How Social Media Helped Me Find My Voice as an Introvert

Sharing the art I love, the writing that makes me think, and the memes that make me laugh is as valid a way of socializing as hanging out in a physical space.

I stammer and screw up my syntax a lot. Going from point A to point B involves vaulting over a mental canyon. My expectations for saying what I mean — what I’m thinking — rarely live up to the awkward reality. My inner narrator, who is eloquent like a cup of delicately poured tea, spills it as soon as she reaches my mouth.

Basically, I suck at speaking.

Maybe one day I’ll decide I care enough to get better at it. Maybe, and more likely, I won’t.

As an introvert, talking is an art that doesn’t allow me to truly express myself. I find it too hard — and sometimes agonizing — to push my thoughts past my lips. It’s more than being uncomfortable in social situations, which many introverts know well, and involves something deeper. Years of therapy and self-work have made speaking easier, but it’s still a chore that I’d rather not have to do at all. Most of the time, I’m fine if people don’t start a conversation with me — I already had to leave my house, so don’t make me talk to you, too.

So I write: I journal and I write articles and I send messages. I especially like writing’s bratty child, social media.

Social Media Gives Me Control Over What and When I Share

Introverts hate small talk. We prefer meaningful conversations — deep, intimate ones — and small talk relegates things to the surface. But maybe part of the problem is we don’t have any control over small talk. As much as we’d like to leave a conversation riddled with small talk, we can’t. 

One of the best parts of social media is that even when it feels like small talk, I don’t have to endure it if I don’t want to. But when I do, it’s fun!

We’ve all heard the arguments for why social media is bad: It’s vapid and pointless, it reveals the worst parts of humanity, it’s a distraction from work and school, it stops you from interacting with your loved ones in the real world. Yes, those points do hold water, there’s no denying it. But for this introvert, social media gives me the chance to say exactly what I want to say when I want to say it. 

There’s also something about the visual aspect that makes it more invigorating than simple speech. I love snapping pics and punctuating them with sassy gifs and colorful text. Posting them to Instagram Stories is like telling a micro-tale, like engaging in small talk, but on my terms. I get to share small bits of my day that left me smiling or annoyed or tickled. If someone replies, we can share the moment, and I can choose to respond right away or when I have the energy. (I won’t lie either — I like checking to see how many reactions and views I get.)

I’ve always thought small talk was meaningless, a drain on my already low social battery. But social media has shown me that more surface-level conversations aren’t as bad as I thought when I’m in control of where and when they take place. There’s something about sharing a small, delightful (or annoying) moment with someone. Those small moments are the finer threads that connect us to each other, even if just for a few minutes. They’re easy and light and can be a reprieve from the harsher realities of the world.

Social Media Is Big Talk

2020 has been a hard year for literally everyone. Raging fires, a pandemic, staggering unemployment, racism at its boiling point, economic recession, swarms of locusts. Murder hornets? Amid stay-at-home orders and general unrest, more people than ever have taken to the internet to express their thoughts and feelings. Social media has become a veritable sounding board for all the horrible stress we’ve had to stomach thus far.

For someone who doesn’t express all their thoughts verbally — and as a highly sensitive person who’s prone to shutting down in the face of conflict — sounding off online has been cathartic. Writing my mind allows me to voice my feelings in a way that feels authentic, in a way that feels right. And sharing others’ posts and images makes social media feel communal. I’m in an infinitely expanding library where I get to know you without interacting in person. 

While I believe it’s essential to take these conversations offline at some point, I can reaffirm the importance of my personal voice through posting and sharing. I don’t have to speak out loud to know that my voice matters.

Social media is the soil where my voice blossomed after growing up believing I didn’t have one because I’m quiet. It’s where I connected with others dealing with the same struggles I dealt with. It’s where I gave myself permission to have fun by posting my more silly and frivolous thoughts without worrying about who had eyes on me. People existed way out in cyberspace, and their physical presence couldn’t douse my spark.

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Sharing Has Become My Way of Communicating as an Introvert

My social media presence is a pop-up gallery: Here are things that bring me joy and stir my wonder; these are the ones I call friends, family, and furbaby; these are the ideas that spin on my axis. Come and see my universe, if you’d like. I won’t be hurt if you don’t.

Having the choice to show my heart on my screen has redefined what opening up and connecting means for me. Being introverted and highly sensitive usually makes me hesitant to put myself out there, get vulnerable, and connect with people in person. 

But that all changes on social media. 

Sharing the art I love, the writing that makes me think, and the memes that make me laugh is as valid a way of socializing as hanging out in a physical space. It’s not a substitute for talking in person — yeah, okay, I will concede that we still do have to talk face-to-face, whatever — but rather it’s another avenue of communication. 

I’m not hiding behind a computer. I’m using it to display my mind.

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Mariama is a freelance writer whose work focuses on self-development, introversion, and mental health. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and reflecting on the mysteries of life in nature. You can find more of her work on her website.