Why Does Twitter Terrify Me?

girl-850117_1280

Why does using my words terrify me so much?

Let’s start out with a confession: Twitter terrifies me.

I got my handle a few years ago. The day my friend Melissa explained to me how she manages her twitter account, makes lists, what she posts, and what a hashtag is, my heart thudded in my chest, dully as I listened.

It’ll get easier, I kept telling myself.

Sometimes, this is true. It’s like cold swimming pools: steel yourself to dive in and start moving, and voila, you forget your shivers.

So I set goals: post this often, on these topics. Make sure to prioritize promoting others’ work, which makes me feel like less of a douchebag. Be funny! Be sincere! Ask questions! Say something!

But Twitter still frightened me much so that I had a nightmare about it.

The day after the dream, I wrote this down in my journal: Why does Twitter terrify me so much?

And there are a lot of reasons. Introversion, not liking to speak off the cuff, and feeling overwhelmed scrolling through others’ feeds.

But the main reason is this:

I assume no one is interested in my words.

No, actually, I don’t just assume. I am positive no one is interested in my words. Why the hell would they listen to me?

I grew up hiding. The day my parents took my brother to the children’s home where he lived for three years, I hid behind a rocking chair. I don’t even remember the day my sister left. In elementary school, when I started trying to write a required journal entry every day, I choked because I worried my true feelings might come through my words.

I practiced the over-and-over art of keeping quiet, of burying my true self under layers of goodness, performance, and smiles.

I have to remind myself to tell my husband about my interior life. Unless he asks, I find it hard to convince myself he’s interested.

I have to force myself to ask friends for help. Unless they offer, I assume I’m imposing.

I practically bit my tongue clean off in childhood. It is hard to start using it now. The irony of me writing for a living does not escape me.

My silence is not just about protecting my heart.

It’s about shutting other people out.

I want to learn to trust people to care about me. To honor my words. To be curious about what I have to say. To show love in their attention to my inner life.

The other day, I opened my computer and set a petite goal for myself. Five tweets.

I decided to pretend I was writing the tweets to my friend Shoshana. She was my roommate after college for a few years.

I wanted to be her friend because the first day I met her in our post-college Bible study, she said, quite unapologetically, that she missed having sex. I was a very nervous virgin, but I liked her chutzpah.

She helped me believe that Jesus loved people who were bracingly honest and riotously funny. She helped me believe I could be both.

Navigating to Twitter, I imagined penning Shoshana a very short note.

I imagined her forgiving my navel-gazing, considering my questions, clicking on my links. I imagined her needing encouragement. I imagined her instead of a black hole.

The truth is, the more I connect to people online, the more I see I’m not alone in my aches, my anxieties, or my desperation to speak up.

I use my voice not just to work through my own issues. I use my voice because I want to affirm—to everyone who hides—that it’s okay to let our desperation show.

Heather Caliri

Heather Caliri

Writer at A Little Yes
Heather Caliri is a writer from San Diego who uses tiny, joyful yeses to free herself from anxiety. Tired of anxiety controlling your life? Try her mini-course, “Five Tiny Ideas for Managing Anxiety," for free here.
Heather Caliri
  • I love this! I also assume that no one is interested in my words. I sometimes feel like writing is one huge act of defiance to the huge forces that tell me to be a good girl and shut up and keep still. I’m glad that you are learning not to hide. Me too.

    • IT IS SUCH DEFIANCE. I love how empowered it has made me, and you too 🙂

    • Oh Tanya, this is SO TRUE. I just read an article by DL Mayfield about not wanting her daughter to be polite and quiet and man, it hit home. We’re all learning together. And Heather, I love this piece. Well done friend.

      • Thank you Ashley. Oh, DL Mayfield’s post needs to be made into posters for children’ bedrooms. If that weren’t wildly inappropriate.

        • Oh, fabulous idea! I do want Shakespeare’s quote: “Though she be but little, she is fierce” in my daughter’s room. We need fierce women who are full of compassion.

  • Nicole Walters

    Yay yay yay! I love this because I relate and because I want to hear more of your words. I am interested and love to hear your words (if that helps to know;) I feel this way, too. Facebook is scary to me because that is where most of the people who read what I write know me and every time I hit “post” faces rush past my mind, wondering what they will think. When another person tells me they have read something I write I brace myself and think “Oh no!” Shouldn’t writers want to be read? Sigh, it is a journey God has us on, isn’t it?

    • Oh! I completely freeze when people I know IRL tell me they’ve read my stuff. I want to go hide! We are such weird creatures 🙂

      • sunrae17

        I so want to respond eloquently one of these days. Being new to it, I’m always surprised that anyone reads it and am flustered. Ha. Maybe that’s why I write. Not so quick on my feet:)

        • Sarah Bourque

          I used to think the same thing – about any type of interaction – I much preferred to have a written “conversation” (email, text, Facebook) because in a face-to-face conversation I needed time to compose a sentence in my head. I want to put forth a composed and eloquent self so that others can see I am worthy. So I write.

          I have come to realize that its my fear of vulnerability that is actually at the root of it. If you talk to me face-to-face, the words are unedited, I blubber and forget what I am saying mid-sentence. And so my imperfections are – eek! – displayed for all to see.

          • Ha ha, yes. Enslavement to what people think of me, a.k.a. pride. Confession. I want others to think I’m smarter and more pulled together than I am. Slowly learning to laugh at my nervous blundering (sometimes). God is also using my weakness to draw close to others in an authentic way for the first time, butterflies and all. We’re all a mess together, needing our Savior and each other.

            Happy Wednesday, fellow mid-sentence forgetter.

            • I think it can definitely go the direction of pride for me too, but also–I think it’s NORMAL to feel fumbling and anxious around a roomful of strangers, especially for introverts.
              Basically, I want to believe I’m okay 🙂

          • Yes! Exactly! Though the better I know people the more this disappears.

        • I LOVE that writing helps me ponder things rather than speaking off the cuff. I also have a problem with phone conversations 🙂

    • > “When another person tells me they have read something I write I brace myself and think “Oh no!””

      This happened to me at a cook-out the other day. An old friend came up and said he’d been reading my blog and I had to resist the urge to shout, “Well, stop doing that!” It’s easier for me to share with strangers instead of risking judgement from people I know well.

  • sunrae17

    My heart still races every time I post. Thanks for reaching out of your fear to connect with the rest of us scaredy cats.

    • Thank you 🙂 Ironic: I was a little worried I’d post this and no one would relate! I hope your heart slows down, and mine too.

  • Pingback: Why Does Twitter Terrify Me? for The Mudroom()

  • Jade Perry

    I absolutely can relate to this feeling. I can do Facebook well enough but Twitter seems like more of a juggernaut to me – and I’m a millenial. Thanks for sharing your experience: inspired to do some more tweeting today. 🙂

    • Yay me too! Trying not to feel weird that everyone knows I hate tweeting now 🙂

    • sunrae17

      Personally, it’s like being at a new school. Being known to none. Scared out your whits, you sit at the lunch table day after day and hope, hope, hope you can say hello to someone without the words jumbling up. Praying for a welcoming word as your ears are ringing from the nerves. So, here’s to reaching out from our fears to learn from, laugh with, and encourage each other.

  • Listen, I do social media for a living, and it’s still a little terrifying! That’s because I’ve seen it at its best – when it can be so reassuring, as you noted – and its worst. The struggle is real.

    If there’s anything I can do for you or any questions I can answer to help make it less scary, let me know. 🙂

    • Ha! This makes me feel so much better, Emily 🙂 Gosh, that’s a good question. I’d be very curious about what routines help you do strategic amounts without having it take over your life, and what attitudes/habits/framing devices help you enjoy what you do. In other words, why the heck do you do this for a living, and how do you do it well?

      • I’m jotting these down in a Word document so I can write more about all of them later. But it comes down to being human – and Twitter lists. I’m still working on the not letting it take over my life part.

        • Aleah Marsden wrote about non-douchy Twitter practices, and it did help me relax a bit, though the barrier of thinking no one is interested still lingers. Like everything, it’s probably about practice. Ugh, I hate that.

  • I avoided Twitter for a long time. I barely understand how it works and hardly ever post anything. It’s a lot of pressure to be clever in just a single, short sentence. I’m curious if you happen to know your Myers-Briggs type (if that’s not a pushy question). I’ve run into a ton of INJFs online and what you said about hiding your interior life sounds a lot like us INFJs. A lot of us have this drive to write and be heard, but at the same time we’re absolutely terrified of people getting a glimpse at the real us.

    • So close: I’m an INFP. It’s weird–I’m an odd oversharer, and love it when people know the real me. But I prefer to do it on my own terms, where I can feel in control of the narrative–ie, thinking it over instead of just posting something willy-nilly 🙂

      • INFPs are cool (I even married one.) 🙂 I totally get what you’re saying. I think that’s why blogging appeals to me so much. I can take my time and share what I feel comfortable sharing (or what I feel is important to share, despite my discomfort.) Otherwise, I just blurt out something I wish I hadn’t.

  • Jo Inglis

    Sometimes it feels as though Twitter is cliquey and like the school playground all over, who’s in & who’s out. Some of us do stay on the fringes but I value the exchanges I do have, small in number but no less meaningful.
    I love this and it resonates a great deal.

    • Thanks, Jo! Yes, I get that feeling too sometimes. And yet the interactions I do have–with people WAY cooler than me–give me hope 🙂

  • Anne-Marie

    Very niiiice Heather. Love it! Amen to the content and as always – you come across loud and clear, and you are so honest, raw and lovable. Amazing how many obstacles we put between ourselves and others. But in the end, it is a little scary putting ourselves out there as we are. I don’t do much with my twitter account, but I’ve been amazed at how kind and generous people are. Thanks for the poke in the side to show up more.

    • Thank you, Anne-Marie. I might get a tattoo with “honest, raw, and loveable” on my shoulder. 🙂 People are super kind and generous–despite the trolls, there are a lot of lovely people out there 🙂

  • Tammy Perlmutter

    Tanya and Heather, I totally get what you’re saying. I’m constantly questioning what value my voice adds to the noise and I’m tempted to quiet myself for fear this is no room, you know, the whole scarcity concept. I like seeing writing as a huge act of defiance. I need to meditate on that for a bit. Thanks!

    • Oh, we so need your voice, Tammy. Gosh, I’m just thinking of your post this month–it’s a POV we rarely get, and for so many suffering from mental illness, it is gospel. I’m so done with our culture’s obsession with smoothly competent, unruffled, unmarked people.

  • Jody Ohlsen Collins

    Heather, I became a Twitter convert last year (2014) at the Faith and Culture Conference in Oregon, thanks to Micah Murray and Sarah Salter…. I am super random and an extrovert and I ALWAYS have something to say….Best thing about Twitter? It forces one to consider very carefully what one is going to say, i.e. Make it Count. A limit of 140 characters is a great qualifier – causing intentionality and purpose, IMHO.
    I guess we all trip over ourselves on the way to the social media world, the goal is to be a window for people to see Jesus through, not a rock to trip over… Here’s to windows!

    • It’s like haiku! I’m so glad you’re feeling encouraged in it, Jody!

  • Tammy Perlmutter