Social Media: Engaging in an Unengaged World
One of my absolute favorite parts of travel is getting to meet new and different people. I live for the small moments when I can connect, even for a brief time, with a stranger from another culture and realize we are not so different. Those moments are uplifting and powerful.
Until three weeks ago, my Instagram profile was “private”; I rarely posted anything, and I definitely didn’t record any Instagram Stories. But I felt this pull to begin writing my blog again, and I wanted to connect with like-minded people who also love to travel, think deeply about life, and share positivity. I thought it would be the virtual version of travel, getting to meet people from all walks of life and finding sweet commonality.
So I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and started sharing bits of my life and travels, and I was completely surprised by the results—people started following me. In two weeks my following grew from 300 to 500. But then the next morning I woke up, and my following had dropped by almost forty people.
Was it something I posted?
Later I was telling a friend about what happened, and how I noticed that there is a population of people who follow and then a day (or even a few hours) later would unfollow me. I was so confused. She said, “They are probably using bots.”
So I did some research, and I discovered that there is a population of social media users who pay for robots to scan popular hashtags and followings; they follow the person, and then a few hours or days later they immediately unfollow the person—all for the purpose of accumulating as many followers as they possibly can. I had this grotesque image of spider-like creatures infesting the meaningfully curated corners of my home.
The whole thing made me a little sad and deflated, not because I’m afraid of an unfair advantage, but because of what this means for our society. More and more I fear that we are living in a world where our worth is assigned to a number, and so to show our worth, we are willing to falsify that number and call it popularity. But what good is 100,000 followers if they are all robots?
Social media can be a lonely place—we put ourselves out there, and it can feel like we are speaking into a great void. We are elbowing our way to the surface to say something, but we are so busy trying to be heard or seen that we aren’t listening. We aren’t trying to get to know each other. We aren’t engaging. So of course we feel lonely if when we publish a post and it’s falling on deaf ears or being received by a robot. We are placing greater value on a big number rather than on quality human interaction.
I have been thinking a lot lately about my life’s purpose, and what I keep circling back to is I want to make people feel seen, heard, understood, and important. I want to always present myself in a truthful, authentic manner on all platforms—my blog, podcast, Facebook, and Instagram—and I only want those who desire a similar human interaction to join me in those spaces. In the end, I want a community of positive people around me who want to help make the world a better place, so if that means that I will never grow my Instagram audience to larger than 300, then I will be thankful for those 300 genuine people.
At the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves: What do I value?