This post, while based on actual events, have been written and changed for dramatic effect and impact.
“Everyone likes you.” They said.
“You have so many followers. You have everything going for you.”
They meant it to be kind and endearing, as if they knew me beyond the perfect squares they grew to love. They loved when I popped my hip. Gave my wide-mouthed grin followed by my perfected strategic words of optimism sprinkled with sass, satire and swear words. They all know me so well. I am their “spirit animal”. Their best friend. Their dose of real talk.
It all had grown to bore me. I knew deep down I wasn’t cool, or at least not how they thought I was. I talked the talk, but barely walked the walk. I’d exclaim “ love yourself and take no shit “ while sitting there as if waiting for something to happen or my life to be as exciting and relevant as everyone thought it was.
What (the fuck) was I waiting for?
You were fun. You were a rush when I got a notification that you liked what I posted. Guys always like my posts. They were almost always followed with dirty words or dick pics or ‘WYD’ in my DM. It was all so gross. But not you. I’d see you casually liking some of my pictures. When a male follows and likes your media without the disgusting follow up aforementioned you take notice. I took notice. I did what others do to me. Go to your page of squares. Sum you up from your clever memes and handsome smiles.
But, I carried on. That’s what I do. I don’t have time for dating or men or relationships or the stupid game of ‘getting to know each other.’ Especially in this age. Social media is social suicide in my book and I secretly despise it.
I continued writing and whirling like I always do. Family first. Friends second. Finances 3rd. Day after day. Social media literally ran my life. I earned my living there. I grew my strongest friendships there. I solidified my self love and dedication to a cause there.
Katie said, “ Let’s go out! Please! Drinks! Dinner! PLEASE.”
And we did, because I always keep my word and I always show up. That’s who I am. Reliable. Real. Ready to be who anyone needs me to be.
We drank and had a good time. She asked me about my social life. I laughed and replied, “ I have none. Girlfriends online. Kids. Family. Work. I am bored, but happy.”
“Are you on Snap? Shelby. Get on Snapchat. It’s fun!”
‘What is Snapchat? I don’t want to look like a weird dog or chat with people who want my words to disappear. I’m old. It’s for cheaters and teenagers. No.”
“No! It’s fun. Let’s find someone fun to follow. Harmless. Do you know anyone who has it?”
I don’t know why I thought of that damn yellow dotted ghost I saw the day before when I looked at your page but I said , “ That dude. He’s funny and cute. Snap him.”
And I did.
Let’s stop right here and talk about how social media can be the prettiest stained glass window to look through. Everything you see is perfect, vibrant and neat. It is very easy to portray anything you want to. One day you can be funny and witty. One day you can be real and raw. One day you can be filtered, the next fragile. You can literally be whatever you want. I knew it best. That is what I did. I spent my hours crafting witty words and funny puns to make people like me. I KNEW the game. It was my job. I knew it was all smoke and mirrors and charades. Looking in, people see exactly what you allow them.
I wanted so badly for people to know the real me but in the same breath I wanted them to embrace this me I seamlessly created. I wanted them to love the me I proudly displayed on Instagram. How could they not like me? I was witty,smart, sassy and sexy. I was strong and steadfast and unwavering in confidence and grace. That’s what they saw, anyway.
Sure, at first, I embraced the attention. It felt encouraging to hear words of adoration and accolades. I was proud of this ‘persona’ I created. She was a bad ass. She took no shit. She was stone cold and strong. Or, at least every 5 hours in her regularly scheduled and properly paraphrased posts.
But this persona slowly became a uniform I had become forced to wear. My role I cannot break. It started evolving and slowly seeped into my ‘real everyday life’.
For a while, I could easily separate myself from that charade. “ That’s not real life. That’s not Shelby.” I didn’t know anyone was watching me or cared. And, yes- I was becoming a someone different. But who the Hell did I think I was to break character when the person I portrayed was known for being, “ real and honest and open” ? It became a daily routine to put on my happy positive pants and show up for my scenes of life, even on days I had to fake it.
Don’t get me wrong. I am for the most part, every bit of what encompasses my perfect partitions of frames on social media. I swear too much, cry too easily and say and do things before thinking. I pride myself in being open about my struggles and successes. I never match. I hate washing my hair. I love hard and I fight for others harder. That is who I am.
But, eventually, I was being asked to make decisions. People would ask,
“What is your brand?”
“What do you represent?”
It was intimidating when all I came online to do was to be my damn self. But the crying, emotional, mess of a Shelby doesn’t pay the bills. It doesn’t get likes or follows or praise for being consistent and relevant.
So I started to conform. Slowly evolving into what ‘they’ need.
You want me to cry less? Done. You want me to not smile like that? You got it. You want me to take no shit and not have a heart or a backbone when it comes to love? Deal.
It didn’t feel right, but it felt secure. I was this perfectly curated social media persona that got likes and people believed in. I felt confused and lost and like I was deceiving everyone I cared about.
So, of course I was seeking validation. Not intentionally, but I needed someone to see ME for once. I was exhausted.
When you feel lost and insecure in who you are, it is very easy to project yourself onto others and retain what you need from any person or situation.
You were funny like me. I laughed at your memes that were hilarious but too dark and more controversial than anything I could ever share. I envied you, because you had pictures filled with real life images that no one would pick apart or judge. I liked your innocent smile and cute eyes and beard. I just liked you. Or, your own version of perfected media.
So I didn’t intentionally do it, but I grew intrigued by you. Sure, you liked my pictures. But that’s that. I was convinced I was just another random chick on the internet you probably followed because she was half naked or because someone else followed me or who knows. But I liked you.
I snapped you, thinking, “ He will be gross and vulgar like any guy that follows me online and it will be done.”
But you weren’t. You were kind. Funny. A little bit charming. But, still just a random stranger from the internet. Just fun. No big deal.
You didn’t fuss about me. Which, surprisingly, saddened me and also brought my ego into check.
“What the heck? He doesn’t snap me back?” And that fueled my immature fire. “WHY Doesn’t he snap me back? Why doesn’t he think I’m cute like everyone else does?” My middle school insecurities of being the chubby girl who only got attention when she made a joke kicked in.
I wanted you to like me. I wanted you to be what I had imagined you were from simply perusing your page- A funny, cute guy I want to know. I wanted you to like ME.
And at first, I thought you did. You were my favorite notification. I couldn’t wait for you to snap me or say something cute or do anything that showed you were interested in me. When you did, I felt like a weird validation. I was delusional and concluded that you liked me for me- as if you knew any more about the real me than what you randomly liked or read online.
I was confused on how to act. I never let anyone get beyond a random text or message before I discarded them. I didn’t know who to be. Should I be the person he may think I am based on my social media? Or do I show the real me? Why were these suddenly two different people?
For a short period, I felt like I had the upper hand. I waited for you to snap me first. I waited to open it because you don’t want to look too eager or into someone, or so I was told. I casually ignored some and gracefully answered others- like a clever jigsaw of how to make someone give a real shit about me piecing together a puzzle of an image I had no idea how to create.
I was creating something- a mess.
I struggled to figure out how to balance the cool, hot fun flirty Shelby on Instagram from the tragically dorky, desperately needy and quirky Shelby I tried so hard to hide. I overthought and over spoke and overdid anything and everything because my own personal delusion of what was real and what was not was so convoluted I didn’t know my head from my ass.
Cool Shelby would be cold and calculated and almost mean because, ‘ that’s what you portray. Act like you don’t give a shit.’ And I was so good at that.
Quirky anxious Shelby would quickly apologize and over word paragraphs explaining that that mean girl wasn’t me and over apologize myself into oblivion.
And I will be the first to admit, I self destructed and self sabotaged until he didn’t want to deal with my ridiculous behavior and removed himself gracefully from this toxic situation I had created.
I wanted so badly to say, “ I am sorry. I am not this person I act like sometimes. Social media has made me into a character I know longer want to portray. I am fun and I want to be friends and I am sorry I acted like a complete crazy person because of my own doing.”
But, I couldn’t. What would anyone think if I broke character? Social media Shelby didn’t say sorry. She didn’t do wrong. She never messed up or self destructed or ruined potential friendships or relationships. She was admirable. Desirable. Brave. Strong.
And I worried, isn’t that what people like about me? Maybe that’s what he liked about me. What anyone liked about me. But that wasn’t me. Yet, I stayed in character. I did the only thing I knew how to do- distance myself, then find a reason to draw myself back. Emotional self sabotage.
A common thread ran through these months of toxic behavior. I constantly thought, “If they just knew the real me, they wouldn’t want to discard me.”
But of course, I couldn’t talk to anyone about this. After all, I was above heartache and hurt. So instead, I posted cleverly pointed and aimed memes, hoping to evoke a reaction. “I’m cute and funny. Like me.” There was, of course, none.
I could feel myself looking in as an outsider, saying, “ Shelby. Stop. Not everyone will like you. Not everyone will see beyond your social media persona. Not everyone will find you fun and cool and attractive and exciting. Stop trying to force something you know won’t fit.”
But I continued on, acting like I was unphased. I was, completely phased. Constantly checking to see if he watched my snap story. Crying when my assistant informed me he blocked me on Instagram. Hurting when I stopped communication and heard nothing from him, confirming what I already knew.
He didn’t like me. I knew it for a long time. Not to anyone’s fault. Nice people aren’t good at saying, “ I am just not into you.” I was guilty of that myself. I did it with any man ever interested in me. That was my thing. I knew this game. It was MY game. Yet, even though I had witnessed so many others on the opposite side of the fence continue to force and impede themselves into situations with me, I was here doing it myself.
“Do you want to hang out when I am up there?”
I knew damn well we weren’t hanging out.
“We will for sure see each other when you’re up here.”
I knew the last thing he wanted to do was see me.
As a last ditch effort, I thought half naked pictures and sexting and giving him some temporary fun and enjoyment from me would make him care, knowing damn well a naked picture was the last thing that would make him want to hear about my thoughts or feelings or discuss anything other than his weiner. But, I did it anyway. I could feel myself feeling ridiculous for acting this way, but I couldn’t stop. I wanted to be wanted. Liked. I wanted him to care.
My friends would say, “ So many people would die to be in the running to be with you.” But I didn’t care. I felt like I had lost a race I never knew I was in. I was angry because I didn’t understand why he stopped caring. I was sad because I worried he figured out who I really was, and didn’t like what he saw. I felt confused, because I didn’t know why the Hell I cared about someone I didn’t even know beyond a few casual conversations and what I saw online. I wanted answers. I wanted to know what I did. What I said. What I fucked up. I wanted something to be the nail in the coffin I had built out of this fictional ideal of possibility I had created all on my own. But I wouldn’t get answers. There was no answer. Nothing I said or did would change anything. I had to just stop.
I finally decided to say my peace, and get what closure I could on this weird, random heartache I had self created by writing up a casual “ let’s get a beer sometime and be cool.” when I knew damn well nothing was ever cool. I made sure of that. We would probably never grab that beer. We will probably never get to know each other beyond what we each decided to believe the other person was on social media. I will probably always be remembered as the girl who tried to sext her way into making someone care about her.
But at the end of the day, I got lost in a world of social media and dating convenience. I quickly lost sight of the ideal of just telling someone how you feel, and didn’t conform to the new norm of slowly fading out because it is easier to ghost than just say, “ I am not into you and don’t want to continue this.” Swiping and snapping is the new norm, and you can be as quickly forgotten as those snaps fade. Everyone is living in fear of rejection, but if its cushioned behind a screen, it’s not as harsh- just more confusing. Relationships are games of ‘don’t text back too fast’ or come on too strong and we all act like overly cautious fools that should just say what we feel and mean what we say-even if it hurts. But we hurt each other by ghosting, blocking or unfollowing. We walk a tightrope of trying to appear available without looking too vulnerable and we are all just messes trying to look cool while doing it.
I know now that this situation has absolutely everything to do with me. I have learned that I know who I am, and that is not always what everyone sees online. I know now I am not cut out for this new age of dating games and over caution and hidden selves. I know that will not be for everyone. I will not be for everyone, even when it kills me. But I will remain steadfast in my belief that when you feel something, say it. When you question something, ask. When you are hurting, cry and don’t hide behind a charade of what you think others want to see. And when you don’t feel like something is right, trust your gut.
My life is and for the foreseeable future will always be in social media. I have opened myself up, and hidden myself away. That action has closed doors on possibilities and busted open gates of opportunities. I know eventually one day, I may have to chose. I know I cannot expect for everyone to like me and for no one to hate me. That is the social media world I live in. I am proud of the person I am, even when it’s not blasted in my 1×1 square. I am not ashamed of the things I have been through, because I refuse to walk away from anything without taking a lesson from it. I will no longer try to be what others need from me, and just be me. I am a pretty cool chick. Moody, whiny, crying, singing, swearing and all. And I don’t have to hide behind anything or anyone or change who I am. Ever.