Updated: Feb 15, 2022
It's easy to share the following on the internet:
What isn't easy to share is sadness. Loneliness. Authentic fear. Wavering hope. There's an armor when you present as perfect, or angry, or indifferent. There's only vulnerability in admitting to loneliness or heartbreak.
The first time I made content about living with chronic pain and struggling with depression, I was so scared. But as the comments came in, I began to relax. People were being supportive! Some people related! And then...
"Why the fuck do any of you think it's ok to have kids if you haven't sorted out your own
Ouch. That hit a nerve. It mimicked the horrid voice in my head that still pipes up on occasion. And I considered for quite a few days whether I should protect my personal life by only making standard content. The promise I made to myself in 2016 kept breaking through: STOP. SUPPRESSING. YOUR. FEELINGS. And I'd argue back to myself that my "emotional honesty" pledge only applied to real life. Not internet life.
Therein lies the problem. We have two sides all the time now: the way we want to be perceived, and the way we actually are. I'm sure it's been that way since the first sarcastic remark, or misunderstood comment caused one friend to be afraid to share with another. It's just that now there are so many ways to be misunderstood. Such a greater likelihood that a stranger will see a tiny segment of your life and get the false perception that they know everything about you.
On the surface it seems like the smartest thing to do is stop sharing, or wear social media armor. But that just makes the problem more prevalent. If people only post/comment
from a posture of "please don't hurt me", there will be fewer people who see the example that it is okay to share vulnerabilities.
Not everyone can or should share what feels vulnerable. I've been on a journey of learning to be unapologetically me, but I'm 42 years old, and only recently have felt strong enough to expose myself in the ways that feel tender. If people assuming crap about you that isn't true, messes with your mental health, it's not safe to share.
If your idea of being honest is actually just a method of slinging darts at people, you might be part of the problem. Educating people or speaking truth to power is far different than an unhappy person taking out their bitterness on the internet.
All this to say that it is important for our mental health to be accepted for who we are, and it takes a toll if we're always striving to make ourselves "presentable". If you're not on social media, being transparent with your people is important. And if you are, maybe it's safe to shift a little closer to the you that has nothing to prove? Some people won't get it. But you might find, like I have, that there are excellent friends and support systems that exist behind your screen.