Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Some Thoughts on Social Media in 2018

2017 found me shyly sticking my toe into the proverbial social media pond to test out the temperature before jumping all in. Feeling the cold and icy atmosphere that makes up a large portion of the internet made me fearful of fully immersing myself. So there I sat, for an entire year, with nothing more than a toe inside the water. This coy behavior left me feeling sad, confused, tired and muted. I didn't speak up for what I believed in, I didn't join any hashtag armies, I was just watching the world crumble through a crack in the doorway. By nature I am a very vocal person and am not afraid to ask questions when I don't understand your views on something, nor do I shy away from telling you how I feel if I am passionate about a subject. I think these are important details to share so you can full understand why this period of silence was so difficult for me and so taxing on my mind. I experienced a lot of personal battles in 2017 and I think that I just didn't have the mental energy or capacity to fight for anything more at the end of each day. Not only did I feel defeated by my own demons but also by the demons running about the world today. 

2018 started with no resolutions and no goals. I kind of stopped doing that a few years back when I realized that 1 January was not anything more than a calendar reset. I still use the New Year hype to reflect on where I am currently and where I am headed in life and that is exactly how I realized that I didn't really use the time I had in 2017 to "fight" for anything I am passionate about. Again, this is a huge deal for me and may not be for others. Some people do not like to vocalize their opinions and that's A-O-K, but if you know me, you know that is not the case here. 12 days into the New Year (it's 12 January that I'm writing this) I have whole-heartedly decided that 2018 needs to be the year that I share my views on the things that I feel are so wildly important. How else can I expect anyone to know how I feel?

I think one of the main reasons I stayed so quiet in 2017 is because I thought the only way to voice my opinion was to be argumentative or confrontational. Like I said, I've had to overcome some personal obstacles recently and that really put my head into a negative space. The last thing I needed was more negativity. You often see this type of "standing up for your right" speech on social media when someone sticks their nose into the business of the opposition and tries to dig up dirt or find flaws in the opposing argument instead of just focusing on their own beliefs and trying to show through action why what they are doing is better. They give attention to the negativity, and I don't want to be a part of that. When you jump straight into the "you're wrong" accusatory responses, it gives you no opportunity to share your side of things because you've already turned off the opposing side by being so immediately hateful. I want to talk freely about things I believe in without being negative or confrontational to others. I think the best way for me to do this is to just focus on myself and my beliefs and to share what I'm doing to better myself and how I'm translating my words into actions. 

I am in no way jumping head first into the social media pond this year. Instead, I am about to wade waist-deep into the muck in the hopes that sharing more of myself with the pond can help the other do-gooders clear out some of the bad energy. Here are some of the things I am working on in my personal life that are also things I hope to take about in 2018;
- Respect for people, animals and the earth.
- Sustainability and low-impact living.
- Ethical consumerism.
- Movement, "A body in motion stays in motion".
- Veganism, continuing to discover reasons I choose to be vegan. 
These are all things I am very passionate about and things that I have been working on in my personal life to try to "practice what I preach". I'm not perfect, and I think that sharing that imperfection is important. You don't have to get it right the first time, you just have to keep trying.

Here is some other ish (get it? stephanieish?.... no? Ok..) I'm interested in;
- Delicious vegan meals and snacks.
- Pretty places, I appreciate that both city and nature in their own unique ways are absolutely stunning.
- Plants.
- Beauty; makeup, skincare, hair, nails and enjoying these commodities as sustainably and ethically as possible.
- Art and personal expression through different mediums like painting, filming, writing and so on.

You know, another thing I noticed while reflecting on social media in 2017 was that I was "sick and tired" of hearing about other people's personal lives. I was watching the highlight reels of superficial people and thinking about how sad and boring my own life is. Granted, my day-to-day life is actually very monotonous, but my life isn't sad and there is much more to me than just my daily activities and errands. Up until now I had assumed that my monotony could not compare to these extravagant and exciting, shocking and dramatic lifestyles of the social media moguls. What I didn't realize is that a lot of it is a facade and that it can only be sustained for so long before crumbling. Being your authentic and genuine self and sharing your personal beliefs isn't going to meet an end unless you do. This was a big mistake on my part and I think this made up about a third of the personal battles I was losing each day. I was comparing my authenticity to something disingenuous. Of course the two will not be the same!

In addition, I have noticed a shift in the way social media works as a whole. The actual platforms have been making changes to best fit the influx of more and more creators but I don't think these changes are actually working beyond the surface. I think too many people want a piece of internet fame and instead of uploading for the sheer wonder of getting to share your content with arguably the largest audience on earth, they are looking to make a quick buck and are drowning out the people who have a genuine message to share. It has dawned on me that when I started sharing content online, thinking way back to my nail art tumblr circa 2010, I was doing it for fun and using the internet as my outlet and connection to the outside world. I was just so in awe of how close of a connection the world could have, the internet being the tool. You didn't make a Myspace to be famous unless you were a band and you didn't sign up for Tumblr to be a "baddie". You were just there to share what you liked and find people who also liked those things. No one was trying to monetize every post, unless they were professionally blogging on a website they had built and that was a whole different ballgame back then, too. Fast forward to today, you can't go on Instagram without finding at least one photo with a #ad in the caption. You run the risk of watching a Youtube video uploaded by someone you trust, buy a product on their recommendation and then find out they did not properly disclose their sponsorship by the company to speak about this product. It feels like a sham, a numbers game and feels more like a competition every day following. Everyone is so focused "on the grind" and losing sight of what really matters! This is never something I wanted when I started sharing content on social media. It is truly a little nightmare come true.

*UPDATE* As I mentioned earlier, I started to write this on 12 January. Late night/early morning of 16/17 January I received an email, along with many other small Youtubers, getting official notice that our involvement in the Youtube Partner Program was being terminated because we did not meet new threshold requirements for watch time or subscriber count. I myself am not affected by this monetarily because Youtube has never been a source of income for me, however I am very sad for the  Youtubers that I watch and enjoy that were relying in part on this monetization option of the YPP to supplement their income. Youtube's reason behind the new policy change was that this is a new "safeguard" against the Youtube ecosystem. Without going into too much detail, I feel as though they are punishing smaller channels for the irresponsible actions of a larger Youtuber. This is a prime example of how platforms are adapting to fit the content from their creators, and how a lot of times it reflects unfavorably on the real and raw passionate crowd of creatives. If you're interested, I was up late last night tweeting about this; @stephanieish_