by Kianna Znika
Originally printed April 12, 2023
I’m honestly really grateful to be alive in a time where social media exists. When used with intention, these platforms can be a great place to find resources, community and inspiration.
The Internet is where I’ve learned a lot of important life skills, thanks to content creators who are passionate about making this knowledge accessible. There are online communities created with the sole intention of helping other people in our everyday lives. For example, creators on “#CleaningTok” teach others the basics of cleaning without any judgment, knowing that some people struggle due to mental illness or because they were raised in messy homes. It was the hashtag “#Comfycore” that helped me start taking better care of my body and its needs. There are also content creators who give tips to other low-income people about budgeting, grocery shopping and the basics of surviving capitalism.
Social media isn’t always an escape from something, or a place to just mindlessly scroll. I am continuously learning, sharing and connecting with others.
You create your own social media experience; you can choose to follow people you actually like. You can choose not to engage with certain trends. I choose to treat my personal account like a scrapbook of my life because it genuinely makes me happy. I follow other content creators who I feel are truly authentic.
There’s a lot of debate around whether or not someone can be authentic online, and this frustrates me because I genuinely believe you can, if you want to. It’s a choice. You can choose to be yourself online but the thing is that it is a challenge. It requires you to really check in with yourself, unlearn things, and push past fears of being perceived or judged. You’ll ask yourself things like, “Why am I posting this? Is this really for me?” and “Why am I not posting this? Because I’m afraid of what someone else will say?”
This is something I’ve been practicing for a while now, but it wasn’t always this way. When I first “blew up” on TikTok, I got really excited. I never received that much attention before in my life. As much as I wanted to continue being me, I’ll be honest: I did feel the pressure of having to be a “character” and purposely create content for a specific audience and it really hurt me mentally. I wasn’t being myself anymore. I didn’t like that I wasn’t showing all aspects of my being anymore. People just saw me as “the quirky pop punk” girl, or so it felt like. I don’t like being put into a box, and I think that’s what a lot of people think you have to do to use social media “the right way.”
So, I decided to let go of these pressures and start being myself again by posting the way I did when I was just a person sharing on their personal account. I started openly sharing myself and my life again, all parts of it, unapologetically. While I do see that my numbers have gone down, since I’m not posting the original content people followed me for, I feel relief in the fact that my social media reflects who I really am. I don’t have to worry about posting and engaging a certain way anymore. I made the choice to be authentic online and I mindfully make that choice every time I log onto social media. It’s a good vibe check and I’ve honestly grown and learned a lot about myself through this practice.
There are a lot of opportunities on these platforms. It wasn’t until my own platform started growing that I realized these opportunities were possible for me. It honestly opens up a lot of doors, which is something I, as a low-income person, am extremely grateful for. I strongly believe that other small artists and businesses should take advantage of social media because it’s a free resource that could possibly change their life, too. Being a content creator is a real job in this real day and age, and it pays really well. It’s a valid career path and yes, there are people who will judge you, but we’re supposed to be breaking free from caring about what other people think anyway. We’re all just trying to survive capitalism in our own way, and for me, social media happens to be a fun, highly-promising way.
I believe what it all comes down to is the individual choosing, for themselves, how to use social media in a way that’s healthy and truly benefits them. There’s a lot of important life skills with more broad applications that are practiced when approaching things with mindfulness. For example, knowing when to put your phone down and still be grounded in the real world teaches you moderation and discernment. You practice setting boundaries when you unfollow accounts that trigger negative emotions and only engage with more content that aligns with you and your personal values. You practice self-love and radical acceptance when you choose to be authentic online. It requires a lot of self-discipline, too, which I believe is extremely important to develop as an adult.
In the end, if social media is truly making you unhappy then you can choose to step away from it, but that is just your individual experience with it. Your relationship with social media is your own responsibility. You can choose to make it a good one.