I went to boarding school quite young and on the very first day my mother made sure everything was set up for me before announcing her departure. At the back of my mind I was happy to have other people to play with, which made my escorting her to the gate a no-tears affair. Afterwards, I went to my first class that was literally next to the staff room. Once I got there a short boy with a lanky frame said hello and asked me to chant ‘Mr. Bean’. Since he (Mr. Bean) was to me what Sponge bob is to digital babies I did, only I whispered it. He urged me to do it louder. I had barely hit the ‘n’ before a tall boy towered over me and as I stared at him I understood why he was called Mr. Bean. From his body language I knew that one wrong move would earn me a lifetime of eating muthokoi.
That is how I met Antony. He passed on sometime last week. I got the news this week over a WhatsApp group (the ultimate news source). Save for meagre R.I.Ps and a few posts of shared memories, we moved on to the next meme and crying emojis within hours. I said nothing as I had not talked to the man for over a decade.
Within the same week someone I knew during my internship died. I had never had a proper personal conversation with him besides work related chats and after work banter. He mostly minded his own business and was perturbed my tendency to carry lunch to the office so faithfully because in his words, it was too much work. Once he passed on social media was awash with again, recollection of moments with him, unconfirmed reasons for his death and then there were trolls.
The two incidents uncovered the pretentious association by death way of showing love. After much thought for a week I had an aha! moment where it hit me that may be we expect too much from the ‘fam’. Social media followers in the thousands and millions are nothing much but that, followers. You will get a handful that will check in often and two that become long lasting friends. Besides that, the rest are social clout who log on social media to ease the day’s tension and then go back to their real worlds.
Sounds like cocaine? Yes it is.
You can tell how someone is doing by looking at their timeline. Some of our timelines can easily make up a biography without the need for an interview. The instant gratification is what gives social media the drug like hook. I totally get it. However, as we become big wigs on social media remember those are the social streets.
On the real streets there are only a handful who can take a bullet for you. Think of your three best people in the world. You will talk to them in the morning, share a meme, tag them on a post on Facebook in the afternoon, but still call them in the evening to find out how they are really doing. You have psychologically split your mind to understand the difference between online and personal interaction.
That compartmentalization is exactly what you need as you grow your social media presence. Followers are not your family though they are dubbed ‘fam’. Pastor Steven Furtick once highlighted during a sermon, that sometimes the Lord speaks something into your life and even before anything has manifests, you post about it on Facebook. Giving your audience details of your life creates an unwarranted entitlement to constant updates that is unsustainable. Not to mention the anxiety that comes with waiting for feedback.
On your end, when you share too much you start to think of your followers as confidants. This is what leads to too much expectations. If you want to know that all you have are followers, share a post asking for medical assistance or for votes for an award. Half of them will leave emojis in the comment sections, another quarter will see and ignore it and a handful will help. Anyone who helps you on social media does so because they are genuinely good people and would still help you in real life. Social media just allows easy access to them.
Now what you and I need to understand is that our worth is not pegged on likes and shares. The person on the other end, may give you virtual approval but is not obliged to go out of their way for you. Grasping this will save you from the anxiety that comes with social media. To see the other person as merely an acquaintance will free you and them from any (unspoken) expectations.
When at the petrol station and you bump into someone who complements your rims and even ask for your mechanic’s number, do they suddenly get an invite to your wedding committee? Too soon? Why then should someone whose interaction is online get a pass into your personal life? Social media was created for networking, building businesses and brands. Sometime that means sharing a bit of your life and that is perfectly fine. Share only what you would be comfortable with the world knowing because it is actually watching. Don’t do it for your esteem. If your confidence is lacking I can promise you social media is not the remedy.
Think of all the global brands, both personal and business brands, they hardly ever talk about themselves. They share their products or business ventures. Rarely will they share their intimate details and that does not take away from their fan base. Do not give people too much that you have nothing left. All these platforms and 10% business and 90% entertainment. Even a viral video will only last for so long till CardiB does another Instagram post.
Statistics show that our generation is getting depressed because of social media. Don’t be a statistic. Give only what you can afford to lose. They are all followers. Numbers. You were whole before social media. Be whole. Stay whole because numbers, in this case, lie.