The Push and Pull of Social Media
June 12, 2023 - Shauna Jurczak

There are countless platforms where a person can share life’s ups and downs with friends (and strangers). Funny cat videos go viral, and businesses and influencers constantly examine how they can “work the algorithm” in their favor to get more views and interactions.

There are pros and cons to the social media world. If used properly, it’s an easy and effective way to stay connected, learn, and expand the tiny footprint you leave in the world, and maybe go a little further. It’s also riddled with false narratives, angry keyboard warriors, and inauthentic posts curated to look like real life.

There is also this expectation to be active on social media – and on multiple platforms at once - and if you’re not, people are shocked and try to talk you into getting online. And when a new platform comes along, there is the expectation to join, immediately, without question.

Instagram. Twitter. Threads. TikTok. Facebook. Snapchat. LinkedIn. YouTube. BeReal. Reddit. Pinterest. Over 10 platforms off the top of my head that a person can be active on at any given time…that is a lot of content to create and interaction to have. It can be extremely overwhelming and can become very all-consuming.

I am active on social media. I use it for work and play, and I have been for well over a decade. Shoot, if it weren’t for a photo tag after I met Nathan at a friend's birthday, we never would have started chatting on Facebook Messenger, and our first date never would have happened! Social media has helped me connect to family I wasn’t always close to (but I am now). It’s helped me expand my businesses and has connected me to a lot of wonderful learning opportunities. Sounds perfect! Until it wasn’t.

The Social Slump

I recently found myself in a social slump. After I got sick in the spring, and once I was getting back on my feet again, I was driven to get moving and accomplishing things. But a lot of things that mattered heavily to me before, started to feel so trivial. The mindset of having to be everything to everyone, or my favorite: “you have seen on all social media to be relevant” seemed off to me. I found myself looking for meaning and value in what I was giving my time, thoughts, and energy to. I also questioned if anything I had to share had value. Most importantly, I wanted to make sure the value I was bringing was authentic. I didn’t want to have to force it, or be something I wasn’t, or try to impress people. I just wanted to be me, living and serving to the best of my abilities, and enjoying it my life.

I spent a lot of time reflecting on this and found that much of my slump existed around social media. This crazy, ever expanding, online world we live in can have real weight in our everyday lives. I began to resent social media, and even got flutters of anxiety when I’d open a social media app on my phone to post content I felt like I was expected to post.

At first, this was a strange realization. I used to work in social media, and I was good at it – helping other organizations grow through social - and I loved it. Until I didn’t. When I worked with social media marketing in its infancy, it felt fun, creative, and connected people in such a cool way. Fast forward a decade and there I was, staring at the screen thinking, “I freaking hate social media. Does anything I have to say on here even matter?!”

I also started to notice both the good and bad social brought out in people. My TikTok and Twitter algorithms were pushing such angry, negative narratives my way – which made little sense. I was posting and searching inspirational content and yet the opposite was showing up in my For You recommendations. Let me tell you, there are some very cruel people out there, and a lot of people who, while maybe not ill-intentioned, are spreading a lot of misinformation and borderline bullying without even realizing it. None of that is good for anyone’s mental health and I didn’t like being around it.

That was the moment when the lightbulb turned back on in my head. Social media platforms are a tool, and like any tool, it’s all about how you use it. Nathan, while not active on a lot of social media, is a “tool guy”. He is my go-to for anything that needs fixing - our house, my car, the loose screw in my glasses, you name it! His favorite phrase is, “We have a tool for everything!” He can seriously take a basic tool out of his tool chest, think out-of-the-box for 15 seconds, and find about 12 different uses for it to get a job done. It blows my mind sometimes how, just when I think we need to run to Home Depot to grab a tool, he can MacGyver something up and once again prove that we do have a tool for everything.

With all that in mind, I decided it was time to examine the tools I had in the social media world, how I was using them (and how they were using me), how I wanted them to function and serve me, and what I could change in my usage to make social media fun again…and to feel like my online voice mattered.

It boiled down to 4 questions for me.

Where and how do you contribute?

I was posting content on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook. Instagram, Patreon, YouTube, Pinterest, and TikTok. As I began to examine the content I was producing, I realized my content, my approach to life, my moral view on things, and what I wanted in return, wasn’t the type of content that “worked” on certain platforms. For example, Twitter was not the place for my motivational quotes to be well received. Twitter thrives on debate - good, but more often, harsh. It enjoys propaganda, on both sides of the argument (no one is perfect!) and it seems like posts riddled with negativity and inaccuracies are pushed up in the algorithms.

After looking at this, I realized that I needed to get off of at least two social platforms. I didn’t move on it then, but made a solid mental note, so I could move onto question number two.

What adds value to your life?

This was an interesting question to sit down and ponder. I like to stay up to date on current events, and being Ukrainian, part of that includes world news that reaches past my life here in Winnipeg and across oceans to try to understand what’s happening – and depending on the source, it’s difficult to know what to believe!

News, and staying up to date on current events, is important. Having to sift through a 750 comment Twitter or Reddit thread to try to determine what is real or fake, while ignoring cruel comments that are mixed in,  does not add value to my day. I’d rather find direct sources I trust, and seek them out, than wait for a social media post to pop up and tell me what is “right”.

I also like to connect and unwind on social media. I want to see things like comedy shorts, cute animals (who aren’t mine!) doing hilarious things, people celebrating their achievements, and cool nature photos. If I’m going to get trapped in an hour-long scroll-hole, I want it to bring me joy, positivity, or inspiration, not an hour trapped in a cesspool of angry rants, people pitting one side against the other, victim blaming, shaming, or claiming, sales pitches, and piles of misinformation. I like a good debate, don’t get me wrong, but debates need to have reasons and support. Hateful discussions designed divide people are not for me. People can have differing opinions, and they should – respectfully. But when people choose to use differing opinions in a cruel, divisive manner, that is not for me.

We can co-exist and not agree on everything, and any platform that fuels the belief otherwise doesn’t bring value to me. On the flip side, platforms that I can set up to bring me the cute cat videos, celebration posts, and share the beauty of the world…that is for me. It’s the balance I need after a long day!

So again, after considering this question I had a couple more platforms that simply didn’t make the cut.

This led me to my third question.

What feels authentic?

Guess what? You don’t have to be on any social media if you don’t want to. There is the misconception that you have to have a TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram…or my favorite one this week – Threads. If I had a dollar for every time I heard or read “Are you on threads? It’s new you have to get it!” I’d be a very rich woman.

Apparently to be relevant in today’s world, you have to use it all! I used to believe it, too. Maybe it was a bit of FOMO, but is getting something just for the fear of missing out actually authentic? When fuelled by FOMO, can you truly use a platform authentically?

I like to hope my relevance is not based on what social media expects of me, or tells me is cool and will “sell”, but instead based on what I actually contribute to the world – with or without the help of social media. That all begins with being your true self, regardless of trends, and living your most authentic life.

I had to pause, and honestly reflect on where and how I was sharing my most true self versus what felt forced. I needed to take a good look at where my genuine connections with others lived and where was I showing the best, most honest sides of me, regardless of what was supposed to be getting likes or views.

Social media should be an extension of you, not an alter ego. If you want to create an alter ego, that’s cool. Create a different account. Give you alter ego a cool name, and login anytime that feisty alter ego wants to come out and play.

At the end of the day, the answer to this question was easy. If it didn’t feel good to me, or feel like the best of me, it had to go. I realized for my social media to be authentic and fun again, it didn’t have to focus on being relevant. It had to focus on being mine.

Crossing another platform off the list, I moved onto my fourth question.

What is your social media goal?

I work with a lot of kids, and too often I hear them say they want to be social media influencers. They live in this world where the word of their favorite TikToker is gold and reality is based on what social media trend is getting the most hits.

The truth is, becoming a highly paid influencer, getting a modeling contract because some agent sees a cute Instagram photo of you, or establishing a multi-million dollar business off of one viral post, isn’t as common or attainable as it seems. None-the-less, people of all walks of life plan their social media content around this, creating these perfectly clean versions of their home, spending an hour on their “no-makeup” makeup look to take a “I just woke up like this” photo or adding filters to try to become something more. Something they’re not.

My goals…when I sat down to create some focused goals around my social media usage…was not to be an influencer or a social media millionaire. Now, if that were to happen in conjunction with my goals, I’d welcome it, but it’s not the ultimate goal.

I realized my goal is to connect, share, grow, and create, and to do so in a way that betters me and the community around me. I didn’t want to participate in more divisive behaviour, in a society that is already so divided.

I want to serve and support the people around me and I hope for the same in return. I want to be connected on platforms and with people who want to do business with me. I want to go where I can find people who support me and my ideas, even if they don’t share the same, and instead engage in healthy debate for beneficial discussion and awareness. I want to be able to say social media doesn’t waste my time or put a negative cloud over me. I want to share how social media contributes to the fullness of my life. Most important, I want to be true to me, online and off.

And there it was. I knew what needed to stay, how I wanted to use certain platforms online. My next steps were to hit the magic delete button on some platforms.

The Deletion

There is something so powerful in pressing delete. The first platform I deleted was TikTok. It wasn’t serving me, and I couldn’t contribute to it the way I wanted to. That was easy. Account deleted and app removed from my phone and tablet, no questions asked!

Next was Twitter. At first, I figured I would keep my Twitter account but delete everything off of it. I felt like having a Twitter handle was still somewhat important, except with out a paid app (which I wasn’t going to use) I needed to delete every tweet one by one. After an hour and only being on 2018, I said “Nope, time to just delete it!” and after taking a deep breath, I did. Again, account deleted and app off my phone and tablet. No looking back, and in that moment, I felt an immediate release.

Next was LinkedIn. I didn’t exactly delete my linked in, but I did delete my posts and set up my page to do what LinkedIn was originally designed for: highlighting your professional resume and allowing for professional, career based, connection. I ensured my profile noted to connect with me elsewhere for current content and timely replies. I did delete the app off my phone and tablet but will keep my profile up to date for professional purposes.

Patreon was a similar approach to LinkedIn. I kept some content up on there that I knew was linked to from other platforms or programs/articles but decided to stop using it actively. I wanted to ensure people didn’t receive deadlinks on my old content. Unfortunately, while I think Patreon is cool, I needed to decide what served me more and YouTube won out simply for the fact that people connected to me more there. My yogis missed my free YouTube content, and I missed the ease of only having one platform to focus on for it. So, while this wasn’t a full delete, it was a disconnect, so to say. I disconnected my brain from it while ensuring the content that needed to stay there stayed.

I was also able to delete social scheduling apps.  I just didn't need them anymore.

What was funny, was a week after I did all my deletes/disconnects, Threads hit the market. That was an easy no for me! I think it's clear I'm not on Threads.

Moving Forward

I’m now in a happy place where social media feels like fun again.  I’m excited again to post and interact on a small handful of platforms: Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. This social portfolio feels the most “me”. I feel like I can share my best self and get the same in return on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. I also enjoy Pinterest – it’s like a virtual box of recipes and sticky note ideas. Recommendations pop up for Mediterranean Diet recipes, how to pack light and still feel fashionable on vacation, home décor, and gardening ideas. It’s drama free and sparks my creativity!

What I Learned

Social media can pull you in and push you down, but you are still the driver on your social media journey. You can take the wheel and make it what you want it to be. You can add or delete platforms that do, or do not, serve you. You can decide not to engage in the negative and focus on the positive. You can make your content private or public, and use the tools it gives you to best serve you.

Relevance, trends, drama, and even the excitement of it all, if not authentic, and if it’s not bringing value to your life, is simply a waste of time. A week after changing up my social media use, my phone’s usage report told me I used it 5 hours less than the previous week. I’m still connecting on social, but in a more valuable and less time-consuming manner.

In the end, I realized that what I had to contribute did have value, as long as I used the tools properly, stuck to my goals, and remained true to myself at the core of all I do.

I enjoy social media again because I’ve reclaimed it for myself. I hope, if you’re in the same place I was, or even share a small sentiment of what I’ve talked about today, you take time to do the same - reclaim your social media, use what serves you best and delete the rest.