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May 28, 2024

I’m a Woman in my 50s & I’m Grateful for Social Media.

 

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{*Did you know you can write on Elephant? Here’s how—big changes: How to Write & Make Money or at least Be of Benefit on Elephant. ~ Waylon}
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I have an unpopular opinion about social media:

As a woman in my 50s, I have many reasons to be grateful for it.

I believe that whatever we get from our relationship with social media, like from any relationship, depends in great measure on how we show up to it.

Social media is not some outside power against which we are helpless. No one forces us into this relationship. Social media, just like the society it reflects, consists of each one of us: what we bring here and what we choose to take.

I don’t disagree with the tendency toward superficiality, perfectionism, pretense, and fake news with which many people are fed up. At the same time, there is also access to a wide range of information that one may not find in mainstream media, and opportunities to network and earn a living that many of us did not have access to just a few years ago.

In my case, the information I gleaned from sources on social media over the last 10 years has saved my life.

It is there that I connected to disruptive thinkers and teachers, carriers of cutting edge information in fields like somatic healing, sexuality, understanding trauma, and various alternative healing modalities that are still deemed taboo in “real life.”

Social media is also a place where I dared to test out my own voice, created my first writer’s page, and found Elephant Journal, which published my first ever article, then taught me how to engage with social media ethically, and gave me an opportunity to lead one of Elephant Academy’s groups—all magical first steps that helped me gain confidence and led to so much of what built the foundation for the life which nourishes me now.

It is also through my non-geographic tribe, thanks to connections I made on social media, that I received support and encouragement for my endeavors when my local tribe became scandalized by my audacity and judged me for the changes I was initiating in my life. It is on social media where, thanks to my writing about what it feels like to be a woman, a mother, and a human being in the 21st century, I built a community which now permits me to make a living, and live my life on my own terms.

In my “real life,” 10 years ago no one wanted to hear my voice when I tried practicing it. My ideas were dismissed and misunderstood. The reactions of people in my life to things I needed to express were rejecting, shaming, and punishing. If I didn’t give myself permission to practice on social media, I may have never dared to speak my opinion at all.

As a woman nearing my 50s at that time, I felt marginalized in my life and in the world. I had trouble finding a job when I needed one, and received a lot of unhelpful messages from women in my “real life” about the impending doom, repeating to me as if in a trance: “after 50 it’s over.”

Social media made things possible for me that were simply not available to me outside of it.

Certainly, I had to overcome a lot of my own resistance. Besides the discomfort of becoming publicly visible and expecting rejection and ostracism with every honest post, I also used to be afraid of technology, and did not understand the whole concept of social media, to which my teenage children took so naturally. Through the process of remembering and rehabilitating some feisty and curious parts of me that I had previously locked-up, I gradually learned not to be threatened by things I did not understand, and decided to embrace the unknown and step into the world of my children.

Thanks in part to social media and to technology in general, I dared to break out of the box into which I had obediently stuffed myself since childhood, when there was only one reality on offer: well-censored and leaving no room for questions.

Life feels and looks very differently these day.

I was the rare woman in my local community who embraced my age and stopped coloring my hair to hide the gray. Given that my own mother still colors her gray hair at 80, I may not have had the courage were it not for the support and modeling of women in my social media community.

I don’t wear make up and wear whatever clothes I find most comfortable and most amusing to me. I celebrate the fact that I no longer need to try to fit into anyone’s standards for a “woman my age,” on which my livelihood may have depended if I had to compete for a job in the “real world.” I am no longer attached to a geographic location and can live wherever I feel happy and where it makes economic sense to me. I make up my own hours for work and for rest. I feel free and grateful.

To me, social media, like anything else, is not black or white.

Yes, there’s toxicity and addiction there, which is especially damaging for young minds. But as adults, we each have a choice of what to consume and what to contribute here and everywhere.

Like in all relationships, what we get from social media depends in great measure on our interpretation of the experience, and the attitudes, expectations and beliefs we bring along with us.

Yes, like many, I can feel overwhelmed with rapid introduction of new technology with which I struggle to keep up, as well as the algorithm changes that affect how many people get to see my posts. I can even say, on occasion: “It’s just not what it used to be.” But overall, I am quite amazed at how my life has turned out thanks to social media, especially when I remember where I started 10 years ago.

At 57, I am much more confident than I was in my 30s and 40s, thanks to my stepping into the arena and taking a seat at the table—by daring to participate on platforms like Instagram, for example.

The opportunities for disseminating information today are massive. And yes, that means that anyone with the courage to hold a loudspeaker can say whatever they want. But rather than feeling helpless during this onslaught of information, we can practice right relationship with it by becoming clear on our beliefs and values, goals and intentions, and discerning with our boundaries as to what we let in or put out.

I personally like to celebrate the fact that the internet and social media and growth of technology have allowed many people who used to be excluded from access to power, due to their geographic location or economic might or their inherited social status or their gender, to participate in important conversations. To not only have a seat at the table, but to lead many important conversations and re-shape culture.

Each of our relationships with social media is not something we can blame on anyone or anything outside of ourselves. Like in all relationships, the quality of our experience stems from the choices we make and what we are used to doing with our needs: honoring them or numbing them.

It is true that the availability of infinite options and possibilities can be overwhelming. I also see that we do not always know the difference between what is valuable and what is not. Our overall unpreparedness to decipher our emotions can lead us toward what is actually harmful: escape, addiction, trusting outside experts to know better what we need.

I definitely do not want to tell you, my reader, what to do. I respect you too much for that.

I just want to offer my own opinion, because it is based on my own lived experience.

I know that the ability to filter what we do not want liberates the energy and space for what we do deem important and worthy. Where are we choosing to direct our attention right now and where are we consciously choosing not to direct our attention? Discernment is essential in the world of tomorrow, where we no longer give up our agency to outside experts, but become the greatest authority in our own lives.

Remain in the arena by connecting to your agency, and choose with discernment and clarity what serves you and what does not.

The opportunities for freedom, education, social activism, connection, and making a difference in our own lives and those of our fellow sentient beings are unique and are begging to be seized.

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