Apparently today is World Introvert Day and I can't help but think the date to be intentional...riding the heels of the holiday season, introverts are ready to hibernate! But can you truly escape anymore in the digital age with so many social media apps vying for your attention?
Social media is an invaluable tool for building community, self-expression, and product promotion, but for me - a naturally shy girl - it can become overwhelming. For years I thought something was wrong with me for feeling this way, after all, it's not just social media that has elicited similar feelings in me throughout my life. Some of my earliest memories are of me being reserved as a child in pre-school and among neighborhood friends. And even later on when a competitiveness kicked in that allowed me to excel in sports and thrive in a team environment, an indifference to social norms off the field was still there deep inside. It took a long time to realize it's ok to be different, to enjoy alone time, and once I figured myself out, I was happier.
It may seem counterintuitive to have my own blog/social media presence and claim the machine is too much for me at times, but it's not that black and white. Just because I identify as an introvert doesn't mean I have zero creative or social desires - quite the opposite, actually. The blog came about in 2018 when I knew I wanted to do something non-traditional with my career, and believe me, it took courage on my part to begin posting and allowing my thoughts to be publicly judged. Panic attacks were had, but I will admit that the more I wrote, the easier it got.
Also, if you want to do something different, you do generally have to put yourself out there and I accepted that direction my professional life would take to accomplish my new goals. I started giving more presentations, even though I have horrible stage fright, and joined Twitter when I previously swore I never would. 2018 and 2019 were huge years professionally for me - I made a concerted effort to engage because I felt energized by tax reform and thought my words could actually help people. But the last year has taken a toll on me and I have felt very uninspired for various reasons. I continued to frequently write on tax topics internally for my firm and for a couple industry publications, but without the intense desire I once felt, which was confusing and empty for someone who had spent more than a decade happily focused on growing her career and had found her path.
I started to notice that social media may be part of the reason behind my newfound apathy, but why? I can engage as much or as little as I want to, why do I feel this way? It goes back to my nature; while I enjoy spending time with in-person friends and family, I still tend to keep to myself more than most of them even when we are all together. Social media is like having a big party or meeting every day! And if you're like me, that can get to be too much sometimes.
So, in an effort to help myself and anyone who feels like I do, I've put some thoughts on paper regarding how to survive and thrive on social media as an introvert:
It's ok to be different.
If you follow me on my private Instagram account, I might seem more social because I'll post adventure pics or videos of my dog on the regular. But it's private, so it feels less invasive to me. I prefer to keep my personal life separate from work, which is why I generally use Twitter and LinkedIn for tax only, but I recognize that's not how everyone does things. And so this is my first piece of advice: don't do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.
It doesn't mean don't push yourself out of your comfort zone, because there is value there in small doses, but if putting too much of your personal or professional self on public display is something that keeps you up at night, it might not be necessary to achieve your goals. Different people thrive on different things, it's ok to not follow trends if it's not your bag. You can still have meaningful interactions on a limited basis if that makes you happier, just be confident enough to be yourself.
Breaks are your friend.
Studies have shown social media to be addictive both physically and mentally. That's why "likes" feel good - dopamine levels in the brain rise similar to that of drug use. Let's not go off the rails though, people seek happiness in many ways like volunteering, talking to friends and family, exercise, or playing with a pet. Any of those things in moderation is good for you and obviously feeling happy can help you be your best self in general, but it's when we start getting that "need" to do something such as repeated aimless social media scrolling and posting for a temporary fix that gets concerning.
If you feel an unhealthy relationship with social media, take a break! Challenge yourself to stay away for X number of days and see if your outlook improves. You might feel relief breaking a pattern that unknowingly became too much for you and you can re-enter on your own terms once you regain your sense of self. Also, during those break times you might find you have more focus on other areas of your life that may have been neglected, or it could give you time to recharge your social exposure battery if it's been depleted beyond zero.
Tailor your world.
It's ok to unfollow or mute people who drain your energy, take without giving, or make you feel uncomfortable. Just like in other areas of your life, you can choose who you interact with on social media, too. I do think it's healthy to have a balance of people with different views in your world so that you stay open-minded, but if someone just rubs you the wrong way on a regular basis, or is intentionally trolling you, don't feel bad disengaging. Instead, focus on the people who inspire you, support you, and provide thought-provoking information even when you disagree.
Don't go down the rabbit hole.
If social media is something you want in your life despite a hesitancy, you don't need to get dragged into the dark side - but you have to define what that means for you. Do low-blow political arguments stress you out? Don't go digging into the comments. Are you demotivated by too much complaining? You don't need to acknowledge or respond to it, just keep scrollin'. Life and social media are what you make of them, you just have to figure out what triggers you and why.
Social media can be a wonderful place to share your passion, but if it gets to be too much sometimes, that is ok - there's nothing wrong with you! Stick to your objectives and stay confident in being yourself, there are likely more people who appreciate your unique presence than you know.