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Beware the power of social media

I broke my six-month hiatus from social media today with a lovely post about sitting in my garden, whiling away the time in the morning sunshine. The very moment I opened Instagram the first post I saw was a beautiful photo of a bunch of former employees at a going-away party for a wonderful woman I’d worked with for 13 years.

What in the world? I looked at all those dear faces and was overcome by feelings of sadness and shame. Sadness to have missed out on a fun post-Covid celebration; shame that I wasn’t even invited.

Hurt feelings are so weird, aren’t they? As I pondered my feelings, I realized that it was a toxic mix of sadness and shame that made for “my feelings are hurt.” It was a sharp reminder of everything terrible about social media. If one photo of one event can cut me to the quick like this – me, who lives a charmed life and is abundantly grateful for my blessings every single day – imagine what it does to young people. The young ones who don’t know enough to have so much confidence in themselves that no one can knock them off center. The young ones who are so prone to bullying anyway, who are thoughtless and foolish and enormously self-centered simply because they’re still teenagers. Oh, the toxic, dangerous power of it all.

I already had plans to meet friends in town at the Saturday Farmer’s Market, so I couldn’t sit around feeling sorry for myself for too long. On the drive into town I immediately (and unconsciously) began the process of self-soothing. I chatted with my Mom. At the Farmer's Market I bought my favorite treats from Demeter’s and my favorite spicy nuts. I met my friends, shared hugs all around, and made plans with them for dinner tonight.

And then I walked to our spectacular local bookstore and, after a few minutes of perusing the newest fiction and non-fiction tables, I headed back to mysteries. That’s when I realized I was actively self-soothing.

Remember that thing we talked about with our babies? The need for them to “self-soothe” with a pacifier or a thumb or a blankie? That’s exactly what I was doing, and books are my pacifier and thumb and blankie all rolled up into one. For me, there’s nothing better than a cozy mystery or an espionage thriller to bring endless hours of simple enjoyment – a powerful self-soothing activity.

Lessons learned? Social media sucks.

More articulately stated:

· Social media’s algorithms are a powerful marketing tool that can inform you about goods and services you might enjoy.

· Social media is an amazing platform for good-hearted, well-intentioned souls to share observations, knowledge and inspiration with like-minded people.

· Social media is a dangerous weapon that carries an outsized influence on our emotions and our psyche and our self-worth. Use it with caution.


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