Author Confessions—Online Personas
Have the days of smiling from the wrist down disappeared from social media? Liam Livings and Elisabeth Hobbes tell us the truth about their online personas...
Liam Livings - A More Balanced View
Social media has many wonderful advantages, including being able to engage and make friends with people all over the world. However, many people present a particularly positive view of their lives on social media. This can mean when others are viewing their posts, they compare themselves less favourably than if the other person were presenting a genuine version of their life online.
I don't think it's lying, by only showing a perpetually shiny view of life on social media, I think it's simply curating, and being conscious of what you like to share.
In general, I think it is good to stay positive and upbeat on social media. I think there is more than enough sadness, and hurt in the world, without adding to it on your social media. Most of the time, I like to think my posts will make people smile, laugh, or possibly even think about something.
Although, I don't want to use my social media channels as a place to whinge and moan, I do try to present a broader spread of emotions, than just being positive. I like to think of myself as a generally positive person. However, I know I am susceptible to periods of what I call a 'mental health wobble'.
A lot of social media, seems to be about people shouting at one another coming from different sides of an argument. I realise, social media doesn't really give you a broad enough bandwidth to do this. Therefore, I keep those sort of arguments when I see people in person.
I am very open about my mental health wobbles on social media.
Suicide is the biggest killer of men in the UK under the age of 50.
Men and boys are constantly told to man up, not cry, and are encouraged to not talk about their feelings. Because I want to be the change I would like to see, this is one of the reasons why I'm very open about my own mental health on social media.
Among all the pictures of cats, cars, and cakes, I share posts about how I feel, and in particular when I experience what I call, the fear, or the sadness. These two emotions are the ways in which my brain shows me I have mild depression or anxiety. The fear, is a general feeling of dread, about nothing in particular. It is almost as if I am waiting for something bad to happen.
The sadness, is often something I wake up with in the morning. Sometimes it is related to something that is happening in my life at the time: for instance losing a friend, feeling stressed, feeling overwhelmed, or things that are happening in the world at large. The sadness, is like a thick black blanket which wraps itself around me, and colours how I feel and think about the whole world and everyone around me. It means, that sometimes, even though I don't really have anything to be said about certain point, I can wake up and simply cry for no reason.
Seeing my friends on social media responding to one of my posts about either the fear, or the sadness, really does help. It's like having a virtual hug from dozens of people all around the world.
I share these feelings on my socials, specifically to be open and start people thinking about and talking about mental health. I also believe that by doing this, it should encourage other men to do the same.
Although I believe people should share what they want on social media, I think it's important for everyone to realise what people share isn't really the full picture of somebody's life. Hopefully, realising that will help people to not compare themselves less favourably to others they see on the Internet. It is my choice to share things about mental health on social media. By doing this, I hope I'm able to show a more balanced picture of myself, one also encouraging people to talk about mental health, as well as showing when you're in the depths of one of the feelings such as the sadness, it's does pass.
Elisabeth Hobbes - Creative Cake Photography
Social media can be a depressing place at times, especially for anyone prone to comparing themselves negatively to others. I imagine for anyone who uses the platforms for promoting a creative output of any sort this is even more the case. Can any of us hold their hand up and say they haven’t ever ground their teeth or wept a little or had to force themselves to offer congratulations to a friend or associate who gets an endless stream of five-star reviews or lands the book deal you’ve always dreamed of? What about the Facebook friend who boasts of having written six thousand words by lunchtime?
95% of the time I can genuinely be pleased but at the wrong moment it can be crushing to the ego. I try to remember this when I post things about my own life. Presenting a false world on social media isn’t a great thing to do but there is a desire to appear together or adult or even basically competent so the one upmanship begins.
I’ll confess something now. Often if I post pictures of cakes I’ve baked or a box of books that has arrived, they’re surrounded by empty worktops or sparkling clean floors. I like to give the impression I’m a reasonably careful housekeeper with decent standards of hygiene and tidiness but if I took a shot with a wide-angle lens it would reveal just out of shot is a pile of laundry or the leftover baking detritus, often shoved aside to provide enough space for the subject of my photo. Oddly, I’m more likely to elbow a crisp packet out of the way so my kitchen looks neat than I am to stick make up on before taking a selfie.
I think this is partly the desire to appear professional, as if somehow having a scum-free bathroom equates to my prowess as a writer. When people ask how I manage to write as well as teach four days plus bring up kids I laugh and say they haven’t seen the state of my skirting boards. Haha, it’s all a big joke.
No, it really isn’t: they’re abysmal. But I wouldn’t actually want anyone to have verifiable evidence.
I consider myself a generally honest person, so there aren't many lies surrounding my writing itself, except for the big one of course, which was the fact I was writing at all was a huge secret. As I have mentioned before, I started writing while my husband was working away and I was stuck in the house alone when my children were toddlers. Apart from a few friends who I told, if anyone asked – including my husband – what I did with my time, I told them I just watched TV, or made vague noises about having lots of things to do for my day job teaching. I suppose the biggest lie there was by omission because if he actually asked me outright, ‘are you spending the evenings writing a medieval romance with a hero who looks a bit like Richard Armitage?’ I would of course have said yes.
When he did find out, needless to say he wasn't best pleased I hadn't been doing something more productive (his words). Probably tidying away the cake ingredients or sock pile.
At least I was only having a romance in my head, and not taking the opportunity to invite a series of long-haired flashing eyed knights round while he was away.
I think these days if I lie to anyone, it is to myself, and they are the sort of white lies I imagine most writers will recognise.
Yes, I can definitely write 3000 words while I'm watching my children have a swimming lesson.
Of course I won't get fat if I eat chocolate while I am writing because typing uses a lot of calories.
Re-watching episodes of Crazy Ex-girlfriend counts as research for a historical romance.
Then of course there’s the big lie we all tell ourselves to get through the day when the writer’s block hits and the plot holes suddenly fill with sticky black goo: this will be the book that breaks me into the big time, sells one million copies, and means I'll never have to work again.
At least while I’m ignoring the dishwasher I can dream!
Elisabeth Hobbes latest book, A Midsummer Knight's Kiss is available now. You can find out more about Elisabeth on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or at elisabethhobbes.co.uk.
Do you smile from the wrist down on Social Media? Do you share everything or is there a line you won't cross? What lies do you tell yourself about your writing or deadlines or procrastination habits? Let us know in the comments or join the discussion on our social media using #Confessions
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