By midpandemic, I had a new infant, two teens, and an executive communications and coaching business that was bursting at the seams.
In 2008, I remember hopping giddily on social to find connection and community with followers who became friends “IRL.” In 2015, social media was a place where I built freedom with my own enterprise. But by 2021, it had started to feel like one more way to exhaust myself.
Despite all the things I made happen daily, other things were always falling through the cracks. I’d often make lists of my deficiencies, what tasks needed much improvement and what wasn’t enough. I wasn’t hydrating enough. I wasn’t pumping and storing enough breast milk. I wasn’t schmoozing or networking enough with clients. I wasn’t spending enough quality time with my older kids. I wasn’t, I wasn’t.
But one thing I was? I was stretched super thin. I could never seem to get anywhere in one trip. I could never seem to finish a thought, wrap up a project or even finish a sentence without being interrupted by something in my life — usually something that could not be ignored.
I couldn’t ignore a crying baby or the clients whose retainer fees paid my kids’ tuition. I couldn’t ignore my teenager’s precarious mental health or an unscheduled call from my 91-year-old grandmother.
It was like there was an Amanda shortage. The demand for Amanda kept rising, but I had no idea when the next shipment would come in.
After I started having to make choices between “should I log on to this Zoom meeting on time or be a couple of minutes late so I can quickly brush my teeth?” I realized something had to give.
Before that point, I’d run a tight ship in terms of my social media posting. I aimed to share a long-form Insta sermon or other instructive insight at least daily. I had even started to bond with my teenager Logan over my daily posts; his handle was often the first to pop up in my comments next to a perfect mix of emojis, cheering me on.
I told myself I had to keep up this unforgiving and completely self-imposed schedule of posting because a) as a visibility strategist, I needed to practice what I preached and b) in the absence of a paycheck coming every two weeks, posting daily was the LEAST I could do to market myself and thus my business.
But I was holding too many things that couldn’t give ― my kids, my clients, my newborn, my sanity. The only viable contender was social media.
In some ways, the idea of cutting back was a relief.
For almost two years after moving during a pandemic, my house sat half empty as I waited for furniture to arrive. I felt too self-conscious in my space — knowing that projecting an image of success is important if you want people to follow you online.
At some point during this period, I started avoiding FaceTime calls from Jessica (a pseudonym) because I didn’t want to give her a window into how overwhelmed I was. We’d met on the conference circuit and maintained our friendship largely online, and I didn’t want her to feel the palpability of my depression or glimpse the clues about the real me I neglected to share on my social feeds.
If I did answer, I’d strategically position my phone camera so that she couldn’t see the depressing clutter of my bedroom — the floor littered with toys, folded clothes I’d yet to put away, books, papers, and half-full coffee cups.
How could she still want to be my friend if she saw how I lived IRL? This supposedly brilliant expert helping position other experts was drowning in the daily tasks of motherhood and disappointed in the less-than-postable state of her day-to-day life.
When it came time to package my daily experience into a neatly cropped square photo to proclaim to the world “I’m OK! I’m doing great, actually. Perfect. Better than ever,” I rarely had the functioning brain cells — let alone the 20 minutes — to stage, take and filter the picture and write its thought-provoking, always introspective caption.
What was I going to post about anyway? How I’d dropped my crying daughter off for her first day at day care but was too exhausted to turn back or feel anything remotely close to guilt for leaving her there? How I was unglamorously and unsuccessfully troubleshooting the smell of mildew coming from the basement?
But I was still uncomfortable with the idea of ramping down my online presence. I had encouraged everyone else to “put themselves out there” like I did on social media, and now I was sneaking out the back door? I’d feel like a failure or a fraud.
That was until I saw the Black girl exodus.
First, I started to notice that all the Black girls I knew mostly online but not IRL — the ones who’d come up around the same time as me on social media — were giving up the chase. They were taking sabbaticals, doing social media detoxes, stepping away from the ’gram for a month or more, and posting farewell messages à la see ya when I see ya. One woman, who used to be a marketing consultant like me, shared that she was putting her money into real estate investments so she wouldn’t have to show up online at all anymore.
Maybe it was the racial reckoning that began in 2020. Maybe it was all the calls from Instagram’s @thenapministry to reclaim rest or the calls to “frolic,” as my girl Cici would say. But I can’t count how many Black women have quietly faded away from the online spotlight with or without explanation.
Then, in her 2021 Emmy acceptance speech, writer and actor Michaela Coel said: “Visibility these days seems to somehow equate to success. Do not be afraid to disappear — from it, from us — for a while, and see what comes to you in the silence.”
Those words felt like a message from the heavens.
I saw that quote reposted hundreds of times in the 48 hours after the speech, as Black women echoed Coel’s sentiment about stepping back from the limelight of social media and going within to protect their peace.
I found myself just wanting time alone ― in person, online, everywhere. Truth be told, I was tired of the constant hunt for relevance, the thirst that seemed both desperate and demeaning. My sense of failure dissolved, and I felt an odd something akin to freedom.
Basically, I’m giving up anything and everything (except the kids) that exhausts me. And it’s not just me. Black women and rest are having a moment. We are overdoing too much and doing more than what serves us. We help everyone be great — our jobs, our partners, our families back home. We take care of everyone.
Ever heard of “Black girl magic”? Well, it’s real. And more and more of us are coming to the conclusion that social media can’t be one more place where we’re giving it all away.
We’re tired of being so damn helpful — for free. Want my ideas, creativity and strategies? Pay me. Yeah, it’s social. But it’s also work. We work enough. We deserve a break.
There is so much angst ― especially for Black women of my generation — about making the most of your opportunities when they knock. It can be hard to ignore the nagging feeling that we can’t take our collective foot off the gas. At least for me and my line of work, social media has been the gas pedal for a long time.
For Black women, life is not always as forgiving. You feel like you can’t stop maximizing your potential and promoting yourself or else you’ll be forgotten and slide into irrelevance.
But as we age out of our 20s and 30s, we feel ourselves to be in our prime yet are wise enough to know that some of our best years are behind us. So with the wisdom of experience, we’re working instead to maximize other things — our professional networks, relative youth, a good hair day, 15 minutes of caffeine-fueled effervescence ― and strike before those proverbial irons cool.
I think about how I used to require myself daily to impart some bit of wisdom or key insight online, whether or not I had it to give. But these days, when I’m going through my own shit, I acknowledge that I just don’t have it. The tank is empty.
So many Black women I know are saying the tank has been on E. We’re reframing how we package ourselves through incessant content, present the perfect image and feed the algorithm.
So for now at least, I have abandoned my old personal-brand ethos that said “post post post.” I used to get anxiety if I hadn’t made my post for the day. Now, weeks may pass before I realize I haven’t shared any new snippets of my life.
Rather than share post after post online, I started meeting old colleagues for lunch, spending more time with my IRL friends and enjoying my kids while I still have them. I’m going with the flow and giving myself the grace to stay quiet when I want to.
I used to think going off the grid would be the shortest road to the poorhouse, but my business hasn’t suffered from my social media slowdown. In fact, my more analog, high-touch approach to marketing has helped me land clients that my Instagram feed didn’t.
One of my friends since childhood has always had an extremely limited social media presence. I’ll admit that in the past I’ve encouraged her to “put herself out there” a bit more, but she has always resisted.
“You’re not going to be voyeuristic in my life,” she explained to me over the phone one day. She went on to say that she loves the fact that people can’t simply go on one of her pages to see her inner world. In her opinion, you have to pay the relational price for that level of intimacy.
I’m beginning to see what she means. These days, what I get from staying private is far more valuable than the attention I used to receive.
I’m no longer hellbent on giving myself away at the drop of a like.