When community is uncomfortable

I don’t normally read Kevan Manwaring’s blog, but this one turned up in my social networking feed (ah, the irony) and the first paragraph struck me as so interesting that I wanted to share it.

“In the age of mass-vanity projects like Facebook, the art of bragging has never been more rife. Social media risks making of us all self-obsessed narcissists, locked into an endless game of brinkmanship. Looking enviously at our friends’ latest updates, we are forever keeping up with the Jones. The consequence of leading such goldfish bowl lives is continual status anxiety. And yet, once bragging was a bardic art – and perhaps something can be salvaged from it for practical use, as we continue…”

The rest is here – https://mymidnightdisease.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/the-art-of-bragging/ and goes into bragging as art.

What struck me about the paragraph above is how far it is from my own experience of social media. I don’t spend much time on it – ten minutes here and there in a day to see what’s out there. I have a vast array of connections of twitter, ello, facebook, linkedin, google+ goodreads and here on lovely wordpress. My social media experience contains breadth, depth, variety, richness. Tales of triumph, tragedy, small victories, little wins, inspiration shared and plenty of kittens. I post about things I think will amuse, uplift, encourage or inspire others. Sometimes when I am down I post needy little things and people come over and make soothing noises. I see it less as vanity, more as connection, expressing relationship and engagement, no more or less vain than any other social aspect of my life.

I don’t feel competitive most of the time, and outside of the odd shouty group, I don’t see much evidence of competition. It could be that I just do a really good job of selecting my friends and attracting splendid, interesting people more interested in sharing and co-operating than outplaying each other.

Sometimes of course there is envy – the grand adventures and professional successes of others do cause little green and jealous moments. I’m fine with this. It seems healthy, to me, to be aware of the greater successes of others, to see my own life and work in a wider context and to not always like how that looks. I don’t mind being uncomfortable, and I can say, hand on heart, I am always more glad for and proud of the people in my life for what they achieve and do, than I am envious, and I hope they feel the same way about me – I also see no reason to think anyone doesn’t.

Alain du Botton has some interesting things to say about status anxiety in his book Status Anxiety. We all get it now and then. This is because (to use my language, not his) our place in the tribe matters. Having a place at all has been a matter of life and death for most of human history. We need to fit somewhere. It is ok to care about that.

When we are ok about the idea of being uncomfortable sometimes, life gets easier. It won’t be perfect, it never is. Sometimes there are bumps and ego bruises, sometimes we aren’t as good as we think we are – it’s all part of being human. For the person who isn’t at ease with their own occasional discomfort, social media could very easily be hellish.  For the person driven by the urge to compete, it will be a competitive space. It’s one of those fine examples of what we get out looking a great deal like what we put in, and what we believe shaping what we perceive.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

13 responses to “When community is uncomfortable

  • Robin Herne

    Having watched a YouTube clip about distinguishing between destructive and uplifting spirituality, I’ve been reflecting on this for a short while. I have often felt that a lot of modern spirituality is very self-focused, to a point that can get very unhealthy. Whilst it’s clearly dangerous to be utterly dependent on the approval of others, it’s equally unhealthy to not give a shit about anyone else, fundamentally regarding other people as worthless whilst dressing it up in spiritual language as being independent, free-spirited, blah blah.

  • wildshewitch

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    Resonates with me.

  • dapplegrey

    This just reinforces what I believe as well – that Facebook is a mirror of our own attitudes and intentions and can be a door-opener and friendly support system, or a cauldron for stewing vices (and is sometimes a bit of both). Its not the system itself that’s the problem but the way some of us use it and somehow we need to nurture the good stuff. I almost never use Facebook at all but have started to interact with the Urban Sketchers movement through it and the way this works couldn’t be more friendly, supportive and generally wonderful, for which much thanks – and thanks to you for another good post!

  • tommyelf22

    Nimue – I read you often (both blog and book), but rarely do I comment. Except here. You bring up something that is not only interesting, but reflects a lot of how I view my own social networking experience. I agree that there is not a lot of brinkmanship (what an awkward word) among the people that I read and connect with on a regular basis through social media . Its been the opposite. However, if I did not take the time (and while I am on a little more than you on a daily basis – 60-90 minutes is not a lot of time in comparison to what I perceive would be that of the average user) to cultivate the relationships that I have with the people I have connected with – its likely I might actually have the experience that Mr. Manwaring describes. Much like I have found in my Druidry studies, as well as my mundane collegiate studies, you get out as well as you put in. IOW, input and cultivation of connection will result in the type of experience you seek. If your input is sending Game requests to “friends” on Facebook, its likely you will get similar in return.

    To put it a different way, the connections I have with people such as you, Cat Treadwell, and Joanna van der Hoeven would likely have been only through your books and writings in published medium, were it not for the social media platforms. And for me, at least, its through those social media connections that I get a fuller, deeper understanding of why you (the collective group of three I mentioned) wrote what you did. And there are others I could add to that – several musicians, other writers, a group of artists, a fashion designer, a group of data modelers, and many, many others. The connections I have with all of these folks make my world a little brighter in color, and a little deeper in meaning. I can only hope that I have the same effect on some of the folks I have that connection with in return. If Mr. Manwaring chooses to discount that type of connection as something of an outlier in the data bell-curve, so be it. But even the outliers in a data model have important meaning. Dismissing those out of hand as “not relevant” (my words here) removes a crucial part of the entire analysis – and in my opinion, weakens the entire meaning of what is brought forward.

    Keep writing NImue…you inspire me to walk along your path, and place my brain in gear and contemplate. We may not always come up with the same conclusions, but it sure is a stimulating exercise. 🙂 –Tommy

    • Nimue Brown

      It would be fair to say that Cat and Jo, are undoubtedly the two most relevant people for me to look at if I was inclined to fret about book sales and followers. As far as I can make out (I do not really know figures) they both spend time as amazon bestsellers,and I don’t. I know… and I also know how hard they work and how much they give, and how many people find what they do useful and relevant, and I would have to be a very different sort of person to resent that! They, and other more successful authors are for me a spur to try harder, do better, give more, write more usefully… and that keeps me on my toes and stops me getting any silly ideas… on the whole it does me a lot of good and no harm at all. Cat and Jo both started as internet connections, I’ve spent time with both of them in person. I’m married to someone I ‘met’ online – so I trust those internet relationships as real and valid experiences.

      • tommyelf22

        Well, you, Cat and Joanna are the three authors (along with Emma Restall Orr) who have had the most profound effect on my own personal Path in Druidry. Observationally, its interesting that the four people with the most profound effect on my reading, studying and doing within Druidry are ladies…but at the same time it doesn’t shock me either. As a Libra, I see the balance and symmetry within that.

        As an aside, I’m a podcaster – been doing it for quite some time too. I don’t have the numbers that Druidcast or even the Wigglian Way do. In fact, I’d be sure that I have some of the lowest numbers among the Pagan Podcasting community. The first three years that I was podcasting, I fretted about the numbers a ton, always getting a little depressed when the show failed to download out of the 200s after the first three weeks of being available. At one point, I even thought about quitting it altogether. And then out of the blue, I got two Emails from people who noted that they get inspiration from hearing me talk about the “potholes” that I have run across in being a Pagan. And I realized that it wasn’t about the numbers, its about reaching people with what I have to say. I understand where you are coming from concerning numbers – but I honestly have to say, whatever your numbers may or may not be. You write material that makes me *THINK* – and for me, as a single reader/consumer, what you say not only has meaning, but also has relevance. I am so glad you don’t think as I did in those early years of podcasting. 🙂

        –Tommy

      • Nimue Brown

        I went round similar things in the early days here – still do if I’m depressed. If we share something and it helps someone else – that’s got to be the most important thing. I keep coming back to that thought, it holds me steady.

  • wvdonovan36wvdonovan

    I do read all of your post, but rarely comment. This one caught me off guard…well said! I saw the same blog you did, and my response was almost word for word to what I was thinking.

  • locksley2010

    I wonder if a lot of our troubles and problems are down to a lot of people not knowing their place in their tribe?

    • Robin Herne

      Or that there is no tribe to have a place in. Localised communities have been pretty much destroyed these days, and even pagan spirituality can often be so busy lauding the individual (sometimes to the point of solipsism) that anything involving the necessary tribal values of compromise, putting others first, keeping tradition etc. goes out the window.

      • Nimue Brown

        Agreed. We’ve lost something important there. Perhaps because our survival appears to be less dependent on co-operation – although I think that’s a mistake.

      • Robin Herne

        A huge mistake, and maybe the most costly one our species has made in recent history. Time and again we see that our failure to cooperate leads to disaster after disaster (though too often the people suffering the most are not actually the ones who refused to cooperate).

      • Nimue Brown

        Yes. So much would be a good deal more tolerable were there to be more poetic justice in the mix.

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