Chicago — If I pointed you to my Instagram page, my LinkedIn or my Twitter (or whatever it’s called now … X …), you’ll find a common theme. For the most part, there have been no posts, no retweets, nothing liked or commented on since around 2017.
That’s because I’ve been in a kind of self-imposed exile from the platforms and have treated them more like a tool than as a space to express who I am. Rather than checking Facebook to keep up with old friends, I’ve been checking it to find sources for articles or even to find topics to write about. The few times I’ve posted over the past few years have been in the same vein, sending call out messages in Facebook groups or posting articles on Twitter because it’s what work required.
Maybe I’ve steered from getting too personal on the platforms because of the way I often felt as an avid user in grade school and in my early high school years. As someone who would often compare himself to others and who struggled with insecurity, I’d find myself mourning over what I didn’t have as I scrolled through the photos and status updates that others shared. Eventually, every photo of my own that didn’t garner enough likes would be fated for the digital trash can and every potential status or tweet would be carefully scrutinized.
Frankly, I didn’t know how to present myself to the world in an authentic way. I had a subconscious belief that every page needed a good, compelling story to tell and my story — the one about my life — just wasn’t exciting enough.
Sometimes I still believe this and maybe that’s why I still don’t post. But I like to believe that it’s also because there are other ways that I can share my life with others. Through my writing, I can address pressing topics in detail and with as much clarity as possible. In the songs I like to make, I can do the same, using melodies and poetic lines as my tools. These are the things that feel more natural to me and that feel like an easier way to express myself.
There’s just a problem with my approach. In our increasingly digital world, social media acts as an extension of our professional lives. These days, employers look for those with an online presence to gauge whether they’re the kind of person they want to hire, reasonably so. Visiting a potential candidate's website and LinkedIn page is an obvious way to check out the work they’ve done.
That’s why the question of my social media usage is still being answered. In some ways, it would be foolish not to use the platforms, especially as I wish to establish my own brand and further my career. In addition to that, it could also be an opportunity to step outside my comfort zone and to prove to myself that my story is worth telling.
Noah Johnson (he/him/his) is a Chicago-based journalist. Follow him on X: @noahwritestoo.
Edited by NaTyshca Pickett