Finding Meaning in Social Media?

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I don’t remember when I stopped caring about social media and the meaningless numbers for likes and followers. I’m still blogging as I used to since 17 years ago?!

It took me a long time, but I finally found peace with work and no longer struggle with the social media façade. I have moved into more strategic work rather than focus on content – so many do it better. And I am letting go of my anxieties to do more and more.

I much rather enjoy the moment,  than worry about how to capture it perfectly to build social equity. I read with horror a friend’s Facebook status update on how people  who went to the Yayoi Kusama exhibit for the sole purpose of taking Instagram photos, none of them even spent a second LOOKING at the artwork itself. It was a snap and go relay for more social brag. Sigh.

So many Singaporeans seem to have become art aficionados over night. Thanks Wikipedia! :)


Social Media is a double edged sword.

I was an early adopter of all the social channels being at the cusp of the turning point where beautiful websites made way for social platforms. It was fun figuring out how it worked, devising strategies etc, but it’s reached such a point of saturation and shallow narcissism, I find it difficult and meaningless to keep up with the next new app or filter.

I remember fondly the days of putting down ideas with pen and paper (I still do), and travel adventures included carrying the heavy Lonely Planet and Rough Guides everywhere and STILL manage to travel light!

I’ve taken a new direction with work – more mentoring, more writing and more strategic consult, less “social media”. Afterall, everyone is a specialist in social media these days. It’s the buzz word that sells courses, alongside hiring adverts everywhere.

Every other person I know is getting into “start up” life and starting a digital agency with little clue, while simultaneously perfecting their Instagram. No judgement here. Whatever floats their boat and makes them happy!

The over 20K followers I have were from being featured on Instagram over two years ago (it has been on a constant downslide from over 30K), I don’t see rationale in buying likes and fans, there is no qualifiable conversions, apart from placating your own ego. It’s just numbers!

Although, I do see how these benefits and conversions will work for fast fashion and cafes to a certain extent. But then the next Instagramable café comes along, so there is little longevity or loyalty to brands and products these days.

Businesses have all taken their content on social platforms, otherwise they get left behind. However, often times it lacks depth and strategy. With technology, it’s hard to take poor photos these days, especially when there are good filters, apps and settings for a good mise en scene – which most hipster cafés are designed for – Instagram photos.

Does that increase revenue? Everyone’s dream job seems to be an “influencer” or “digital specialist” these days. A lifetime of freebies and perfect photos don’t pay the bills?

A friend of mine was just complaining about her younger sister who recently quit her job after a year in the workforce and is working hard on becoming an influencer…to travel the world for free. The problem is she is still living off her parents, has no savings and can’t even pay her mobile phone bills. There is much celebrity envy of beautiful holidays and endless freebies, but I certainly don’t aspire to that sort of life.

Our other friend put it bluntly “I never thought their lives were glamourous. If you are a celebrity or actor in Singapore, it’s a miserable existence. You have to keep networking shamelessly on your own unpaid time to make sure you keep getting gigs. The ones who live fairly comfortably have retainer gigs with state own media, doing roles in propaganda films. All of them beg hard for sponsorships and endorsements to keep their day to day life going. Or weekend gigs doing public hosting for events. Time stolen from yourself and your family.”

I largely agree, but not entirely as I admire the tenacity and talent of many of our local theatre practitioners who are so true to their passion and craft and don’t compromise for a corporate job for a higher salary. Some of them come from privileged backgrounds and others rely on the generosity of a high earning spouse. Yet, I know of several successful artiste couples who make it work, taking so much pride in their work, and living a full life within their means.

On my sabbatical back in Singapore, I am mortified by the amount of freeloading and invitations that go on in the hospitality industry. It’s a two way street, PR professionals no longer qualify bloggers. So you get “foodies” who can’t tell prosecco from champagne or lobster from crab… I rest my case.

It is difficult as a writer in this day and age of the free economy. I have to admit that I am still struggling to make this a livelihood. It’s a tedious process managing expectations, and then going in circles that push you into unnecessary self justification.

I am grateful that I get to rely on other means like consulting and copywriting. (And a super supportive spouse) In addition to avoiding awkward situations, I get to keep my dignity, rather than feel bitter about not getting a free handout.

photo: Grey Malin

photo: Grey Malin

Oh well, that all comes with the advent of the internet. Social Media is really one big reality show with different channels. You can see people sharing videos of their birth, accidents and death, or cancer patients documenting in real time their full treatment process. It’s one big scary place where privacy has lost its place.

I suppose the “reality shows” now act in place of forums for people to connect and get support. Much as I struggle with the authenticity of social media, it still connects people in positive ways. (More than a handful of friends with happy Tinder marriages!) and of course the ability to share groundbreaking news in real time and speed up the process for emergency aid.

Therein lies the irony of me sharing an old photo of a sunset while thinking about enjoying it in the moment!Therein lies the irony of me sharing an old photo of a sunset while thinking about enjoying it in the moment!

These days, I am actively trying not to be a hypocrite. When was the last time I actually just sat quietly, mindfully appreciating a sunset, without having to take a photo, to caption and label it?

I am offline more often these days as I no longer have the Facebook app on my phone and log in about once a week.

Also, I am constantly reminding myself to be in the moment, being fully present. 

The world is such a beautiful place and vivid memories live on, unlike perfectly polished Instagram photos you likely won’t remember on your death bed, because you were too busy perfecting the photos, rather than enjoying yourself.




  1. jodejesus
    Aug 06, 2017 @ 02:57:35


    • bilbaobab
      Aug 06, 2017 @ 13:55:47

      Thanks for taking time to read my post and sharing Tolstoy’s thoughts and meditation on a meaningful love.

      Always love a conversation when we agree to disagree. I found Tolstoy’s point of view similar.. maybe I am missing something.

      He puts it aptly in his conclusion “I understood that if I wish to understand life and its meaning, I must not live the life of a parasite, but must live a real life, and — taking the meaning given to live by real humanity and merging myself in that life — verify it.”


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