Depending on the kindness of strangers. An amusing notion, maybe—but I’m pretty sure Tennessee Williams never intended it to be a six-word life plan. On the other hand, if you’re just asking said strangers for their opinion, you’ll probably do just fine. At least I’m hoping so.

Because I am here to humbly ask YOU to share with me a few words of advice, in 140 characters or less.

My question: How do you do social media?

Here’s the deal: For the past seven years, I have been living under a rock — on purpose. When I took a break from my career to be at home with my two kids, I intentionally opted out of the whole social media thing. Though not technically a technophobe, I am a perennial late bloomer, and a bit of an introvert. And until now, I just didn’t feel like I was ready to jump on that snowballing bandwagon of noise. It just seemed so wild and loud, tweety and messy…and EVERYWHERE! It was just all too much.

Though I have loved this verse since I first read it over two decades ago — long before the Internet was really a thing—now it reads to me like a pithy poetic justification for my social media abstinence. (Photo from my cousin’s birthday, May 1977. I’m the little one at the far left.)

So I became a social media holdout, and I guess you could say I grew into the role quite naturally. Because I really have relished the feelings of …

  • preserving a special kind of purity in my life
  • living in the moment (and not on the surface of my iPhone)
  • maintaining privacy for my family (and my un-photogenic face!)
  • enjoying the freedom from information: NOT being notified as to what/who/how everyone I know is doing every blasted minute.

I have been blissfully ignorant, by choice. But deep down, I knew my sunny days on isolationist island were numbered. My youngest starts kindergarten in the fall, and in the process of rebooting my career for today’s world, I’ve come to realize that it will probably be helpful if Google can tell I exist.

Also, as the state of world affairs seems to be in a tailspin thanks to the big orange Tweeter in the White House, it has become painfully clear to me that, as a citizen, remaining invisible and silent is no longer a viable option. It’s not enough to pay attention; eventually I’m gonna have to show up and speak up. (Currently formulating a plan of activism.)

So here I am! Ready to give this a go, but still quite green and clueless.

Realizing I am almost inexcusably late to the social media party, I’m seeking guidance from those of you who have been in the game for a while.

To kind souls with advice on the ins and outs of social media, please comment below or @karanelsonworks. Please and thank you!

Have some tips at the ready already? No need to read further. Fire away. But if you’d like a little more info before dispensing advice, below are some of my specific questions.

(WAIT! Forgot to ask: If all you want to tell me is to go fuck myself, please just say that one in your head and not online. I am a ‘virgin’ after all, and I’d like to pop my social media cherry with humanity, not hatred. Thank you.)

My Questions

1. Can you suggest a good strategy for easing into social media gradually and safely, but not in a chicken shit way? Or do you suggest I just jump in with both feet and hope for the best?

2. Do I really have to do Facebook? This is the one I’m dreading the most. (I did set up an account a few years back so I could get on Spotify, but I haven’t used it yet.)

3. What do I need to know about the different platforms? Which one(s) do you like best and why? What can you tell me about Instagram or Pinterest?

4. What are some good policies, techniques, tricks or rules I should consider setting up or implementing before I get rolling?

5. What are some rookie mistakes, common pitfalls, or annoying things I should try to avoid doing?

6. In what ways (good and/or bad) do you think my life will change once I get into social media?

7. Who are some of the best people/handles to follow? Who should I steer clear of?

8. Should I try to draw distinct boundaries around professional and personal social media accounts/handles? And if so, how?

Hmmm, those questions sound a little generic, don’t they? While I welcome and thank you for any answers you’d like to give now, in order to get to the meaty answers I’m looking for, I think I’m going to have to show my ass, or just part of it. To tell you my biggest fears about all this. So now I’ll just shamelessly lay it all out for you. Here’s WHAT I’M AFRAID of.

My fears

A. That my natural inclination to cringe at the word “followers” will induce a perpetual state of ambivalence-and-nausea if it turns out that I find myself nonetheless secretly hoping to get more followers, more likes. That I will get so caught up in this that it will start to affect my mood each day. Ugh!

B. That because I’m no longer a holdout, I won’t get to feel special or pure for living solely IRL. That I will be just like everyone else, and that I will have to compete with others. (And I’m not a naturally competitive person.) That I will become addicted to Instagram or Pinterest. That I will feel compelled to check my pages/feeds incessantly, making my children and other loved ones feel unseen or neglected.

C. That by finally opening myself up to social media, I will so feel overwhelmed by the tidal wave of content and stimuli rushing toward me that I will go mad or just shut down completely. That I will be in danger of becoming one of those people: faces glued to their phones during dinner, rudely ignoring the people sitting right in front of them IRL.

D. That people will say mean things about me online. Or maybe worse, that I will be ignored entirely.

E. That it will be difficult to moderate and find a healthy, balanced way to incorporate social media into my life. That I will be relinquishing my privacy and that I will regret joining up. That I will post something stupid one day, and unwittingly become like someone on the very scary reality series: The Internet Ruined My Life.

(As a shorthand shortcut, please feel free to code your comment or reply to indicate the question (1–8) or fear (A-E) you are addressing. But, listen: I am not picky; any and all advice, in any format, will be much appreciated!)

So there you have it. I look forward to any insights you have to offer. A word. A sentence. Whatever. Please comment below or ‘Tweet me’ (There. I’ve said it. Ugh.) I’m @karanelsonworks on Instagram and Twitter.

Thank you ever so!

*Just the tip: In the time between writing this and publishing it, I started posting on Instagram and a bit on Twitter and I find that I’m checking my phone a LOT. To see if anyone liked a cute pic of my dog???!!! What’s happening to me?? I feel like I’m already approaching a slippery slope on this. It’s just that there are so many weird and shiny things to discover and explore on Insta! Pretty sure I’m overdoing it with the hashtags… Help!

**Originally published in That Odd Mom on Medium