Is social media really social?

By Caitlin Kelly


I really enjoy social media — but I see such mixed results.

Women who speak up about contentious issues are harassed, bullied, doxxed. Some, in desperation, end up fleeing Twitter and other platforms, blocking everyone who attacks.

I’ve had a few bad experiences there as well, but thankfully most of my social media experiences have been pleasant.

I recently started using Instagram.

My site is caitlinkellynyc...and I’m enjoying the wild mix of people who like my photos — from an auto-body shop in Brazil (a photo of a vintage air machine) to a trekking company in Nepal.

I have, as you know from reading here, extremely eclectic interests, so my Insta feed includes flowers, vintage clothing, travel photos and lots of female pilots.

Thanks to this blog, and through reading theirs, I’ve made friends in real life withΒ  Cadence, author of Small Dog Syndrome in London and Kate Katharina Ferguson in Berlin.

Thanks to Twitter, I also met up in Berlin with Jens Notroff, an archeologist who works on Gobekli Tepe, a 12,000 year-old Neolithic site in Turkey and DorothΓ©e Lefering, a travel blogger whose post about Rovinj, Croatia impelled me to stay there for a glorious week last July. I’d never even heard of it before!

We all met for lunch at Pauly Saal (a trendy restaurant) in Berlin last July, thanks to “meeting” them regularly through several weekly Twitterchats focused on travel — and Jens and I bonded for certain after trading the lyrics to the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Who knew?


forest 04


Now, thanks to Insta, I’m reviving my photography skills; I began my journalism career as a teenager selling three cover photos to a Toronto magazine, then sold to Time, The New York Times, Washington Post and more.

I love how my Smartphone has made me hyper-aware of my surroundings once more. The glossy perfection and waayyyyyyy too many selfies of Instagram don’t appeal to me, but I’m loving the global reach it offers.

I also spend a lot of time on Facebook participating in online-only women’s writing groups, where we find friendship, freelance work, staff jobs, mentoring and moral support. At worst, it can get ugly and weird, but at best it’s my daily water cooler, as someone who works alone at home in the boring suburbs of New York.

(It costs me $25+ in train and subway fare into New York City to meet people face to face, so social media offers us all an easy and affordable option.)

But I also plan play dates — this week an Oscar-viewing night with a neighbor, lunch here with an editor, a Canadian consulate event at the Tenement Museum in New York City, and meeting friends for dinner in Harlem at Red Rooster.

My weekends are also filled with in-person social activities from now through mid-April, so I don’t feel isolated and lonely, which social media can create online interaction is all you do.

Facebook was also useful recently in a highly unusual way — with a local woman reporting to our town in real time that a woman had been shot in an apartment complex nearby, that the shooter was on the loose (!) and that’s why we heard police helicopters overheard for hours.

(She died and he was captured in New York City at the bus station.)

The hashtag for our town’s zip code, whose Facebook page has thousands of members, was the single best place to find out what was happening.


Are you using and enjoying social media?


Which ones do you enjoy most and why?

42 thoughts on “Is social media really social?

  1. Sounds like you have a healthy social media life. Kudos. I would love to meet some of my favorite fellow bloggers at some point. Nice to hear that it is not uncommon to do so!

    1. It’s been much better than I expected, given what I hear and read of others’ experiences. I also avoid getting into online fistfights (as it were) which can fly out of control quickly.

  2. I have met several people who I have connected to through different platforms…as I can see their photography and how they work on line…and they can ‘see’ me…and it’s been really fun and I’ve appreciated them showing me/us places we’d never seen otherwise…connecting with friends again in Portugal this spring…and some new friends in Berlin later in the fall…I can also ask questions and search out spaces and places with their assistance so I really enjoy the connections…I also helped a blogger with their trip through Alberta…and will meet up for a coffee…so I make choices….thank for sharing this post πŸ™‚ I believe in the goodness…with wisdom…smiles hedy

    1. Good to know it’s not just me!

      I’m especially stuck by the global reach — and within seconds of posting — of Instagram (compared to Twitter, for instance) — and the fantastic quality of the work I see on some sites. For everyone who posts endless selfies, there are some astonishing images to enjoy.

      I’ve also connected people like this, and it’s very cool.

  3. I don’t like using social media a lot, but it can be great for making connections and keeping in touch with people.

    Instagram sounds fun but I’m really trying to limit the amount of time I spend on my phone/in front of a screen. It’s a bad habit of mine! I actually just ordered a new book The Power of Habit by NYT reporter Charles Duhigg—I’m interested in the psychology behind habits and I’d like to refresh a few of my habits (spend less time on the internet, start a daily meditation practice, go to regular social events like salsa classes and Spanish/English language exchange meet-ups…).

    1. I hear you…

      I spend a ton of time on-screen, for sure, and I have to balance out work (pitches, follow up, networking) with fun (Insta, Twitter.)

      I wish people had/made more time for IRL connection — which is why I go to spin class 2-3 x a week (and discovered a monthly en francais potluck through someone there) and our weekly bar trivia night — our team is Canada Dry.

      I think if there’s balance, and on-line facilitates off-line connections, it’s good.

  4. First off, I just followed you on Instagram. Hope you don’t mind.

    Second, I use mainly Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as well as my blog. I don’t have huge followings across any of the platform, but what I have, I’m happy with. Sometimes what I post even gets a lot of good feedback.

    I also have a YouTube channel and I’ve posted videos on it, but only a few. I mainly use it just to look at other YouTube videos and leave comments behind.

      1. I always look at people who decide to follow me — but I admit, if all I see are selfies (and I see this a lot), I won’t follow back, for sure. I just don’t find them compelling.

  5. i’ve enjoyed most of my social media experiences as well. like you, it allows me the opportunity to connect with others who may be too far away to meet in person, but at least i can get to know them a bit more, trade ideas, thoughts, and commonalities this way. i’ve met a few bloggers in person, and each time has been an enriching experience with someone who i felt like a knew before we even met in person.

    1. So true!

      By the time I finally met Cadence — she met me as I came off the Eurostar from Paris (natch!) — it felt like old pals, indeed.

      Hoping you and I finally connect one of these years.

  6. I feel like I have a compulsion to check out my Facebook, and WordPress sites, for new comments, just to get a sense that there are people in the world that are thinking of me. I say compulsion, because I check in on both sites, much too often. In a certain way these platforms have made me feel less lonely. Because I’ve been chronically ill, and suffered from depression, I am often at home, and isolated. At the same time, I feel there is something unhealthy about the popularity of social media. In many cases, it does seem to prevent people from engaging, and from true intimacy. It also makes it easier to vent, and be rude-or downright hostile.

    I am so glad that you have an instagram account for your photos. I very much enjoy seeing them, being an artist and visual person, myself.

    1. It’s so true that, if you’re housebound, it’s a real godsend.

      I worry, though, that too many people now see “connecting” online as an acceptable substitute for spending the time and energy it takes to meet friends, family, colleagues in person.
      When I was in the hospital in 2007 (3 days with pneumonia) and after my hip replacement (3 days in 2012) it meant the world to me to have dear friends stop by, even for a brief visit.

      Glad you enjoy Insta! I’m really starting to roam around it more.

  7. So interesting reading about the connections and experiences you’ve had through social media! Social media has truly allowed a world without borders, where people from all over the world get to interact and converse.

    Aside from my blog, I use only one other platform (Facebook), but I spend more time on the blogosphere than on my FB newsfeed now. I just think the interactions here are more in-depth and less about selfies! Haha

  8. For the most part, I stay away from social media because of my ex-narcissist. Lately I’ve become irritated at the expectation that I should be on it – it feels like I’m being pushed or that there’s judgement being passed if I say I’m not. I recently had to use a pseudonym on Facebook because of work and am thinking about how to have a conversation about privacy concerns with my employer. People seem to throw caution to the winds – which is fine for them, but not everyone is the same, and that should be respected.

    On a related note, research is beginning to indicate that social media tends to isolate people rather than connect them in a real way.

    1. I get it!

      People have as many legit reasons for avoiding it as some of us, for now, enjoy it. At this point, I would simply not be able to get and keep work without all the online networking I do, every single day — people who actually even have FT jobs in my industry are too busy!

      Socially…mixed bag for me. I weary of people’s whining and pictures of children.

      I think social media is certainly changing how we relate to one another — if it’s ALL you do, you’re screwed and your social skills are weak and/or atrophying.

      I see this much more with people in their 20s who, even in journalism which is ALL about being able to connect quickly and easily with people at every socioeconomic level as a photo or word person — now say they are (!!?????) scared (SCARED?) to speak by telephone because all they do is text.

      This is absurd. But it seems to be growing in prevalence so thank God I don’t have to hire or manage someone with this worldview.

      1. Yes – I should have also acknowledged that some people such as yourself and your colleagues need to rely on it for work. πŸ™‚ I really don’t need it for mine at all, but there’s a mentality out there that says “everyone is on Facebook, so let’s do it that way.” And then people get irritated if you object or want to protect your privacy. It’s an interesting situation.

        I’ve encountered under-thirties who avoid talking on the phone and who like to do online gaming but who also try not to see others in groups. It’s almost as if they see other people as tool-like.

        Like anything else, technology isn’t a magic bullet. Thanks for letting me spout off. πŸ™‚

      2. It’s so different if you are feeling peer pressure…in our world, the worst part is the endless bragging (ugh) and I tire of that.

        I have heard this — and have seen this as well. Hate it.


  9. I use social media as a tool for my book writing journey and as a way to stay in touch with the younger members of my family. I had a bad experience once on Twitter but I have learned what not to do since then and I use it now also as a way to get the latest news. My Facebook Page is about promoting and sharing my book and articles about my father from the early 1900s. I have actually met people in the UK via this page. I have made what I consider to be good friends through my blog, and through Facebook. I have learned how to block those who use profanity. I noticed you said you use a smartphone. Do you use this for all of your communicating? Even the Blog? I am trying to get free of being connected to the department of water and power bill.

    1. I use my phone for Instagram, texting and email more than anything. For the blog, I stick to the comfort of my laptop.

      I am very cautious on Twitter and often delete a tweet before sending it out. I’ve seen too many women get trolled and bullied and have no appetite for it.

  10. I love the variety of images you’ve shared on your Instagram account! They show both luxury and simplicity in the enjoyment of natural things which make for a nice pairing.

    I deleted my Facebook about 5 years ago alongside Mike and haven’t looked back since! Now it seems as if people are talking about some made up world (that has no impact on my day to day in any way).

    Instagram and the blog both spur me to get out and take a keen interest and observe the natural space around us.

    1. Thanks! You summed me up so well…and it’s very true. I swing between those two poles. I’m intrigued by what others choose to post on Insta — even if it’s “only”a sunset, they are often stunning and worth a look. I admit, though, I’m more interested in someone’s view of the world than photos of themselves, family and friends. For some people, social media is really a public record, not designed to please an audience of strangers,

      Facebook is also losing appeal for me, certainly in the era of Trump, because about 99% of my feed is people ranting about him. Until he’s gone, it’s not going to accomplish anything. I also LOATHE it when people (!?????) post gruesome color images of their latest stitches, bruises and other injuries. WTH?

      You and I, both!

  11. Also totally conscious you’ll see photos of my son ahha and think I am overdoing it – and it’s something I pay close attention to (not posting much) as I’m weary of overexposing him and oversaturating my friends ahah. Privately I take so many pictures… but know what it’s like to see unrelenting images of kids outside my personal world. I do now understand that need to capture it all… And be mindful of my audience haha it was something I decided before he was born.

    1. And I bet your audience appreciates it.

      It’s an odd thing because it’s social — but it’s also performative. There are many things, thoughts and images, I will share with my intimates but never share on any form of social media.

      1. Totally I would hate for anyone to think I’m posting him for the likes – my friends recently condoned my unrelenting posts of spiders haha and requested more Wesley so I obliged only a little.

        Also I can completely imagine what a circus FB is now with all the fake news and from conversations with friends who are not happy using it – they have mostly said they are tired of seeing all the miserable dialogue! Which I can understand as the internet seems to have transformed into the wild west of aggressive behaviour/bullying/need to stir the pot out of boredom.

        Also so gross that people share their wounds (haha but ironically in saying that I shared images once of my burns!).

        We’ve become so motivated for attention that we lose out in real connections. I’m all for real dates and seeing people in person and phoning them for a real chat.

        Also a huge emailer.

        Super cool you’ve met some of your online friends in person.

  12. Social media can feel like a giant playground. You can have fun and make friends but also get bullied, teased and harassed. I feel like a kid who skirts around the edges of the playground somewhat cautiously. Aside from blogging, Instagram is my refuge these days. Somehow it seems to keep the ‘fun’ side of social with the emphasis on pictures.

    1. Great analogy!

      I’m always the kid who wants to play — but also to have my opinions and express them freely. So I have to very careful about which ones I express here and on Twitter, having been screen-shotted (!) and bullied from posts on my private Facebook page. That taught me to be wary of what I call Trojan horses — friends of friends whose access to my posts is NOT benign or kind at all. As a result, I very very rarely accept new “friends” now.

  13. Social media is part of the day job for me at the moment. Facebook seems to be going downhill. I like twitter best for selling books, I’m exploring tumblr and remain largely perplexed by Linkedin and google+ Pinterest is sweet, and a gentle place. Ello is interesting.

    1. Interesting.

      FB’s algorithm is ruining it in many ways. Have never used tumblr (which I know is v popular, or reddit.) LinkedIn is….?????? for me. I get told that 100s of people look at my profile but none of them have ever approached me to do work for them, which is the ONLY reason I have bothered to put up a profile. UGH.

      Pinterest, for me, would simply be a time-suck.

      Tell me more about Ello?

      1. is very visual, I swing in a few times a week and mysteriously have tens of thousands of views. it accepts adult content, but I’ve never seen any abuse on there – and i’ll take smut over abuse any day πŸ™‚ Bit of a hipster vibe, and a community feel, and full of strange and lovely things.

  14. I’ve enjoyed your post and all the comments here and confess to having a couple of Instagram accounts. One which is simply pictorial while the other is more of a space to muse while using sarees as a pictorial anchor. It has its charms but can also be quite a drain at times. Kind of like all the books in the world that you want to read but not enough time… the feed never sleeps!

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