Navigating Authenticity and Vulnerability on Social Media
This blog post was written by guest contributor Jayme Squires
How do you show up on social media? Is it only to post when your favorite team wins a game? When your child makes the honor roll? When you have beautiful photos from a vacation to share?
Or do you post a rant about how your Starbucks order was wrong again? Is your uncle the guy who complains about politics and hot button issues you would not care to discuss?
This natural habit of posting our triumphs and achievements leads people to feel as though social media is just a “highlight reel” and not how life “actually is.” And scrolling through a feed of rants and complaints makes you focus on the negative aspects of life.
So, how should you show up on social media?
As you are.
“But what if I am insecure, not put together, and not picture perfect?” Good. Neither am I. Your story, your struggles, your hidden gems of talent can be shared with the world just as they are, and there is a community of people just like you out there. How do I know? Because I found mine.
Finding your niche and your community on any social platform comes with push back. I am not for everyone, nor am I meant to be. A friend to everyone is a true friend to no one. Navigating the “right way” to be vulnerable has a learning curve. This may seem counterintuitive to authenticity, but the art of connection and conversation still plays a large role in human behavior and in choosing what to post and who to follow.
The more social media becomes ingrained into our daily lives, the more crucial it is to be true to ourselves with how we interact with it for the sake of our mental health. We are past the days of creating a cute username and vague away messages. We are beyond the days of only using Facebook as a means of connecting college students with their classmates. We are beyond using Instagram only as a place for pretty photos with an old school filter and a witty line about a sunset. Email, Facebook, Instagram, and so many more platforms have become the places where we interact daily, do business, create careers, and even build relationships to form genuine friendships. It’s no longer a place for GgUiTaRgUrL81 (yes, this was my AIM username back in the day when a caps lock pattern was apparently also cool).
How do you go from being #authentic to being truly authentic?
This looks different for everyone. It is easy to get caught in the trap of who we think we need to be on social media. I was caught there for many years.
I first started using Instagram in college. At that time, I was pursuing a career in the music industry. I was working for a company that flew me around the country every weekend to mentor other songwriters. I worked with publishing houses and submitted songs for well-known clients. I was putting on concerts and playing at festivals. My Instagram account showed artistic photos of lattes in airports, views from hotels, creatively staged writing scenes, and strategically cropped concert stages. I was creating a brand and an image of who I wanted people to see me as . . . but I was struggling to grow, and I was struggling inside.
I didn’t share what people could actually connect with and relate to. I didn’t share how hard it was to balance travel while taking 18 credit hours, how I would only be able to see my fiancé once a week, and how I was crippled with anxiety trying to keep up with who I felt people wanted me to be. I became so obsessed with only showing up in “highlight” moments that I reached posting paralysis and simply stopped showing up at all.
Anxiety caused by social media is a real thing. If you’ve felt it, you know.
I went dark, I only scrolled and never posted. I decided it felt better not to be glued to social media because it was a negative place. I did not realize at the time the real issue was my unhealthy relationship with it.
I concluded I was just not cut out for the social media scene. I would rather scroll on by than worry about marketing myself to the world through tiny squares. I closed off my creativity, I stopped writing songs, I got a day job, and I only occasionally posted a photo of my lunch (#basic). Is there anything wrong with that? No, not necessarily. However, I was pushing down my own creative entrepreneurial spirit because I felt like the real me wasn’t enough.
It wasn’t until after I had my little girl that I realized I needed to show her what it looked like to not give up on yourself. I began opening up on Instagram about my journey to motherhood, all of my battles with health — from depression to brain tumors and everything in between — and it truly saved my life. I found that I wasn’t alone. I found a community of others who not only struggled with depression and my exact tumor, but I also found women who felt inspired to embrace the season they were in. Finding a community to share my struggles gave me the confidence to find what made me happy in my life again and share that, too.
I now blog daily about anything and everything, from my love of chai tea and DIY to all of the ups and downs of life and motherhood. Sharing what is on your heart will turn social media into a place of heartfelt connection. Don’t be afraid to show up as you would in a room filled with your friends.
How do you create a safe place to be truly real and vulnerable?
Social media has become a place we now gather daily, and if you aren’t showing up as yourself, you will no longer recognize who you were made to be. Just as we decide who we give our time to in real life, we must make those same decisions on social media. Unfollow or mute accounts that make you feel less than. Block accounts that don’t understand your heart. There will be people who don’t get you. There will also be people who understand you so well you feel as though you have known them for years! Believe me, the good can outweigh the bad.
Curate a space that makes you feel like you are a part of a community of people you are comfortable hanging out with every day. The truth is, we are spending time with these people each day, and they influence our moods, views of ourselves, and behaviors more than we would care to admit or realize. It is crucial to your well-being to be mindful of who you are letting into your life each day and whose lives you are a part of each day, too.
As you share your journey and cheer on the ups, downs, good ideas, and fails of others, you will find the beauty of community within social media. Trust me, when the real you shows up, your people will, too.
Learn more about the future of mental health
Social media definitely has the power to dominate the way we think and feel. It takes a lot to be vulnerable and authentic on social media, which makes understanding its effects on users’ psychology that much more important. One of the best ways to learn more about the psychology of social media is in the classroom.
King University’s online B.S. in Psychology teaches students evidence-based techniques to help navigate the digital pressures on mental health. The degree program is totally online and flexible so that students can balance work and life commitments. Check out the program today to learn just how you can be part of the growing field of social media psychology.
Jayme is a mother, blogger, and interior decorator living in Chicago, Illinois. You can follow her on her blog or Instagram @jaymesquires.