It’ll come as no surprise to anyone who follows my socials that I am for the MOST part an open book. I believe in being real and I choose to show the good and the bad online, there are many reasons why I do this and again, for the most part I feel like it works for me.
I wanted to write a little about both the pros and the cons here in this article.
I feel as though the first positive, and it’s one that you’ll likely be familiar with if you do follow me, is that it’s great for raising awareness about topics that are important. Social media is the fastest and generally most effective way to draw attention to these topics. Without awareness we would still very much be living in the past. Without social media, topics that I write often about such as chronic illness, mental health, maternal mental health and motherhood would I think, be shrouded in a lot more stigma and still alarmingly misunderstood. I believe that being open about your struggles can encourage others to find the strength to do the same.
The obvious negative in this instance is it can be deemed attention seeking along with the fact whatever you post online can be misinterpreted. Most social media posts are opinion and not fact checked before going live, therefore it shouldn’t be your sole source of information even if it correlates to topics you’re familiar with.
Second positive for me is that the connections I’ve made via social media have been invaluable in so many ways. I’ve found communities of people that have had similar experiences to me, and it’s provided some great opportunities. Before I started blogging and posting regularly on Instagram I could only dream of getting my work published in print. I’ve since been published several times, I’ve even had my scripture printed on clothing and now cohost a monthly podcast, without social media none of that would have been possible.
The downside to making connections online is they aren’t always genuine or beneficial. Collaboration opportunities should be well researched before agreeing or entering into any contractual obligations. If you choose to share your hard work and in my case that’s writing, then it’s important that you gain trust in your collaborators before doing so. And of course there’s the small but evident issue of trolls. Even small time accounts can receive abuse and negative comments from people they’ve never met. Some people will say that you open yourself up for backlash when you post publicly and should to a degree accept it, but nobody, nobody has the right to treat you like shit. It can take a while to grow a thick skin though and sometimes sadly, the trolls do get to us.
Third positive is that having an open account can make you easier to find, meaning old friends you’ve lost touch with can find you. People who share your interests can find you. I say this is a pro because for me I’ve reconnected with some old friends in recent years and they’ve become constants in my life. I worked with a friend when I was just eighteen and we found each other via social media again about two years ago and now regularly keep in touch (when permissions allow) I’ve also made some amazing new friends that live locally to me and are now real life friends.
The con here is the same as the pro. Having an open page can make you easier to find and that’s not always a good thing. You might have made some changes in your life that people who knew you during a previous one don’t understand. You might not want everyone you work with being able to see you post drunken stories on the weekends, these are all things to consider before opening up your account for public viewing.
Finally, my fourth pro is the ease in which you can set up events and reach many people at the same time. There’s no other way to do this, particularly if you don’t carry around an old address book or have everyone’s numbers stored in your phone. Tools such as Instagram and Facebook are great ways to send invitations to events and create group chats with extended friends and family members. You can still do this with a closed account but you usually have to be friends with or following people you want to add, the difference when having an open account is, people are able to find you, your groups and events easier by searches and hashtags. Having an open account is also great if you want to share news with wider audiences via stories.
For me personally the disadvantage her is, if everyone can see what you’re doing at all times they often forget to actually communicate with you in real life, making assumptions based solely on the information you’ve shared and never actually bothering to dig any deeper. You’re more susceptible to lurkers, people you know but whom never bother interacting with your posts. I come across lots of these and it can be a bit of a kick in the teeth at times, people who you think are your friends watch your stories see your good news or your struggle and don’t ever bother to engage. I even have extended family members that do this and some of them would argue they don’t need to ask because they stay up to date from my posts. So although I do believe making new connections is great, it can pull you away from real life connections with people at the same time.
To summarise, I think it’s important to spend some time figuring out what you wish to get out of your social media platforms and if it’s just to keep in touch with people you know, a private account might suit you best. If it’s to bring attention to important topics, find new connections and partake in collaborations then a public account might work better for you. Either way it’s clear that each option has their own benefits and disadvantages.
I like being open, I like the freedom and the reach I get from my socials but I also like real human connections. As I’ve mentioned I do have some really great online friends, some I’ve met in real life and some I haven’t yet, but feel like I have. There is great benefit in community finding but online communities can come with their own set of etiquette rules and competitiveness. It takes a while to find yourself in real life and it is not much different when opening yourself up online. Always remember that you are allowed to change your mind and boundaries are still important.