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My love hate relationship with social media

I have this kind of complicated relationship with social media – it’s like the friend who brings both joy and exasperation into my life. On one hand, it’s my passport to travel abroad, my ticket to peek into the mini-dramas of family and friends, almost like I’m there with them – until reality nudges me (can you believe I haven’t met even 1 of my 6 nieces yet?). And on the other hand there’s the inevitable dance with doom scrolling that has me checking the time and wondering how I landed in this vortex or how to make Thando famous so I don’t have to work. Oh, and don’t get me started on the internal debates before I hit that ‘post’ button – is it too controversial? Will it attract those lurking trolls with way too much time on their hands? It’s like walking a social media tightrope, really.

I remember when Facebook started. OK maybe not when they started because they only wanted graduates right? And I wasn’t one… So rather, I remember when Facebook became popular with the rest of us. It was about 2006, I suddenly reconnected with friends from my US schooling days that I hadn’t been in touch with since I came back to South Africa in 1994.

It’s kind of awkward, though, being a married woman with children, and striking up a conversation with someone that knew you when you were a teenager. I suppose this is what it was like for the older generations when they returned to school reunions with no contact in between. Those 80s and 90s movies often depicted the “once desirable high school quarterback” as now being dumpy and bald, and the “popular girl” being sad and ugly. With no context into their lives in between these changes which seemed drastic, but with social media practically giving us a seat on the couch to be along for the ride, would we notice the difference now at a more recent reunion?

It was quite an experience for me because I left the country very suddenly. My friends had questions. Also it was interesting to hear the versions of me they remember. A common perception was that I had an eccentric fashion sense and they loved my confidence to pull it off. OMG if they only knew! I had no style. Instead I was forced to wear the most obscure pieces of clothing, mostly hand-me-downs from some aunt that were outdated and just ugly. The clothes were a way to punish me (not related to finances), let’s just say my caregiver’s primary objective was to squash my spirited nature. If you know me at all, you can agree that she didn’t succeed. I’m still as wild as ever. But also, as a teenager dealing with an abusive home life, I wasn’t exactly broadcasting my circumstances to anyone. The confidence I had was oblivion to what kids could say about me. Afterall I heard worse at home.

But now imagine the same scenario with today’s social media. Maybe I would have been bullied. Maybe I would have become an influencer of sorts by fluke! Then rich and famous, getting out of my home situation without having to move hemispheres and continents. Who knows. What I am relieved about is that I did some of my best work before everyone was filming everything. And by best work I mean the dumb-shit, making a name for yourself, not coming back from- type of shenanigans.

Fast forward over the years and add in WhatsApp (is this considered social media?) which was a game changer then and where I communicate the most even now. Of course we can’t forget about Instagram, basically a photographic editorial of our lives.

I liked these apps most when it was focused on posting photos and stories and not so many ads but here we are now in a world where even the photos and stories are actually ads. This is how we get each other’s attention, right? It’s how we shop. I mean, I bought my couch from an Instagram account and a bed from Facebook marketplace. It’s easier to reach audiences and sell your product without needing a showroom or premises and Covid pushed the world into embracing this digital age. Covid also changed how we work, with many people becoming internet famous and their business is to live their lives publicly. Similar to the Khardashians that made reality TV a thing, social media with a world epidemic, made influencers the job of choice.

I’ve mentioned TikTok before and my struggles with it, but I can totally see someone following me around all day filming the regular shit I get up to and once edited making the best reels. My life as reality TV would sell.

But let’s focus. A few years ago, I dated this guy that was severely insecure and any little thing was a threat to his manhood. He threw me out of his house once when he found out I followed accounts of near naked tattooed men. I mean, who doesn’t? But to him, the only explanation was that I must be lusting after them. (This argument continued with “why would I lust after someone I can’t have?” and his response “oh so if you could have them you would want them?” and so on… believe me there was no way to not be in the wrong. Thankfully this was also the relationship through which I learned the most and was able to start healing my childhood traumas. Stick around, this is after all where we talk about life, love and lessons.)

Besides his insecurities, he had this ex that he just didn’t seem to be able to let go of. He played the two of us against each other, causing us to vie for his affection. One of the reasons why I was able to leave him forever (eventually), and only hold onto the valuable lessons I learned, was when I realised that instead of me actually wanting him (or even liking him sometimes) I found myself in a competition to be the one he chose. I just wanted to win. And win what exactly? But OK this whole story is for another day. Back to this ex of his, she harassed me on social media, making ugly and untrue comments on my posts, and no amount of blocking her worked. She had time on her hands and created new accounts.

So I deleted it all! Social media cold turkey!

A few years later, when I found myself again and was clear of that toxic situation, I rejoined social media but with limitations. My accounts were private and I only accepted friends or follows from people I actually knew. Peace at last! And I kept it that way for some time.

This year I deleted my Facebook account forever. The platform wasn’t adding value. I do miss access to the marketplace but I have a friend that loves shopping so whenever I have a need, she finds things for me (love you Alex!). The feature of showing me memories was replaced by Google Photos (quite to my dismay when said ex appears.) I also deleted my Twitter, because I never really used it and I dislike ol’ Elon, and instead I’ve signed up for Threads. It’s similar to Twitter and I’m already so deep in with Meta I might as well keep it in the family.

The other day I made my NEW Instagram account public (Did you know that deleting your account means you can never use the email or phone number linked to it again in the future even if you can prove you are you? Thus the “new”.) I’ve used it mainly as a gallery of my life, the best moments, curated in one place to scroll through and reminisce. (Basically you can see my cats!)

My journey to become a published writer requires me to have a presence somewhere, be known, recognisable by my voice (not the out loud one, cause everyone already knows if I’m there you hear me before you see me), so I can engage with and build a following because book sales will be the ultimate goal. SHOW ME THE MONEY!

Oh! I didn’t tell you this same ex made a “fan” account about me when I left him and blocked him on everything. Instagram themselves responded with “we cannot infringe on a user’s right to create a fan account” when I reported it. Um, excuse me sir, this man is posting pics of me and accusing me of destroying his life and basically making my life miserable with people reaching out to me about it… how can this be about his rights? Thankfully, he deleted it himself some months later. And also thanks for nothing IG support.

Social media opens us up to judgement and harassment. From cyberbullying where people feel they have the right to say what they want regardless of the consequences or impact on others – to receiving unsolicited dick pics (I know we’ve all been there). Have you seen the hate and ignorance people spew in comments on other people’s content? For what? Do they hate themselves so much they want to bring other people down? Is there some agency that you can hire to post hate on your competitor’s stuff (wait saying that aloud doesn’t seem so far fetched, this could be a real thing given our society these days)? Is their lives so boring they have to target those who are out there living it and turn it into something ugly? I don’t understand any of this. But I love when people publicly shame those horrid comments. The haters in fact bring more attention (and followers) so maybe they serve a purpose too.

But here I am, showing up. I want to be heard, have the conversations, get on my soapbox too (I’m easing you into it, we’ll get to the topics that require a good rant); it means I have to be prepared for the worst. I mean, what am I scared of, considering what I’ve overcome in my life? I bet there’s a lesson in this too, something I’m meant to figure out on this journey and it’s tied to facing the uglies out there.

Tell me your thoughts, experiences with social media – good, bad and ugly. It’s not all bad, I know. We meet amazing people along the way. That makes it worth it for sure.

PS Obviously you now have to subscribe to my blog, and follow me on Instagram and Threads. Please and thank you!

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