“Who Has The Time To Count Facebook Likes?” Fuck You, I Do.

I get so pissed off when people rag on social media. You know that conversation, usually at a cocktail party (oh who am I kidding, I’m twenty-three and I go to cramped apartment parties or loud bars where I have to strain myself to reluctantly listen to sermons about modern technology), when someone you thought you liked starts talking about how social media is turning us all into automatons unable to relate to each other. Twitter, the end of empathy. Facebook, the death knell of human connection. Tumblr, the downfall of social justice activism. “I mean, who has time for it?” they ask, gesturing with their bottle of expensive and undrinkable Brooklyn Lager. “Who has the energy to count likes?”

I do, I almost say. It is my job to count Instagram likes, and Facebook comments, and retweets. I quite literally pay my bills by managing social media platforms, and off the clock I invest most of my free time in my own digital presence. Actually, wait, it’s not my job. It’s my career to care about what conversations thrive and die on the Internet, to pay attention to how memes mutate and become mundane. I am that person who reads articles about Facebook’s minuscule design changes on Digiday and the ripple effects they have on our behavior. I care about the connections and fights that happen in Facebook comments, and the connections and fights people have about whether or not websites should close down their comments, and I comment in the comments to make the comment sections better places. “Don’t read the comments,” people drawl, rolling their eyes because who really comments anyway, it’s those other people in middle America who don’t have access to the New York media scene and use social media as their voice, as their amplifier. Fuck you, I read the comments. And not only because I’m paid to.

Some people dread the holidays because it means going home to family. I dread the holidays because it means explaining to people what I “do” now that I have graduated from college and moved to that exotic place of millennial tragisitcoms, Brooklyn. “I’m a social media manager,” I tell some over-familiar acquaintance of my mother.

“Oh, I hate social media,” this under-employed windbag of a sixty-something pontificates, leaning over my kitchen island so that I don’t miss a single word of his riveting, outdated opinion. “I don’t understand Twitter, all those hashtags, I mean what are hashtags?” He looks around as if expecting my mother and I to laugh, or nod in agreement. She looks uncomfortable. I dismiss myself, politely, because I was raised in Connecticut.

Here is what social media has given me:

  • A scrappy, self-taught community on Tumblr that explained for me what feminism was and what slut-shaming was and why I shouldn’t hate myself for having herpes and how to interpret my confusing blood test results and what to tell my partners and why I should love myself, fiercely, unapologetically, despite the cloying dampness of stigma.
  • A loud, colorful, queer, clever, aggressively narcissistic girl gang family of sisters on Twitter who like my selfies and rant in all caps about the everyday violence of being a woman in New York City.
  • A curious extended network of friends and classmates and acquaintances and random cousins who click on my blog posts when they pop up on their feed because it might be interesting to hear me out, hear out my disclosures and my frustrations and my carefully knitted experiences and find their worldview broadened all thanks to a Facebook algorithm.

Social media is loud and chaotic and mean and there are days when I can’t read my Twitter notifications because the hostility of men who hate women bubbles up over the sides and spills across my desk at work. Social media is also full of people who share and listen and fight and fight back, full of women who have become sparkling, bloodstained role models and readers and collaborators and friends. Social media brought me to Femsplain, to herpes activism, to TED, to who I am beyond my Twitter bio.

My New Year’s resolution is not to spend less time on Facebook, or to untag myself from unflattering photos from college, or to unclutter my online presence.

In 2016 I will care just as much about how many Twitter followers I have because one out of every 100 is someone with herpes who needed me and didn’t even know it when they added me because I was GIFing The Bachelor contestants.

In 2016 I will live-tweet my Tinder matches and my one night stands and my unanswered text messages and my lust/resentment relationship with bros because it is radical to be a sexual being with an STI and with every post I show someone else it can be done, this can be done, life can be done post-diagnosis.

In 2016 I will make more Internet friends who hurl perfect puns at me and send me articles they know I’ll like and point out my typos and offer to buy me a drink, platonically, if I’m ever in Denver or Chicago or Los Angeles or Miami.

In 2016 I will slam the block button against meninists and protect and believe other women at all costs.

In 2016 I will obsess over why my ex liked that photo of me.

In 2016 I will give social media the respect it deserves, and demand that it get better, and fight to make it so.

“But what is social media doing to us?”

It’s doing a lot. Now go watch some TED Talks about the psychology of technology and fix your smug, lazy conclusions. I’ll hear them out if they come to me in less than 140 characters.

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Ella Dawson is a sex and culture critic and a digital strategist. She drinks too much Diet Coke.

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