The internet can be a scary place. Just look at the list of Lifetime movies that have been made about Craiglist stalkers or creepy online dating meet ups and it’s easy to see why people would be hesitant to believe that anything authentic could come from a place where you don’t even have to use your real name.
I’ve been there. I haven’t always loved social media. In fact, being the early adopter that I am, I joined the Twitter bandwagon very early and pretty much hated it. I was used to Facebook (the version that was only for college students) and I didn’t see any reason to share with someone that I just had toast for breakfast. In 140 characters or less. I couldn’t figure out how you could have a conversation on a site that only give you a sentence to communicate your thoughts and feelings. And following all those celebrities that Twitter suggested?
Well that was just ugly.
Instead of giving up on it, I waited. I watched to see what other people were doing. I started to find people I actually wanted to follow, companies I liked, bloggers I admired, and I realized that Twitter was a great tool to interact with people I wouldn’t otherwise be able to connect with.
As the years have passed and my social media usage has increased, I’ve had to make some hard choices. Who do I follow? How busy do I want my feed to be? Am I obligated to follow everyone back who follows me? And what about Facebook? Do I share my life with everyone who wants to be friends, or do I occasionally ignore people? And how do I find authentic community online, where women just want to be friends and not use me for my connections?
Eventually, I stopped feeling guilty about all of it. I found the communities I wanted to be part of, the ones who showed themselves to be authentic and trustworthy, like HelloMornings and (in)courage. I stopped following the groups that just weren’t a right fit. I became increasingly grateful and humbled to have people follow me on Twitter, but I stopped feeling obligated to follow everyone back.
Maybe it’s because I’m an introvert, but the thought of having to see that many comments in my Twitter feed or Facebook newsfeed makes me itch. It takes away the personal interaction that I love, and I feel like I get so overwhelmed and lost by all the noise that I never take any steps to connect.
So I figured out where I wanted to be. I figured out who I wanted to follow. And then? I started acting like myself. My voice, my opinions, my dreams. Because I realized that if I wanted to find authentic community, I needed to be…authentic. And the more I settled into being myself, and having that online person match who I was in real life, the more I began to connect with amazing people online who had similar passion. I let go of the expectation that I had to be all things for all people in everycommunity online.
And that scary, ugly online experience? It became a place that feels more like home.