Thursday, April 11, 2013

Losing my spot by the wall

I’m terrible at social media. Mostly, I think, because it has the word “social” in it.

I’ve been an outcast long enough that certain survival instincts are almost hard-wired into my DNA. Whenever I’m surrounded by a large group of people all chatting together, my nerve endings scream at me to put my back against the nearest wall, close my mouth, and watch the crowd.
I learned years ago that I am a profoundly weird person, and if allowed to talk without careful pre-planning I’ll come up with something that will inevitably make the majority of society stare at me in shock and/or confusion. The only safe place was the spot by the wall, where there was less chance that someone would hunt me down and force me to accidentally say something that would make all the normal people stare at me. Later, I learned to study the people around me, figure out what they wanted me to say, and plan a few safe lines in advance.

In time, I learned to love my spot by the wall. People were so fascinating, sending out signals with their faces and bodies that often had nothing to do with the words they were saying. I watched people interacting with each other, listening to tiny slices of life that suggested long, wonderful stories I spun out in my mind. When I was allowed to be invisible, the world opened up to me. It’s that perspective that fuels my vision as a writer, and I wouldn’t be parted from it for all the jewels in the world.

I would love social media if I never had to participate in it. Twitter is sprinkled with the most wonderful insights and witty one-liners, and I’ve read blog posts that made me laugh and broke my heart. Yes, there are the occasional posts about what people had for dinner, but life needs to have its boring bits. They make the hilarity and heartbreak that much sweeter.

But the fact that I have to talk as well makes me feel like a terrified teenager again. I have to watch every word I say, making sure it’s just quirky enough to not be lost in the shuffle but not so quirky that everyone thinks I’m too odd for them to like. Every time I’m confronted by Facebook’s cheerful “What’s on your mind, Jenniffer?” panic claws at me for just a moment.

I know there are wonderful people out there. I’ve met some of you, and I’ve delighted in the conversations we’ve had. But you’re lost in the crowd somewhere, undoubtedly talking to people who deserve much more of your time than I do, and I can’t very well wave you over every time a random thought crosses my mind. Besides, I’ve always enjoyed listening far more than I have talking, and would much rather go over and read your Tweets or blog posts instead of offering up my own.

I know that there are plenty of other social outcasts who have used the Internet to blossom, transforming into the wonderfully outgoing soul they were always meant to be. But I gave my blossom over to my books, and they’ve bloomed around me in an explosion of magic, love and laughter that makes me happy every time I visit it. There’s a bit of me in every word I write, but I like the fact that most people will never be able to see it.

But when I’m on Facebook, or Twitter, there’s no one else for people to see. And I don’t think that will ever stop terrifying me.


  1. I love this! You said it perfectly. I feel your pain. Sometimes social media makes me feel like I'm in high school all over again, eavesdropping on the conversations the popular kids are having. The nice thing about being quiet is that you never have to regret saying the wrong thing. :)

    1. That is so true! Still, one good thing about speaking up is that I get to talk to people like you. :)

    2. You’ve been tagged for the Liebster Award! Check out the details here: