social media anxiety, or, my big face on the Internet

^^For example^^

^^For example^^

Last week or the week before, a very nice thing happened for me: The Missouri Review, one of my dream journals, featured one of my poems on their website in their poem-of-the-week feature. I was and am beyond thrilled about this.

That morning, I woke up to the buzzing of my phone: TMR had tweeted a link to my poem.

Immediately the low-level anxiety began. Because while I am on Twitter (@mollypoet), I don’t really know how to Twitter. It’s 5:45 a.m.  Do I retweet, or does that seem overly self-promotional? Do I favorite it and/or reply with a ‘thanks’ and/or do nothing? If I do nothing is that rude? If I do something is that annoying?

Then on to Facebook. I love sharing other people’s poems on Facebook, but I feel shy about sharing my own. Is it required to share a link to one’s poem(s) on Facebook? I mean, is it considered bad manners if you don’t because you’re not publicizing the journal who’s supporting your work? Should I tag the journal in my post, or is that annoying?

And then, when you share it (as I did, despite my anxiety) and people like it and compliment it and share it again, what is the expected response? An individual “thanks” to each one? A general, “thanks everyone”? Liking the shares? Sharing the likes (okay, I realize you can’t really share likes, but you get the idea).

And then there’s the phenomenon which I now think of as My Big Face On the Internet. Because there was an author photo with the poem, and that photo was the “preview” Facebook chose to display (and I don’t know how to change the preview, do you?), and now Facebook has this algorithm where your last post comes up first on your news feed when you log in (so annoying in my opinion), and then: My Big Face On the Internet.

For the record, I rarely check Facebook during the work day, but (another source of low-level anxiety) that day I felt like I should because people were being very kind and generous commenting on my poem and sharing it, and I wanted to thank them.

And then there are the anxieties outside the small matter of sharing a link to one of my poems. To wit: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? To put it another way: If I abhor something in real life but do not abhor it on the Internet, do I abhor it? If I support something in real life but do not say so on the Internet, do I support it?

In other words, I feel like an expectation has developed that one must comment on certain things on the Internet in order to “be part of the conversation” and abhor/support the appropriate issues.

In some ways this is good. Social media has helped shine a light on many issues that might not have gained as much traction without it: police brutality, white privilege, sexual misconduct, questionable publishing practices, diversity (or the lack thereof) in publishing, mansplaining, and others.

And it has become a mighty web of support as well. I feel like my morning Facebook check-ins are like going to the break room at the office and chatting with people as we pour our coffee before settling into the work day. But instead of “Did you hear the Dow is down 200 points already?” it’s “Have you seen this amazing poem by so-and-so poet?”

Also, a few of my now closest friends in real life I met online first. So yay, Internet!

But I still don’t know how Twitter really works and how many times do I announce the reading I’ll be participating in and do tag the journal that’s hosting the reading in my post and must I post a photo afterwards and thank the people-I-know-on-Facebook for coming (for I am truly grateful) and should I tag them or say I was “with” them or neither and is it really necessary to announce every acceptance and every publication online and what does “like” mean anyway and the phrase “manage your online presence” makes me want to crawl under my bed and what on earth have I done to suggest to Facebook that I should see ads for plus-size clothing on the right hand margin of my news feed?

To quote Mary Ruefle, “I think we should all be in our rooms writing.”

So here is my tortured relationship with social media laid bare (please note: I have not even mentioned blog anxiety; that is another post for another day, or perhaps an epic poem). My personal approach to social media is to be as human as possible, to give and enjoy camaraderie and support, and to let the annoyances and low-level anxiety float by me. Also, not to spend too terribly much time on it.

All that being said, here is a link to my poem and My Big Face On the Internet. And thanks for reading.

14 thoughts on “social media anxiety, or, my big face on the Internet

  1. Love this: what on earth have I done to suggest to Facebook that I should see ads for plus-size clothing on the right hand margin of my news feed?
    (and the rest). You of course, are not alone!

  2. What a beautiful poem! And what a shame it would be not to share it far and wide. As to FB (I’m not a twitter user yet), I don’t mind my writer friends sharing their publications (it seems to me that’s one of FB’s purposes). On the contrary, it’s always nice to see what they are up to, and if I’m not interested I can always ignore it. I mean if you have a constant stream of publications I understand that you may only want to share the ones you’re really proud of. Go for it! And be proud of yourself!

  3. Well, your big face looks great. As does your hair. Nice flip! 🙂

    As someone somewhat (okay, more than somewhat) uncomfortable with attention and prone to anxiety herself, I say try to enjoy it a little. Not too much, but a little. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating achievement, accomplishment or success, especially when you’ve never been one to come across as vain or undeservingly proud. Remember, sometimes modesty can be a fault – not sharing deprives us of your talent, which is wasted if you keep it all to yourself.

    There you go, Molly – ya done been told! 🙂

    PS. I haven’t the foggiest notion of how to Twitter. Or facebook. I barely know how to blog, and I almost never do that anymore.

    • Well, thank you. I call it my Carol Brady hairdo ;). And you’re right, modesty can be taken too far. I’ll take ‘try to enjoy it’ as my mantra the next time I have to make these decisions. 🙂

  4. Molly, I believe in celebrating a poem published in your dream journal any way you can….I, for one, love to hear news that a good friend has found well-deserved success. Huzzah for you, for the journal, for twitter, for Facebook, and so on, and so on, and also for the world your poems belong in! No more worries; we are all so happy for you! Bravo!!

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