Saturday, August 23, 2014

Social Media Praise and its Addiction




Pictures are posted. Good news is tweeted. Perfection is shouted from the rooftops.

Insecurity roots itself in our guts. Negativity stirs. Self-doubt takes a major role in our thoughts.

And why? Why do we let others have power over us? Let something fake—because we know most of everything we see online isn’t real—allow it to affect us? Change us in some way? Make us alter the way we feel about ourselves?

Behind the perfect picture is an editor, someone who knows how to alter a photo to make it flawless. Behind all the smiles is years of trials lurking inside someone who is only trying to hold on.  Behind the good news is a whole new string of doubts and insecurities—but most people don’t shout that. Most people want to give the impression of perfection—that they are living the dream life—that they have something to prove, that the facade is more important than the truth. 

Any of you who have been to Disneyland with any number of kids knows that the smiling picture in front of the castle is a total lie… mostly. :)

Now, my point of this post isn’t to rant on social media and the false perceptions it brings. Because I think we as viewers see beyond the pretense. Social media has been around long enough for us to know that most of what we see isn’t wholly true. I’m more intrigued on the reasons why some of us feel the need to post certain things. Why does a mom of small children feel the need to post scantily-clothed pictures of herself? To get praise? Fill a void in her life? Why does a husband feel the need to shout from the rooftops how perfect his marriage is? Is he trying somehow make others think it’s true when it isn’t? (I know for me, I’d be worried if my husband started doing any of these things… or vice versa… LOL…)

I think the praise that can come from social media can be an addiction. And I know so many of you who are able to balance it—and so well. But I think the majority of the world hasn’t figured it out yet. It’s almost like every time we post, we’re sending out a piece of our souls into the world, and we don’t get that piece back. Because each time we throw something out there, we’re not living in the now. In the moment. Our thoughts are elsewhere: What will people think of my post? Will anyone like it? Am I being dumb? Should I delete it? So and so has this many likes. I could never compare. Why am I even doing this?

For some, I believe that the quick praise we get from others online temporarily fills our insecurities with false security. And when that “high” runs out, we have the need to fill it again. Bringing on the addiction.

But I do know that nothing we post will bring happiness. No amount of likes of favorites or comments is going to fill any kind of void or give us any kind of real self confidence. Those who are truly happy don’t have the need to shout from the rooftops how perfect their lives are. 

I think this topic is SO relevant to writing. Because what we often see isn’t the case. We see writers screaming about getting an agent, when in truth—while it is a success—it’s nothing to really scream about. It’s only one step in the journey—a step just like writing the book, or getting beta feedback, or working with an editor. We see book deals around every corner, and while it’s all such an accomplishment, I think it’s important to stop, think, and wonder how our posting will come across to those reading.

Now none of this is to depreciate good news. When there’s good news, we definitely should share it! But I think sharing it in the right way is the key--and with the right motive. We can’t control how or what others will post, the only thing we can control is ourselves and how we’re going to react to what we see.

I once got advice to not care about what others thought of me, but I think that advice is too far on the dispassionate side. I think we should care—not necessarily what people think—but care about them. Because I think when we cease to care, we become too cold. Too focused on ourselves. And I think one of the biggest keys to becoming a good person AND writer is to step outside ourselves and wonder how we can help someone else. To think before we post… to ask ourselves if we’re seeking praise for ourselves or if we’re truly trying to help—to add some light into this world.

I know for me, I’m constantly trying to shut out the noise. To consistently zoom in and focus on the good and on the work. To not get caught up in this world of perfection. It’s why I adore so many of you—because so many of you get it and have taught me so much.

Any thoughts?

Red. Head. Out.

45 comments:

  1. We cease to care about others and we lose a piece of our souls.
    Some post only positive to brag. Or out of fear. Or maybe just to keep from spreading more negative in the world.
    I don't have a perfect life. I only choose to ignore the negative. Or rather give it to God.
    I don't have low lows. But the trade off is I don't have high highs, either. I'm really even-keeled. And that has its drawbacks as well.

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  2. Being authentic online is so important to me. Yes, I don't post much of the negative things in my life, but not because I'm worried that I won't "look good." Rather, it helps me not to FOCUS on that negative and it helps me to be more positive-minded to the people around me. I could see how someone might perceive that as me projecting an unrealistic view on life, I suppose. But I try my best to just be me. Sometimes that me is grumpy. ;)

    It's pretty easy to spot the kind of people who project the "perfect life" tweets/posts/etc. And I don't think really think less of them for it, but it makes me sad. The people my heart warms to, the people I begin to love, are those who admit their flaws in genuine, honest ways. The people who can say, "This is a hard thing" or "I feel [X] deeply", those are the people I want to share my online/real life time with.

    A writer named Clint Johnson once said at a conference, "We admire people for their strengths, but we love people for their weaknesses." He was referring to character creation and the element of conflict in story. And he was right. The books that just destroy me (and make a difference in my heart) are the ones where someone has to fight through the rough stuff. And we feel that way naturally about people. So why are so many of us hiding our struggle and growth?

    There is the opposite side of that, of course. It's entirely too easy for some people to ONLY project the struggle on social media. And that gets wearing and begets more of the attention-grabbing you've mentioned. Probably the best way to handle social media is to just be real, find a happy medium, and keep your life and perspective in balance. Right?

    All this said, there's a reason why yours is one of the VERY FEW blogs I follow these days. I love this cute Red Head.

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  3. What? Getting 5000 comments isn't going to make the cat happy? Damn, you just ruined his dreams, thanks lmao

    There are so many who do it to brag or are poor pitiful me types that want the attention they get from such things, posting crap on facebook like "oh I stubbed my toe" "Oh the cat scratched me" oh this oh that, looking for nothing but people to fawn over them. Nothing but attention whores is what they are.

    I admit I couldn't care less what people think of me, and I'll say whatever the heck I want to say, usually in a fun way lol that may rub some the wrong way, but oh well. Blame the cat, not Pat haha

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  4. I love this idea: we should care about people, not care what they think. Yes. This is something I still struggle with (I was horrified to realize that living into my thirties didn't mean I magically stopped caring what people think). But I think empathy/sympathy go a long way to not being as daunted by other people's opinions.

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  5. Hey, found you on Pat's blog. This is an excellent article. I deactivated Facebook precisely because of what you said ~ too many insecure people seeking attention, bragging, and posting about meaningless things. I have a blog and I'm on G+ but only post creative endeavors (poetry & photography) ~ nothing personal. I do like to give and receive encouragement through comments. Praise is nice when it's genuine and a secure person will know when the work is good. Thanks for sharing. :)

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    1. I'm back to say thank you for your lovely comment on my blog and follow. Glad to follow you as well and nice to meet you!

      I just thought of something else to share in regard to your post. There was actually a study that showed people who come from broken families or don't have children get depressed when they see the "happy families" on Facebook. I'm not sure why people feel the need to post pictures of their children constantly. First of all it's not safe to make children's pictures public. And why rub it in someone's face ~ showing off the children the same way they show off their new car or new house or their exotic vacation. It's too much information to share with the public and good news should be shared with close family and friends. Not every stranger on the planet!

      Nor do I need to know what someone just ate for breakfast.

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    2. Oh I absolutely agree, Loredana. I'm shocked with how much people parade their children. It's scary, really. And I truly do think that we have to be so careful with what/how we're posting. Even the good can do more damage than we know. It's why I had to at least *attempt* to voice my thoughts here today!!! I'm glad you understood the intent behind my post. And yes, so happy to be connected now! :)

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    3. Thank you! I just signed up to follow you by email. I'm getting an error message when I click on the Google Friend Connect gadget ~ I'll try that again later.

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  6. I wholeheartedly agree with your post. And I know that finding that "acceptance" online can be addicting. I see it every time I log on. But something I've come to realize for myself is that I really have no control over what other people post, but just on what I chose to take away from it. Those people who fill up my feed with proclamations and bragging? I know they're searching for something they hope to find online--a piece that's missing in their life. That's how I approach it and if that influences me to do a little extra for them every now and again to help them out, that's my call. It's definitely not something I want to ever do, but it works for them. And in the end all I can do is not read those posts, or chose to not let them bother me. Great post!

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  7. Ugh. Shut out the noise. I'm working on that but it can be hard.

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  8. I try to be honest online, but I will tell you: I don't post all of it. I don't post the blubbering in the corner, or the jealous, or the rage. I present a fake me to the world on social media. It's not because I feel like the perfect me is a better me, but I'm scared of laying out the truth.

    I don't want to put all my truths out there and have them bite me in the asterisk later. And they have in the past. So the me online isn't the me in person.

    But I know what you mean, when people use their announcements to get the "buzz going." or the people who have an announcement every week. I'm not gonna lie, my publishing process is going to show up in my insecure writer's support group posts, but only because I think it's good for people to know that not everyone has a happy go lucky response to success. I panicked in the face of my news. It was completely at odds with what people said it would be like.

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  9. Hi Morgan - I couldn't agree more .. thankfully I cut the negative out - but I'm not on FB or Twitter much ... but I see the damage social media can do. I do enjoy reading blogs where people are posting interesting ideas in whatever genre, and not 'regurgitating words'. Also I dislike the 'statements' people sometimes make without thinking ... I sometimes check things out, as I'm not sure ... and then find that the facts don't bear out the post or statement ...

    I also have a phobia about people taking headlines in newspapers, on the tv, radio, magazines as gospel and then commenting without thinking ... drives me nutty!

    Cheers and have a happy weekend - Hilary

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  10. I have never really understood the need to constantly let others know what you are doing ever minute of the day and, generally speaking, I don't need to know what people had for breakfast or that their bus was five minutes late! One of the reasons I'm not on FB and only use Twitter a couple of times a week. But social media has it's place, I love my blog and interacting with like minded folks is great. In 'real' life I don't have friends who understand or even really care about the writing/publishing world, so it is such a support for me to get some encouragement online when things aren't going so well or I'm going through a 'what's the point' phase. Many of you guys out here have kept be going! If I can offer the same support or encouragement in return I'm more than happy to do so. I hope I keep a healthy balance.

    Happy weekend, Morgan :)

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  11. How I present myself online is pretty much who I am. However I have no need or desire to share every little thing. I value my privacy. Plus, I'm long past the age of needing/wanting anyone's approval. The negative side of all this is I think some people replace this kind of communication for real connectedness.

    Example: Just yesterday hubby and I had a long wait at the bank, which was fine as we didin't have anywhere else to be. We spent the hour talking, laughing, and telling each other stories. You'd think after nearly 30 years we'd know all our stories. But no... Now sitting across from us, also waiting, was a young couple, onbviously together. What were they doing with their time? Both were on their phones, texting and/or being on social media. They hardly spoke to each other the whole time. What was right in front of them, what was real and a way to make real human contact was totally missed.

    Who had the richer waiting experience?

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  12. Honestly, if I could delete ALL my social profiles, I would. I'd love to be an online hermit. I really do hate a lot of what social stuff has to offer. The only reason I'm still on it is because I feel like I need to be, or like it's expected. Like it might help me get an agent. Sigh.

    There are some good things about it, mainly the people I meet. I met you through Twitter, after all! I really do enjoy meeting people, I just wish it was easier to tune everything else out.

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  13. So what you're saying is that social media is like cheerleader camp.

    Most of my social media is there, really, to support my blogging. That's what I use it for. And I rarely blog about myself.

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  14. It is a tool to be used, but can't be let to consume us. Also I like the look of everything not sure hwen you changed it up I have been away for a bit.

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  15. Social media is a great way to get exposure and part of that includes determining what image you want exposed. So, yeah, it's fake. I only recently started letting current pics of me to be posted because I didn't want people to know I'd gained weight. Then I realized I was erasing myself from the electronic history being compiled and who cared If I'm not perfect? I'm socially awkward, so social media is easier for me than face to face. I do hate the time suck aspect of it, but am resigned that it's the platform building tool that will be most monitored (so here I am). Right now I should be writing, but I'm checking my weekly feed of updated blogs to stay current in the industry. Luckily, it's not a chore because of bloggers like you. :)

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  16. I think "social" media, as a whole, is more about narcissism than being "social". It's all bout "Hey, look at me....look what I'm doing/eating/etc." and, I must admit, I'm guilty of it, as well. The trick, as you mention, is to keep a discerning eye open and realize that those perfect lives aren't that perfect.

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  17. I feel this ALL THE TIME!!! Sometimes it gets depressing and I have to shut it all off. Like, am I the only person who doesn't go on lavish trips? Am I the only wife whose husband doesn't buy his wife extravagant gifts 24/7? Am I the only person who doesn't eat at fancy restaurants and snap pictures of delish desserts? But then I remember that most people won't post the bad stuff, just like I won't post if my 17 yo and I disagree about how late he can stay out. I try to keep my posts positive, knowing that others realize there are plenty of negatives in life as well, I'm just not sharing dirty laundry.

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  18. Yes, Morgan!!! And the ironic thing I've found is that no writer is completely happy or fully satisfied. No matter what part of the journey we're on, we all have our disappointments. There are some authors I feel have it ALL, and then I meet them and hear the things they're dealing with and their struggles and it's a shock to realize even they have insecurities, though they seem so perfect to me. It's madness. I've tried not to shove my "good news" down people's throats this spring/summer, because I remember how it felt to see others rejoicing while I was sitting around waiting in limbo and fear. There are seasons when it comes to this crazy writing life.
    Love you lots. xoxo

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  19. YES!! But I think I feel this way in lots of places. We go to church on Sunday, look around, and part of us feels as if everyone is doing a little better than we are.
    I find it far too exhausting to be anything but honest, and when I have good news, I share it. When I've been down for like 4 weeks, I think I should maybe temper my BLERGH attitude, lol.
    And on the happy side of social media - I met you through blogging. I met Nyrae through blogging. I got my first traditional book deal b/c of Twitter. I met Allie Brenna on twitter. I've met some amazing people and established life-long friendships b/c of social media.
    And you're so right. There's (what feels like an obvious to me) right way to talk about news, and a not so great way.
    MAN. I'm STILL talking, lol. My biggest example is people putting up their amazon screen-shot book numbers. UGH. Wendy H does it well and gracefully as does Nyrae and Cassie, but some people just... SMH. ANYWAY. I'm done rambling all over your fantastic post. And now BACK TO FACEBOOK! ;-O

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  20. Do you ever do the speed-scroll of disgust through your newsfeed? I do it so often, I'm afraid my eyes are going to get stuck in the rolled position. LOL

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  21. I like it when folks are real on social media, without getting too radical or going TMI.

    As far as balance, I bounce between 'but what if I don't visit and scroll? I'll miss so much' to 'get real. Just because it's there doesn't mean you have time to do it'.

    Honestly, I think that's a big part of what's wrong with the last couple of generations. We have TOO much--too many choices for careers, and entertainment, and interaction, and other ways to spend our time. The simple, unplugged, small-town life is totally beginning to appeal.

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  22. This is the rant you were talking about when you commented on my blog? It's not a rant! If so, I've been ranting a lot of times :)

    I really really agree. I did something once that I'm not proud of partly BECAUSE, I think, of what you said: the addiction to superficial praise. Praise from complete strangers, praise that didn't matter. It simply became addicting, filling a void, as you said. It was sad and pathetic and I realize it now, after the fact. That's not to say that I'm jumping with joy because I let go of that part of my life - the praise did feel good, however thin it was - but I'm in a better place now, I know that. It's bittersweet :) I think once the true praise comes - from friends, family, and most importantly from myself - it'll make all the thin feelings of accomplishment seem like nothing in comparison. Thank you so much for this post! I love love your heartfelt and uncensored posts. They're great.

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  23. I think anyone would be fooling themselves if they truly thought they didn't care what people thought of them, or what people will say about something they "post" via any social feed. everyone in this world wants some amount of acceptance. it's human nature. from the perfect pose, to the perfect family, to the down right perfect grammar and content on a blog. we all do it. but just consider... are you stealing time from that perfect family, that perfect self, by trying too hard to show others your perfection? if so, center yourself, and slow down.

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  24. Wow, you pretty much summed up my feelings on social media. It's amazing how it can creep into your thinking and bring on insecurities. Much of that is because it tends to take over our lives and really it shouldn't be the standard by which we measure ourselves or something we spend so much time on. When Jaime and I created What's Up Wednesday, I didn't realize how pressured I would feel to have an interesting week to report on. It's a fun way to network with other writers, but it's easy to start comparing yourself to others both in terms of what they've accomplished and just how bright and shiny their lives "look." Plus the laptop starts to feel like a ball and chain after a while.

    I love how you said this: "I once got advice to not care about what others thought of me, but I think that advice is too far on the dispassionate side. I think we should care—not necessarily what people think—but care about them." Yes, exactly! I also think we should care what others think of us in terms of being a person who's dependable, approachable, and has integrity. Too often social media doesn't promote being that kind of individual--it's more about being witty and successful and popular.

    Anyway, I could ramble forever on this topic. Super post, Morgan! :)

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  25. Much of what you've said has been on my mind lately. And partially why I took a social media break, to rethink my position on it. Being genuine is a great answer! :)

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  26. So much of what you said here reminds me of how "Glinda" acts in the play "Wicked." Here's a quote. "Oh my...what's happening...I didn't get my way?" Or when she grabs the mirror and says, "Oh, heelllooo there..." I think people are getting vainer. Men shave their bodies (I have co-workers that admit to this), they talk about 12.5% bodyfat, won't eat anything sugary, etc. Kim Kardashian says that she and Kanye have a game. Each night he looks over her naked body for any imperfection. If he finds one, she schedules an appointment with a plastic surgeon to get it fixed. Honestly, I don't get it. Maybe that's cause I'm comfy being fat and cranky. All these beautiful people comparing waist and body fat, how white their teeth are, whether or not they have a shaved chest or any wrinkles around the eyes (and all in the pursuit of praise) seems dumb.

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  27. Social media to me is the endless Christmas letter.

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  28. It's definitely an addiction. You post something and then you constantly go back to the site to see if anyone liked/commented upon it. I must admit I never know what to post on social media for the most part. Nothing goes on in my life worth mentioning usually. I go to work. I come home. Repeat. I hope we never lose caring for other people instead of caring what other people think of us.

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  29. I know so many folks who are addicted. I love the community we have here. So many good folks without that pretense. I definitely can do without the noise.

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  30. "Those who are truly happy don’t have the need to shout from the rooftops how perfect their lives are." So profound. Always love your posts :)

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  31. For the most part, my writerly friends in the blogging community are not the attention seeking types. They are warm and friendly, and willing to help other authors/writers on their journeys. But I definitely think there are a large number of attention whores out there, to put it mildly. Facebook is riddled with it! ;)

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  32. I step away from certain people, their posts, and sites. I think it's great to share good news, to feel the goodness all around, and online communities are supportive, but some people are into clogging feeds and asking for too much attention.

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  33. Wow, great thoughts here and a lot to think through. Social Media is a double-edged sword, both useful and a distraction. However, I think it all comes down to believing in what you're doing and being honest. People see through the fluff anyway, and life's too short to pretend to be anything other than yourself. Besides, it might surprise you just how many people like you just the way you are! :)

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  34. I'm always alternately amused by and cringing at people my age who share their life and relationship drama on Facebook. It makes them look really immature and unstable, and like they don't understand the concept of oversharing. I also can't help but feel jealous when I see I'm just about the only person left my age (or even younger) who's still single and child free. I've made my peace with it, but sometimes it gets to me to see all these pictures of children whose parents are my age.

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  35. Yes, yes, yes. That's me nodding my head as I read this post. Thank you, Morgan. I struggle with this in my own way. I want to write all positive, happy, encouraging, celebratory posts. But yet, while that is all real, the flip side of struggle and worry, and frustration is real too. When we focus on one or the other, we lose sight of the fullness of reality that includes the flaws and the flights together.

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  36. Too true. We should care about others and be considerate of them in our posting, as well as ourselves. Of course, my hubby does brag that his marriage is perfect all the time, or rather, he spouts that his wife is perfect...which I don't mind. =) He's got the right idea if you ask me.

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  37. Nobody is perfect, and the more perfect they try to appear, the crazier I think they probably are. Or abusive. I mean I raised four kids, the only way they would ever be picture perfect is if they were abused. Show me a rumpled kid smiling and I'm impressed.

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  38. This is a wonderful article. Well written and makes so many good points. I've come to social media later than most. I never had much interest in blogs, Facebook, and the assorted other outlets. But since I've started self publishing my work, social media has proved itself a good way to network and meet people. I'm not someone who shares a slew of selfy pictures or has minute-to-minute status updates, but I actually understand why people do this. It's an easy way to feel connected and for some people it's just how they socialize now. I agree that what we post and why we post needs to be considered, and some people should word their opinions with more care. For my part I'm grateful for the doors that social media and blogging has started opening with my writing, so I do support it. I just try to remember to unplug once in awhile...

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  39. I admit that I use social media mostly to keep up on different current events, etc. The people who try to portray perfection look more and more like a circus act to me.

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  40. And this is why I love you, dear friend. You see right to the heart of the matter. Social media is fun, a way to keep in contact with those we'd otherwise lose complete contact with, but when it's used to make ourselves simply feel better, it's a problem. I'm bad about keeping to myself and going weeks without talking to my friends. It's not that I don't want to see them, I just don't like going out all the time to do so. I use social media to keep up with them. This is a personal failing on my part. It leads to a disconnection. I realized what I was doing a couple of years ago and made more of an effort to get out for face to face time, but it's hard. Maybe this is the introverted writer side of me? ;)

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  41. When I post, I leave every bit of myself out there: the good the bad and the ugly. Hmmm, I wonder if that's why my blog is not as popular as some others? Ha ha. Seriously though, I just can't seem to play the social media "my life is perfect" game. I have to be me. And the truth of the matter is, this girl is FLAWED. Big time. I don't try and hide behind some perfect pictures and front like I got it all going on. Just not my style.

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