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#SML (SOCIAL MEDIA LOVE)

A mixed bag of experiences later, Malibongwe Tyilo reflects on the good and the bad of social media

I love social media. I think it is one of the most amazing gifts the Internet has bestowed upon us. And yes, I am one of those people who checks their timeline first thing in the morning, and when I go to sleep at night I’ll most likely be reading an article or watching a video that I found via a link on said timeline.

I often wish it had been as advanced in my late teens and my 20s, and that cellphone cameras were a thing then. There are many a moment I would have loved to document, no doubt some I would have probably regretted documenting too. Digital cameras were a bit on the expensive side and I was far too impatient to go through the process of shooting on lm, waiting until the roll was full and only then heading to the nearest camera shop or pharmacy to develop the images, fingers crossed that they come out right. Too much admin. My apologies to the film purists.

Now I take pictures with reckless abandon, I share some with caution in mind, of course. As much as I enjoy the likes, my main goal is not fleeting public affirmation; I want to celebrate my life, share it, and document it for the day when I may want to look back at a life lived. It’s also become a way towards self-acceptance. I used to hate myself in pictures: too fat, too short, my face was never quite angular enough. I’m still the same height, my face is even rounder, but now with every selfie I’ve learnt to celebrate this face and this body. And now that I’ve finally figured out Snapchat, I’m happily posting away even mildly embarrassing moments with the knowledge that they will disappear in 24 hours.

It wasn’t always fun and games though. A little over a year ago I deactivated my Facebook account and unfollowed everyone on Instagram. I’d been getting upset at some people’s updates, and engaging in petty arguments on comment threads, so much so that I blocked someone I’d known for years because they were totally against Rihanna’s choice of ‘nude’ dress when she accepted the CFDA Style Icon award. I also found myself increasingly comparing my life to everyone else’s. Somehow their lives looked more interesting, their parties better, their holidays more tropical, their bodies fitter, and their careers more successful. I wasn’t in a good space, and instead of being positive and happy for others, I was all kinds of salty.

I stayed away for a month. It got lonely. What were my friends up to? Was someone trying to send me a message on Facebook messenger? Is my lunch plate still as amazing if I don’t share it online? Are my cats still as beautiful if they are not collecting little hearts on the ‘gram. However, something else, so much more empowering, arose after the withdrawal phase: I decided on my own what articles and websites I would seek out, instead of depending on links. I started to worry less about what other people were up to. If I needed to get in touch with friends I went to my actual contacts list. During that time there were a lot of quiet moments, as in no social media noise. I didn’t know as much about issues that would infuriate me, like people who dare to challenge the infallibility of our generous majesty the queen, Robyn Rihanna Fenty.

When I got back into it I realised that social media wasn’t the problem. My issues were all me. I believe that we figure out what does and doesn’t work for us as we go through life. In real life I don’t enjoy some arguments, or some company (yes, I’m still looking at you Rihanna haters). I realised that online should emulate real life. I also have no desire to walk around naked, so I won’t run off and share nudes of myself, although I do support those who find self-affirmation and self-empowerment in sharing their nudes.

Essentially, I treat my social media the way I treat my real life, I put the same structures in place that help me maintain a level of happiness. I avoid some situations to keep the drama low. While still tempted to compare my life to the filtered lives on my timeline, I am learning and accepting the value of my own existence. Above all else, I know that like most technological advancement, social media is basically a tool, and like all tools, it can be used to one’s advantage or disadvantage.

MALIBONGWE’S DIGIFIXATIONS

SNAPCHAT
I am obsessed. Find me there posting all sorts of personal moments I should be embarrassed about @malityilo.

YOUTUBE
My evenings at home are like a YouTube spiral as I go from one US election video to the next, while dreaming of similarly entertaining coverage for our very own election. Come back Trevor, and bring The Daily Show with you.

BIGGEST OBSESSION?
My Virtual Reality headset. OMG!!! I can’t even begin to describe this experience to you. Just get one or test one out at a cellphone shop. I am concerned that this might be what turns me into an anti-social hermit. Fake reality is so much fun.

This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of ELLE South Africa.