An Introverted Artist’s Open Letter to Social Media
Am I the only artist in the world who would rather stay hidden quietly under my bed until I come out to perform shows? I’m sure I’m not.
I was so happy to discover many years ago that it’s actually not an oddity to be an introverted person whose job it is to get up and perform in front of hundreds or thousands of people.
Thank goodness—because that’s me.
I hate posting fake stuff, so instead I tend to post nothing at all.
I can gear up my energy to get on stage and get emotionally naked in front of people. I can gear up my energy to go network and be charming. I can even gear up my energy to be hugged by a ton of strangers. It was a struggle at first, but thankfully it got easier the more I did it. Yet I still have to prep for it.
“Phew,” I thought, “Okay. I can do this. Everything is cool.”
Then enter social media.
You have to post stuff. And not just anything. It has to be clever or funny or poignant. And it’s supposed to be mostly about you and what are you doing right at this moment. Because apparently you are fascinating. And then you’re supposed to both tag other fascinating people and use hashtags in order to draw MORE attention to your fascinating self.
And not just once a day. Several times a day. Every day. And not just in one place, in So. Many. Places. And linking them is considered a faux pas, each feed should be completely unique.
Suddenly I don’t just have to perform live several times a week.
Now I have to perform live approximately 20 times a day.
Holy hell. This is like my worst nightmare.
You want to know what I’m doing right now? Like, RIGHT now? And you want a picture? Um, are you sure?
Yes. That’s me with zero makeup writing the blog you are currently reading while simultaneously drinking coffee AND beer and enjoying some Kaukauna Port Wine Cheddar Cheese spread. Because that’s how I roll. And because I’m from Wisconsin, and it humors me that they sell this stuff in the gourmet cheese section of the grocery store here in San Francisco while growing up this was the cheap cheese-n’crackers stuff you put out to tide the kids over until it was time for the big family dinner.
Is that actually interesting? I mean, is it? Cheese spread?
I don’t find it so. I don’t find most of my life interesting. Which is why I have a really hard time posting anything about it. And because I feel that I don’t have any thing interesting to share, it kicks me into “performance” mode. I’m under a magnifying glass and I’m not being entertaining enough. Everyone is looking at you. Quick! Do something!
Suddenly I don’t just have to gear myself up to perform or go out in public, I have to gear up just to check my phone or open my laptop. And that is the worst.
On some days it gets to the point that even logging into one of the social media sites gives me a quick wave of anxiety. And suddenly I feel like I have to put on a front or create a persona just to get through a regular day.
Ninety percent of my life is sitting in front of the computer and making phone calls—just like everyone else in the western world. It’s not interesting to look at. The only thing different about my job is that there’s a good chance if I’m not sitting in front of a computer keyboard, I’m sitting in front of a piano keyboard.
There are parts that I do find interesting. Or at least extremely humorous.
For instance, there’s a chance I’m in front of the computer in a van going 80 down the freeway in Texas, or the chance that I’m behind a piano keyboard in front of about 300 people in Boston. And I’m no one special, but a few times a year I have to get all dolled up and pose in front of a camera for these crazy photo shoots. I find that hilarious. Same thing with music videos. I will never get used to saying, “I have to shoot a music video on Friday.” Whaaaat? And Sit Kitty Sit has been on tour for the last four years, so I travel a lot. I post things about the places I travel to.
But not every day. The fourth time you’ve been to the same gas station in the middle-of-nowhere Wyoming, while still beautiful, isn’t that interesting.
The one caveat to this is that I do love having real conversations with people over social media. I love it when a joke turns into a back-and-forth which turns into something endearing. I love it when I get into songwriting challenges with other artists, or hear from someone who has a song I wrote stuck in their head. The real people part is what I totally love.
Yes, I know (and often use) the tips and tricks to handle having “successful” social media streams when you’re only one person and have to handle upwards of five or six different streams. But while I understand them and am even good at using them, they aren’t “real.” It’s not live. It’s not what’s really happening. No, I was not at a cafe this morning looking at a blank journal page next to a picturesque latte with one of those little foam leaves on the top. I took that picture two months ago in a different state. You don’t want to know what I was really doing this morning. (Cleaning out the litter boxes. Ew.)
And part of me really hates doing that. I hate posting fake stuff, so instead I tend to post nothing at all.
I’m still working on finding a balance. I’ll be all over social media for a few months, then I vanish completely. It’s inconsistent and everyone I work with tells me it’s the “wrong” way to do it. But at least when I do post it’s true. I feel like it may always be something I struggle with. Which honestly is okay. We can’t all be awesome at everything.
You hear that, social media? We aren’t all awesome all the time. Stop asking us to perform! Geez.
The companies behind social networks try to convince us that these services keep us connected and help us reconnect with people. The truth is the exact opposite. It brings out the worst in people because they are less accountable for what they say or not accountable at all if their identity is anonymous and untraceable. It leads to friends and family spending less time together because they get sick of each other or think that text chatting every once in a while qualifies as a healthy relationship. While I’m not trying to completely condemn these services, I doubt even the CEOs at these companies seriously believe that spending hours a day on social media is a good thing, especially if you face daily harassment for your work, gender, race, or other factors.
I’m starting to realize my days are filling with a lot more happiness and productive work when I completely disconnect from the internet. I’ve started going to coffee shops to work and not connecting to the wifi unless I absolutely need to fetch something online.
There are also apps that can disable your internet connection for you during scheduled or manually selected times. Just google “program that disables the internet” and you’ll find them.
The internet has had a huge impact on the progress and productivity of people, but I think it’s very easy to waste an entire day on social media or Youtube and not feel like it was wasted because you were technically doing something that was slightly meaningful.
I wonder how people slacked off in the 50s.
Hopefully you’re not disconnected at the moment…so I can say: Congrats for commenting during our contest! Come to our 3rd birthday party at Sister tonight to claim a T-shirt or tickets to the Guild!
Yay! I can always use more shirts. :D