Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My Awkward Social Life

I guess I really mean my awkward social media life but I’m not sure that they’re so different. The other evening, I asked my husband if he would go to a meeting coming up at one of our daughter’s schools, saying that I really didn’t enjoy doing things like that. He said to me: “You’re not very sociable, are you?” I actually burst out laughing and said to him “You’re just figuring this out after being married to me for 20 years?”

I wouldn't describe myself as anti-social but I tend to be shy and have always been sensitive. Maybe that makes me careful around people. I’m not unfriendly. I like people very much but I’m not naturally gregarious. I like spending time by myself. I can always count my close friends on one hand and they have changed over the years.

Here’s some inside information. If you want to torture me, tell me to go into a huge crowd of strangers and mingle. If I think of the least favorite places I’ve been in my life, the high school cafeteria comes to mind. That’s a long time ago but I still remember that horrible sense that everyone was looking at me as I walked in (I know! They weren’t!) and knowing that I would never be one of the cool kids yet really wishing that I was (I wasn’t!).

What does this all have to do with social media?

When I first launched my blog, I never would have predicted that I would also be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and sometimes Pinterest and Flickr. Me, have a social media presence? What am I doing mingling in a gargantuan crowd of strangers?

One of the very best parts of social media is being able to connect with like-minded people around the world. I have found that there is a beautiful creative community online. I am grateful for the friends I have here at this blog as well as the other sites I frequent. I have met some wonderful online companions, connected with their hearts and minds, and found sources of creative inspiration and personal strength. 

So on a good day, everything social-media-wise is great. I like to encourage other people and it feels good when others do that for me. I enjoy seeing the art that others are producing. I am a curious person and like learning new things. I love seeing the beautiful commonality of our days (the sunrises, the sunsets, treasures from nature, our gardens, our studios, our kitchens, our pets). Because I work on my own, it’s nice to have the camaraderie of others online who lead similar lives--someone to share a joke with, a frustration, a disappointment. I’m grateful that people in all sorts of countries have found me and my paintings through my social media accounts. And of course Meeko now has adoring fans around the globe!

But on those other days, the web can be a source of self-doubt and comparison. I can feel like I’m back in that high school cafeteria. I worry way too much if people like what I post. After each post (here and elsewhere), I watch to see who likes it and worry about those who didn’t. It’s not rational because I don’t see everything that everyone else posts so I don’t like everything of theirs. Plus, it’s not normal to like everything! Every now and then, a comment will hurt my feelings (like the person who posted the backhanded compliment under one of my paintings on Facebook 'I didn't know you could paint that well!'). Or I will follow someone I find interesting but it is obvious that they don't find me interesting at all. Following other artists' feeds is a wonderful source of creative inspiration but during slow periods for my Etsy shop, if others’ streams are filled with photos of the stacks of orders they are sending out, it’s easy to compare myself and feel discouraged no matter how happy I am for their success.

My solution is sometimes to take a little break from it all. That’s probably a healthy thing to do. These past two weeks, I haven’t followed my normal routines. Chloé was on her March school break last week and Emma is on her break this week. When others are in the house, my concentration goes haywire. So I’ve been posting much less on my different social media accounts. I miss it and yet I don’t. It doesn’t make sense to focus outward to the detriment of what’s inside, constantly being a cheerleader for others if I’m not always feeling some sort of benefit in return. Or to be photographing things more than I am living them. Like in anything, balance is required. With social media, I find it’s a delicate balance—I want to participate because of the many good and positive things it offers and that I enjoy, while making sure it doesn’t eat up my self-esteem, painting time, and creative energy. Balance. Moderation. Constant challenges of my awkward social media life. 

22 comments:

  1. This post resonates with me! If I ever start getting comments on my blog or Facebook I'm sure this might happen to me... Right now hardly anyone reads my blog, so, apart from feeling guilty when I don't post for too long (why?) it gives me a lot of satisfaction. And I don't read every post of every blog I "follow" --- I just dip in now and then. Except I always look at Genine's posts! :)

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    1. Thanks for sharing, Joyce Alice! We do put a lot of pressure on ourselves when we feel that others might be watching, don't we? I don't get to everyone's blogs that I follow anymore either. I used to regularly, but now I just can't keep up with everything. I feel guilty about that! :) Geninne's blog was one of the very first blogs I followed. A beautiful blog from a beautiful person.

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  2. What a wonderful post, Kathleen, and something I can totally relate to in so many ways.

    Your mentioning the high school cafeteria... ugh, so glad that that part of my life is long past. At least with social media we CAN take a break. Back in high school we had no choice!

    I think for the most part the positives outweigh the negatives with social media. Though it is sometimes hard to find balance.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Anne! Just writing the words 'high school cafeteria' can bring me back there. Shudder. You make a great point that the choice is there to take a break from social media when we need to. I guess we need to give ourselves permission to step back now and then. There is a lot of good too. I agree. I think that's what makes balancing so hard sometimes.

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  3. I think creative people tend to be happy spending time alone because that's when we create. I love spending time with people, but I find if I've spent a day being sociable, I need the same amount of time, if not more, by myself again to 're-charge'! :)

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    1. Hi Kate! I think you're right that artists crave and enjoy time on their own because it is what we need in order to create. My studio is definitely one of my happy places. I also like how you equate time alone as being time to 're-charge'!

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  4. I think you have done such an amazing job here Kathleen, your blog is always a delight (with or even without Meeko:) and you have got yourself OUT THERE! in the best ways possible creatively. I think I am really an introvert, I do like to observe others, but not always join in, I have been working in a place and it's hard not to compare yourself (there are some seriously talented people I am working with) I feel like an insignificant bean :) Do what feels best at the time I think, go with the flow, and keep posting on here to keep us happy!

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    1. Thank you, Julie. It so nice that we 'met' here, don't you think? I appreciate your ongoing support and encouragement. I think we do need to constantly adjust and do what feels best for us. And just so you know, I think of you as an artistic beanstalk rather than a bean. :)

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  5. You bring me so much joy , love and laughter...thank-you.

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    1. You are such an important part of my life, Colette. Thank you for your friendship, the art and music, the serious conversations and all of that wonderful laughter. I love you THIS much but you know that Meeko loves you more. :)

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  6. Haha, I can't believe this post, I could have written it, I can so totally relate! I am taking a bit of a break while we are moving this month, and it is somewhat a relief. But honestly, Kathleen I would have never, EVER, guessed you were shy, and feel awkward in any way, you are always generous, kind ,funny, interesting and highly articulate. Thank you for sharing this. xx

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    1. It is so nice when people 'get' each other even when they've never met. I feel that with you. I admire your art so much and your ever-thoughtful process. Your head and heart are engaged in everything you do. Thanks for all those nice things you said (gosh!) as well as your support, encouragement and friendship. I hope your move goes well and it doesn't take long to settle into your new home. xo

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  7. Wow can i relate! You have explained perfectly, so much of how I feel about myself, life, and mingling with strangers ( i hated the cafeteria scene), I think "careful" is a great description of how I treat interaction with strangers... or people i'm not so sure about. I find the world of blogs, and social media feels safe, as i don't have to actually face anyone in person~ and yet you get meet some really great people! (i mean when i'm not worrying about if they like me too, ha ha ) I find balance is a hard thing to acheive... which is odd since I'm a Libra??? :))))) Great post !!!!

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    1. Thanks, Melody. So funny how my cafeteria reference struck a chord with so many people! Social media does provide an opportunity to meet lots of interesting people. That's one of the great parts about it. And I get what you're saying about it providing a safe distance. I'm a Cancer. :)

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  8. Goodness, Kathleen! You sound like me!! I too am extremely sensitive to the words (and facial expressions) of others. I too have so much self-doubt and take everything to heart. I too like people but have no problem being by myself (I find myself fascinating to myself! LOL) and tend to prefer it. As time has gone on, I've learned to be more outgoing with people and do not mind it too much, but always prefer being at home. My idea of a fabulous social life is spending time with my daughters and my grandkids. I love to watch tv, read, study, work on my art...

    I have found and stayed with your blog because of your personality, because of your fabulous art work, and of course, I too think Meeko is fabulous!

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    1. You made me laugh out loud with your 'fascinating' comment. Good for you! :) It sounds like you have a warm, full life. Thanks for your lovely comments and a hug from Meeko!

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  9. Dear Kathleen - I always find your art, your blog (thoughts) and Meeko superb! Like you it becomes a challenge to find a balance. Since I began blogging much less time to paint and create but having a blog keeps me doing it too. Thank you for sharing. I am so glad I found your blog - it inspires me as well.

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    1. Thanks, Debbie, so much for your kind comments. I feel lucky to have such nice people gather here. The balance part is hard. We have to make sure that we're spending more time living our lives than we are telling our stories or worrying about who is reading them. :)

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  10. You seem to have found a way that at least works for you (taking breaks from it all) and that is a good start. I think we all are a bit full of self doubt, we are indeed putting ourselves out there so of course it feels good to know people appreciate it. :-)

    http://tinajoathome.com/

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    1. Yes, I think sometimes taking breaks helps us to maintain perspective. It's hard though to back away from it. (Have you seen the poster: 'Ma'am, step away from the computer'? https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/97613104/maam-step-away-from-the-computer-green) I think you are right that blogging is a bit of an act of bravery so it feels good when we do make a connection with others. :)

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  11. Oh, I can relate! Social media offers us so much, especially to the introvert side of ourselves. It's easy though for all the posting to take on a life of it's own and take over our time. Balance, for sure! I'll figure it out one of these days, I hope!

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    1. There is a wonderful side for sure. How amazing to be able to connect to people across the world. But what a balancing act! :)

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Thanks so much for taking the time to visit my blog and to leave me a comment. I love reading them. -- Kathleen

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