I have a dilemma which is becoming harder to resolve. I’d like your perspective because you may have the same issue. If you’re reading this, then it’s likely. I have a potentially unhealthy addiction which can make me physically ill but, it seems, there are lots of barriers to breaking the habit. You see, I need it in order to survive – well, actually to surthrive – but ironically, the addiction to social media and technology is making me really sick.
Like so many others, I lost some stable income this year. I turned every pitfall into an opportunity and decided now is the time to follow my dreams and to truly espouse my values. I wrote a book – a self help memoir; I took a digital marketing course and a business course; I learned how to web design and produced this site from scratch; as a help to family members during the lockdown, and as a way of spreading the love, I tutored their children and loved it so much that I also set myself up in the role of personal tutor. I am happy and thriving.
I have applied to volunteer jobs and some paid positions with no interview or affirmative nod to the validity of my credentials; sometimes without even a reply. This is a sign of the times but the lack of contact and connection is neither kind nor humane. This is the first time in my life that this has happened but I’m still keeping the faith, telling myself it’s their loss, my gain and that I am being guided towards a more spiritually rewarding path!
All mental health positive and good tactics methinks.
But the bottom line is, even with the optimism, and philosophical stoicism, we all need an income. I sold the car and it makes me feel good to live in a more ecologically friendly way and I love cycling, and bringing back the essential shopping in two panniers is hilariously funny at times, when the back pack – loaded with potatoes and an acceptable quantity of loo rolls – makes me feel like ET. But, although I have cut fumes along with costs, I still need to pay my way and cover the monthly bills.
And so, I need to market myself. The skills that I am offering are inherently human but one of the few ways that I have of promoting myself to those who could really benefit from them are not directly from human to human but through the channels of social media.
And there’s the crux of the dilemma. I am fully aware of the dangers of social media – the lure of the sticky, the dirty use of data, the fake news, the manipulative posturing…and the spread of hate because ‘someone‘ needs to take responsibility for all this mess and confusion. But it’s one of the few ways where I can attract custom to take up my sparkling skills as a writer, or teacher, or host, or celebrant. And then I can’t help but face the horrors head on when I’m trying to use the same platforms to market my talent!
How do I reconcile this? In fact how does anyone sift through to find the advantages of human connection on social media and avoid the negatives, the manipulation?
The advice in my book, The Will to Surthrive reminds me to practise what I preach because I know it works. So, firstly, I am going to be super conscious.
I will not respond to or post incendiary material – even if it is designed to challenge the craziest of assertions. I’m going try even harder, with more conscious effort not to take the bait to challenge the facts of an issue when someone else has posted something which is inflammatory. It can only have the effect of entrenching more misery and despair. It’s not easy – my son arranged a baby shower to celebrate the impending birth of his first child, and the ensuing fiasco with such complex and confusing regulation nearly drove me to distraction, with some groups being allowed to meet in crowds of thirty but we were restricted to six. But the occasion went ahead, following new protocol and we focused on the love and human connection and excitement – along with the hope that my Granddaughter will change the world very much for the better.
Unscrupulous figures might data-mine our social media accounts and they are the reason why so many have lost trust in anyone promoting something or someone. In current scenarios it’s all too easy to jump to good-versus-evil simple idylls and then we are scarily close to being manipulated into blaming segments of society and of spreading hate. Now, more than ever, we should be spreading the love. In all of my endeavours, that is my purest intention.
I live independently and am aware that I reach out to social media when I need human contact. It is, at first, reaffirming if we post about a current issue and twenty people ‘like’ it but one of the most powerful lures of joining in unhealthy conspiracy theories or collective blaming is feeling that we belong; we become addicted to the socialisation we feel when we are in distress. This isn’t real – it is a virtual connection at best, a disconnection and isolating knock-out at worst. It can pit neighbour against neighbour, friend against friend, old people against young people…it’s so cleverly devious, it can pit purple against pink! We are all in distress from the wider effects of this virus right now and the only way through this is to empathise, to collaborate, to seek the positive benefits of community, to understand and to remain kind. To seek real connection.
Maintaining meaningful spoken communication through phone calls and safe visits are of vital importance. We can steer conversation towards shared experiences and memories and good times. We can also ensure that, by maintaining real, healthy connection – and keeping virtual connections clean and purposeful – we can look forward to good times again.
And I can look forward to you benefitting from the love, experience and kindness that I can offer to you through my writing and my work.