it’s just out of curiosity or to make fun of my grammar errors, there are hundreds, usually thousands, of people who are interested in what I have to say. Who take time out of their day to read it. You guys, that’s crazy.

ward colorado

I read a blog post a few weeks ago about blog reach. The author said something about the importance of continuing on even if you only have one reader — because that’s one persons life you have the opportunity to influence — and that’s enough. As a teacher that really resonated with me. After a bad day, someone inevitably will mention that “if you helped even just one kid it was worth it” — and it is! It’s an amazing privilege. 

Creativity, and life, I think, work the same way. If I can have a positive affect on even just one person’s day, that’s a privilege. 

So back to social media. It may seem really frivolous, mindless, or even self-centered, but social media is how a lot of us have that influence. It’s what we share. What people see. The way we put ourselves out and show up in the world. 

It may seem ridiculous to post a picture of a mountain and a motivational quote on Instagram, but it’s not so ridiculous when you realize that 1,000 or more people could see it. That it could give them the sort of hope and joy that it gives me. Even if it’s just a relief and respite from the normal daily grind, it's something. There's a reason people follow and like and scroll through constantly — and it’s not because they all think the quote you paired with that sunset is #basic. 

sunrise

But I don’t just want to share pictures and quotes, I want to share real, #authentic parts of my life. Without feeling like an oversharer or a freak. I want to show the vulnerability that allows us to connect. The flawless Brene Brown wrote in Daring Greatly that, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness.” And she’s right. It’s not comfortable to put anything out into the world. To open yourself up to criticism and grammar nazis, but what’s the alternative?

I listened to an Oprah podcast on a road trip recently, and Glennon Doyle Melton was the guest. I’m not a big Oprah podcast listener (shocking, I’m sure) but their conversation was so illuminating. Glennon spoke a lot about truth. About how her success has been a direct result of saying the things that she had always been afraid to before. The things that resonate with others, but that they keep a secret. The truth. 

She said that, “Every time you tell the truth it clears the field for other people to tell the truth.” and that, “Truth telling unlocks people”. I love that. I love the idea of clearing the field for others. The power of your story. 

But what about all the studies/anecdotes of people who feel more jealous/lonely/unhappy because of social media? Well, I feel that too sometimes, I get it. But that’s where the authenticity piece comes in. If I’m sharing my truths and being vulnerable in my life, it creates a bridge, not a wall. Those people who still feel left out, jealous, or unhappy due to authentic stories and moments on social media are either just haters (and who’s got time for that), or have deeper problems that they need to work out. Instagram cannot save us all, after all.

mt audubon

So why do I share? Well, I want to connect. I want to be vulnerable, to show authenticity, yadda yadda. But, let’s be real, I’m not good at that. I’m good at standing in front of mountains and taking a picture with my camera timer. But I’m trying. And that picture of my back looking at something is better than not sharing at all. I think. 

I do almost everything alone. But not necessarily by choice. I want to share my experiences. That’s where joy and meaning comes from — connection. And in 2017, a lot of connection comes from the internet — for better or worse. So I’m choosing to embrace it. This isn’t to say I’m forgoing real life connection and experiences — I want more of that too! But my reach is limited in real life. I connect with a bunch of kids every day, and that’s powerful, but it’s different. 

I don’t think I’m special or unique. No one is actually special or unique. That’s the real story of social media. We all share the same struggles, stories, and hashtags. I can find thousands of girls who do all the same things as I do, but with better quality photos, thousands more likes, and captions that read like the great American novel. But that’s a good thing! There’s room for us all. I share to connect with all those people who are like me — from the superficial solo mountain girl side to the math dress wearing side to the writing about well, who knows what I write about really. But I’m telling my truth. I’m clearing the field.