I’m going to come right out with it: I have major social anxiety. Actually, I have major anxiety in general. I’m constantly fighting to keep myself under control so everyone sees I’m just perfect, perfect, perfect all the time!
But enough about my neuroses – how are you?
The social side of my anxiety has been at the forefront of my mind since I began working to build my online author platform.
I’ve always been shy and a tad introverted, but my issues go far beyond that. I can get sweaty over the mere thought of meeting new people. When I get home from grocery shopping or running errands, I am completely tapped out of social energy – and don’t get me started on small talk.
My family and closest friends could tell you that I stress out for days in advance of the most mundane events just to have the courage to speak to people I don’t know. Sometimes, I even get anxious over family get-togethers. I worry I won’t have anything to say. Or I’ll say too much. Or a million other scenarios that will, frankly, put me right over the edge into a panic attack.
You might find it surprising to learn, then, that I have a background in theatre. Or maybe that’s not so surprising – lots of actors express the same sort of thing. If you put the words in my mouth, I have no trouble spitting them back out in front of hundreds or thousands of people. But the thought of making impromptu small talk with a stranger jacks my heart rate like no other activity in the world.
Many of the people I encounter on a daily basis have no clue I’m so anxious. The ability to mask it comes from years and years of practice; the theatre training helps. Contact with people in the real world will always get my blood pumping, but I’ve developed coping skills to manage it. Mostly, I copy what I see other people doing. It usually works out okay.
Enter social media anxiety – it’s my latest craze
When it comes to social media, I am the lurker. I am the one who will like your pictures but rarely finds the nerve to say, “Looks like you’re having a blast on vacation!”. I can retweet and share and pin all day long, but ask me to comment? No way, my friend. That’s going too far.
The whole idea of being actively social on the internet used to paralyze me. What if I say something someone doesn’t like? What if I don’t use the right *lingo* for the site I’m on? Was it lame that I used the little *s around the word “lingo”? See? Now I’m even anxious on my own blog! ARGH! Who are all these magical, mystical people of YouTube and Instagram fame, and where do they get their nerve to share, share, share with the world?!
As you can see, I’m still working through some issues 🙂
When I began looking at how to promote my books, I knew I would have to sink or swim when it comes to social media. Lurker that I am, I’ve long followed a vast array of indie authors and book groups – but I still find it hard to voice my own thoughts and ask my own questions. I sit in the back of the class, diligently taking notes and hoping others will ask the things I want to know.
That won’t cut it if I want to meet new people and get my books in the hands of their intended audience.
learning how to be social on social media
I admit it: I’ve been researching how to talk to people online. I’m really that person. There’s so much to learn, and there always will be because the internet changes all the time – and the internet is forever. In real life, I might say something silly and personally regret it, but the likelihood of someone else bringing it back up later is pretty slim unless I really goofed up. That’s not necessarily the case when it comes to the internet.
My research has returned more results than I know what to do with. I’ve found plenty of Social Media for Dummies-type guides. What I haven’t yet discovered is a comprehensive, approachable guide to social media for the socially awkward or socially anxious. I’ve found plenty of jokes about the internet being the place for introverts, though, so I suppose there’s some hope to be found in that.
One thing about being a perfectionist? It’s easy to go from casual research to overwhelmed obsession in about half a second. I’ve had to learn to approach the topic with care, taking it in much smaller bites to prevent going into full-blown Gotta Do It All Right Now OR ELSE mode.
Because of that, I’ve been mostly blazing my own trail here. I’m hopeful that one day I’ll learn to fit in enough online that people will be surprised to learn that I have social media anxiety, but I still fully expect to say and do some things I’ll regret along the path to that height of enlightenment.
And, yes, the concept of screwing anything up – even the slightest little thing – is still a bit daunting. I’ve seen what happens in forums – I’m aware that showing weakness on the internet can instantly chum the waters.
BUT HERE’S THE HAPPY TRUTH
Bonus points for all my anxious friends: I’m learning this works for pretty much everything in life.
The biggest takeaway I’ve picked up on so far is that I’ve got to just let go and go with it. Really, when you take the fear out of the equation, you’ve only got one choice left: dive in.
Pro tip for all my seriously anxious friends: look into acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) or at least read something by Russ Harris – I highly recommend The Confidence Gap (no affiliation, just a helpful resource).
Once you dive in, well, it’s time to swim.
So, you’ll probably see me out there fumbling around in the waters on Twitter or wildly paddling my way through Facebook posts. You might think, who the hell is this idiot? Don’t mind me – I’m just learning to swim. And I promise I’m a pretty cool person, once you get to know me.
Plus, I really like cats. That’s worth, like, at least ten imaginary internet points or something, right?
My ability to turn good news into anxiety is rivaled only by my ability to turn anxiety into chin acne. ―
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