I have been trying for the last several months to get better at using social media. I have to say that I have learned a great deal com-pared to what I knew before, but there is still so much to learn and I’m having a harder time than I wish I were, although the victories feel tremendous.
I have a social media instructor named Jennifer. She is only 30 and she does social media for a living and knows all of this. She is a very patient person and is very enthu-siastic when I master something. Not only do I have to master it, but remember it, and part of my difficulty lies in there being so many key strokes to each activity. I feel like the idea is to develop the intuitions enough to be able to do things not by remembering each stroke, but by having a close enough idea to use the menus.
Jennifer says that I need to post and tweet so people can get to know me, but I have to do it in few words and be current and relevant. Well, that’s not so easy. I have spent almost my whole life trying to understand people, including myself, trying to go deep and be honest with myself so I can be an instrument to understand others without getting in my own way. Now it seems that I have to pretend I’m at a cocktail party and that I want to be so interesting others want to join the conversation. Well, I have never been very good at cocktail parties. I am very good at being authentic, caring, empathic, and introspective. People usually do tell me personal things because they sense that I care and will honor them. But that small talk! I asked Jennifer, "Wait! You mean cocktail party talk that also lets people get to know me???” Nothing shakes her up very much. “Uh huh.” I tried to say how that was so contradictory but she replied, “Not really.”
The part about feeling stupid and having ten thumbs is not really the hard part. I’m fairly humble, really, and Jennifer is extremely patient, going over and over things with me and not laughing or getting impatient. But I have to say, when she tried to get me to scan my QR in my phone and I had trouble lining it up, we both cracked up. “It’s hard,” I said. “Not really,” she said. I don’t think my coordination was ever great, and as you get older it certainly doesn’t improve. This coordination issue inspired me to take Tai Chi classes, starting tomorrow, for improved coordination and its many other health benefits. And while I am slow doing all the copying and pasting and putting things on different media, I am doing it, and that’s what counts. What I am finding challenging is trying to help people get to know the real me in few words each time, and trying to focus on things current, instead of my natural emphasis, training, and a lifetime spent with timeless and introspective matters of the human heart. That is quite difficult. Jennifer said to blog every week. Yikes! I might not have that many thoughts! But she said they do not all have to be as long or deep as I would like, that I can also show a lighter side. Well, easier said than done. The “lighter side” does not come easily to me.
I have found that I have to reach deep inside myself to draw out short little posts that really do mean something to me. Why do current issues and concerns move me or matter to me? What traits and attitudes hurt us or influence for good or ill the way we behave? Slowly—this is not modesty, but the truth—I find I am able to do this. It has been excruciating at times, this new, strange way of communicating, and finding ways to be authentic at a “cocktail party,” but little by little there seems to be some expansion here in my mind. I sent messages to Jennifer bragging about how I put a post on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter without retyping the whole thing. Sweating bullets and taking what seemed like forever, I did it, and I was genuine and brief. She did seem duly impressed.
But it seems like social media, strangely to me, is like the rest of life. I really thought I had mastered everything and for the few little things I might not know, I could certainly wing it. Well, the other day Jennifer did a bunch of things for me and gave me things to do, and I felt totally overwhelmed. She wants me to use links that link to other links and seem to go on and on. “But I hate links,” I explained. “That’s why I avoid them. Can’t we just do without them?” I guess not. I feel like a beginner again. “But I feel like I know so much. How can there be all these other things to learn?” This young woman, only 30 and who truly looks like a model, told me Yes, I learned a great deal, but there’s more. She didn’t laugh, but I sounded curiously like my daughter when she was in grade school.
All this and now I am supposed to try to use certain words from a list in the titles of my blogs! No, she’s not kidding, and she said it has to make sense and fit. (You’ll notice I managed to get both DEPRESSION and ANXIETY into the title of this blog— SUCCESS!) “But you just told me I have to blog on different subjects, psychological and not, and they have to fit!” Jennifer seems to have a blasé way of saying “Uh huh” when it seems to me she just contradicted herself in a huge way. “Uh huh” and “Not really,” and I noticed how these responses really do work with me. I can think of a lot of examples where using them would be very effective. I told her I feel like even people who always get a “C” in school do learn and move on. During our marathon session I started to doze off a couple of times, but to be fair, I had been seeing clients all day and then had a lesson for a couple hours—and that conference room we were in was hot!
But I’m happy to say I’m getting it. Little by little. There are saving graces. One is that I see results in myself and from the social media. I am building new skills and feel less like I am from another planet in the technology age. And I like Jennifer. We both love crystals and share a similar spirituality and humor. I saw a tweet of hers once and she had said, “Uh…..mazing!” She explained to me that she was responding to something she thought was “weird,” and that it was meant to be sarcastic, and it cracked me up. Once we went to the conference room and I sat in a defective chair. I started to lean back and the whole chair suddenly started to go back in a big way. I caught myself before landing on the floor, and again we were laughing. Because of my awful texting and the horrendous things autocorrect makes it look like I am saying, she sent me a link to a lot of hilarious autocorrected texts that people wrote back and forth, and my husband and laughed until we cried reading them that night. I’m not embarrassed with her. If I were, this effort would have ended long ago, but the laughs help me through. The saving grace is that I don’t make my living with social media but as a psychologist.
So I am still trying. I am a verbal, intro-spective person. I am not at all visual. I am learning and doing more and more things and, yes, it is painful and hard. I told her I could write another book more easily than these blogs, and I mean it. I may well write another book. She said, “Not me.” I enjoy seeing the contrast of different people having such very different ways of thinking and strengths, and I have always enjoyed that. I can feel I am using a part of my brain I never have. So I am a beginner once more, but in a higher grade than I was in before. Like some other people my age, I was pretty out of it, so all the things I can do might not seem so sophisticated to someone who has grown up more with them, but they are very exciting to me. Now I am working on getting those words she says are important into the titles of my blogs, while being relevant and authentic. Right! I’m supposed to write about a bunch of different topics and get these same words she says are very important into the titles! What do you think she said when I said that was impossible?
A blog a week seems a bit overly zealous to me, but I will try. She actually wants me to write one on the topic of Valentine’s Day and, of course, I have to get some of those words from the list in the title! But I don’t have to do that one yet. Good.
I am very grateful to Jennifer. She is a very smart and kind person who is also fun. She definitely has her pulse on the culture, which fascinates me. She is aware that many people don’t like all the technology, but she is after all a child of this era and is very comfortable with it. She can look at others outside of herself, which is pretty impressive at her young age. I am probably one of her most enthusiastic students, and I do everything she says. I complain and give my opinion, but I do it with a good attitude. I think she likes that I do the things she suggests, every time really. But to be truthful, starting on the bottom and having difficulty with even the simplest computer commands must be trying for her. I am no whiz kid by any means.
So Jennifer, this blog is for you, with gratitude for all I am learning from you, and for just being yourself, and I mean this sincerely and authentically. In summary, thank you!
Aleta Edwards, Psy.D.
I am a psychotherapist in private practice, with a strong interest in shame and perfectionism. I will periodically post my thoughts about these topics and other observations relating to emotional health.