Sunday, November 22, 2015

Introverts and Social Media: Friend or Enabler?

My Introvert Journey

I wrote in a previous post about the challenges of being an introvert with an artistic side.  The push and pull of those two parts of me have troubled me my entire life.  The introvert wants to hide away while the artist always wants to be center stage.  What usually happens is that I make some accomplishment of which I am immensely proud, like writing a book or learning a new style of dance, and I want the world to know about it, but when I venture out of my house and find myself among people to whom I might announce my great news, I am terrified to do so.  Then I return home feeling dejected because there is this whole part of me that no one will ever know about.

It is interesting that I am not self-conscious about my abilities.  I studied music in college and did so many recitals that playing an instrument on stage does not frighten me in any way.  Throughout my twenties and early thirties I did a considerable amount of community theatre, and never felt nervous performing.  Now I take dance lessons and crave those moments when I can dance in front of an audience.  But I don't dare go up to people I know and invite them to come and watch me, even though I want to.  It would be too embarrassing.

A quick anecdote on this subject: this humiliation I feel when I toot my own horn sometimes also extends to the more domestic side of my life.  I remember when I became pregnant, both times, I dreaded the moment when I would have to tell someone about it.  What I ended up doing was telling my mom, and then I let her tell everyone else so I wouldn't have to.  And even when I told her, I didn't use the word "pregnant", I simply showed her my ultrasound picture and let that speak for itself.

Enter Social Media

I have two different personalities on social media.  I have my twitter account where I mostly follow, and am followed by, strangers.  I use that account for networking with fellow writers, sharing my blog, and promoting my book.  Then I have my Facebook account where I am only friends with people I have actually met in the real world.  On that page I share more personal things, like my kids' Halloween costumes or what I think about a new restaurant that has just opened.  And occasionally I also use Facebook for a little bit of self-promotion.  I announced my most recent dance performance there as well as the publication of my book.  I have to admit, doing that terrified me.  I hesitated with my mouse poised over the share button for I don't know how long before I finally worked up the nerve to post the information.  Once I did, despite the fact that the reaction of my Facebook friends was very positive, I still felt terrified the first time I stepped out into the real world and saw some of those people face to face.  The fact is, I know how to write about my life, but talking about it to a flesh and blood person is surprisingly difficult.

Has Social Media Helped Me?

It has definitely become easier to share news about my life with others now that I am on Twitter and Facebook, and I no longer spend hours moping around my house because no one will ever know the real me.  If I need the world to know badly enough, I will post it on social media.  But is this good?  Is it helping me get out into the world and let my voice be heard, or is it simply a crutch?  Do I use it as an excuse to avoid actually interacting with real people?

The way to overcome fear is to face that fear.  Take my four years of playing the flute (and three years of piano) in college.  I said above that I never get stage fright, but the fact is I used to.  In high school I did experience the racing heart and the sweaty palms and the churning stomach that causes many people to run from the spotlight at lightning speed.  But when you do three or four recitals a year for four years, you eventually get used to it.  You start to experience the positive aspects of being nervous, like heightened awareness, but shed the more crippling aspects like hands that shake so much you can barely play your instrument.  It's only through repeated experience that it starts to get easier.

So I conquered my stage fright, but what about my social anxiety?  By the above logic, I must conclude that the only way to overcome being afraid to brag about myself to others is to get out there and start doing it.  So I have to wonder, am I just hiding behind my social media profiles?

I don't know the answer to that question.  On the one hand, yes, I have noticed that I use social media as an excuse to avoid talking about certain subjects when I see people face to face.  But another way to look at this is that it is the first in a number of baby steps that will be necessary to helping me shed my fears.  The fact that I feel nervous when I share things on Facebook is evidence that I am facing that fear, even while hiding behind my computer.  And every time I hit "share" and get a positive response from my friends, I will feel a little less afraid to share in the future.

Caution is needed.  The thing about baby steps is that you have to take a lot of them if you want to go anywhere.  Once I overcome my fear of announcing things on social media, I need to move on the next phase.  I won't want to, so I'll have to make myself do it.  The big question is: Will I?

Remember to follow me on Twitter for updates on this blog and other projects of mine, and don't forget to take a peek at Amelia's Children on Amazon.

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