A couple of weeks ago, I read an article in the New York Times about a 96 year old woman, Sylvia Bloom, who died with a small fortune in the bank, most of which she donated to a charity in New York City providing educational opportunities to underprivileged kids.
First: Slow clap for the badassery it took Sylvia to toil away at the same job at a law firm for 67 years while quietly investing her money in super smart (and obviously lucrative) ways.
And even slower clap for the way she lived comfortably but below her means in order to save her earnings and make such a charitable donation possible.
There are various things about this story that strike me, including, how many times she must have had to teach herself a variety of new skills over that 67-year period, as technology advanced rapidly and the means of communication in business evolved at an exponential rate during those six plus decades of work.
What struck me the most, however, is the way she accumulated her wealth without anyone knowing she had. Even her husband had no idea how much money she had saved over the years they were together.
Whaaaat? I know. Amazing.
We live in a time when putting your life on display on the internet is kind of the norm.
Which: Fine. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that.
But: What are we missing out on by putting everything on social media and how does doing so affect our ability to be present to our experiences as they’re happening?
And also: Do our good deeds and accomplishments and healthy breakfasts and workouts still count if no one is there to “like” them or to comment on them immediately after we’ve plastered them all over our Facebook page?
There’s a scramble these days to amass “followers.” But what does that really accomplish? And what kind of power are we giving away if our sense of self-worth or our feelings of satisfaction about our lives or our understanding of success is dependent upon how many people are paying attention to what we choose to post on any number of social media platforms?
These are questions I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. Because it is easy to get sucked into the world of Instagram and Facebook and feel like there is something to be found there that could possibly validate your worth or work in this world.
As a business owner/self-employed person this pressure to grow as big an online following as possible can feel even more relentless.
But here’s the thing: A gaggle of online followers does not equal success. Not even close.
Looking at folks on Instagram with many thousands of followers might convince you all of these people are making ridiculous amounts of money and living extravagant lives. And you know what? Probably some of them are.
The reality is, however, that many of them probably aren’t living the kind of life you imagine they might be living. And there are plenty of folks with no social media presence at all doing quite well for themselves financially and otherwise. Making a quiet living like Sylvia Bloom.
Maybe even amassing a secret fortune to one day be donated to charity.
I dunno, y’all. I don’t have answers. And I’ll fully admit that I like the dopamine hit I get every time sometime “likes” or comments on something I post to my Instagram account.
Plus, I’d really like to make a bigger impact in this world and social media can be a great tool for making that happen. The way people I admire, like Glennon Doyle, have been able to leverage their Instagram and Facebook audiences to raise incredible amounts of money and resources in the wake of various natural disasters and to provide continual support to a variety of communities in need.
Now that is how you use social media positively.
Can I tell you a secret dream I have?
I would love the chance to support other women in business in by contributing to and/or partnering with organizations already doing great work to this end. Organizations like Investments for Developing Communities, which provides micro loans, business mentorship, educational sponsorships, and family planning resources to women around the world.
Yep. And I know social media can be a useful, effective platform for making this happen, for rallying folks together to do more than we could ever do on our own.
But what’s also okay is making a quiet but important impact in your local community. Secretly saving a fortune behind the scenes and then leaving it to charity, shocking the hell out of even those who were closest to you in your life.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this: Don’t buy into the idea that your work only matters if you have eighty thousand followers on Instagram. Or that you can only make an important contribution to this world through the channels of social media. And don’t rely on these ever-changing platforms to determine your sense of self-worth, your ideas about success, your income, or your belief about what’s possible.
Because Mark Fucking Zuckerberg will keep changing the algorithm. Forever and ever. Until Facebook is dead (a girl can hope, right?).
And real life is what happens when you’re not online.
Personally, I’d like to see more community building that doesn’t require an internet connection to flourish.
Is this a pipe dream? Maybe. But I’m not willing to give up hope that it’s possible.
Happy Friday, y’all. Go hug your people this weekend. Turn off your phone and be present with those you love. The online world will be there when you get back. Guaranteed.