Returning to, and reflecting on, social media

Starting to use social media again feels like walking to the water’s edge after a long time inland. Hesitation before your first step into the sea. The waves break and time passes. It’s like you’ve never been away.

It was last August, during a foggy beach walk, that this website’s new name washed into my mind. But it wasn’t until January that I shared the change on Instagram, alongside some rare portraits my partner had taken of me on a hill.

As I prepared to tap ‘publish’, I found myself falling back into the same anxious patterns that have characterised my use of social media over the years. The same years, coincidentally, that I’ve been managing corporate digital channels as my day job.

Worry over the words I shared. Wondering whether anyone would comment or if the meaning would be misinterpreted. If there was an optimal order to the images… And so the waves of restlessness went on.

Since that Instagram post, I’ve been wondering why I feel this so intensely. Like most people, I’ve had some bad experiences on the internet. Trolled on Twitter for supporting a campaign against sexism in the media. Narrowly avoiding unnecessary arguments on Instagram. Blocking unsolicited DMs.

None of this is unique, or new. Could my unease be reflected in the growing volatility of these digital platforms, particularly given the events of the last few months?

Twitter is being slowly but surely weathered down. Instagram is now testing paid verification for creators, the very people who keep engagement on the platform high. Last year it was Reels, now it’s carousels again. These are just the latest steps in a mould that often minimises creativity in the pursuit of profit.

I admit to being dragged under by another trend — the Substack newsletter. I keep floating the idea of starting one; it seems to be the place many writers are going at the moment, like Medium was a handful of years ago. I’ve gone so far as to set up my own and jot down potential ideas for what my newsletter could be.

However, like Medium (and Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok) creatives do not own these platforms. As with all of these digital landscapes I think Substack’s popularity will ebb and flow, but like the rest, will always operate for profit — or a cut of yours.

I guess, even a decade later, I’m still confused as to how I navigate the internet as a writer. I cannot always make sense of my furious desire to create beautiful things and shape heartbreaking words with the pressure of posting regularly on social media. These platforms have allowed creative people to grow careers, sell their art, share their words with communities around the world, and more. But they are also designed to distract, take our data, and often divide us.

In the last few weeks, as I’ve stepped back into the endless scroll of cool water and out again, the more I realise that I’m happier keeping my distance. That’s not to say I’m not grateful for what platforms like Instagram have brought me, particularly some inspiring, creative and thoughtful friends.

But unlike the tangible reality of a day spent walking and talking your way through the woods with your partner, or watching the sea in the company of a friend, scrolling cannot compare. Nothing on a screen can match the vibrancy and sharpness of life, and for me, of placing words next to each other as I try to tell the stories of those moments.

That’s why you’ll mostly find me here. A humble personal blog, like this one, is not necessarily a dam against the torrent of a life lived on social media, but it is easier to bolster. It is a safer place to start with. A solid rock amongst the sand.

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Featured image: A beach on Scotland’s west coast, looking towards the Isle of Skye.


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