I created BGLH Marketplace in November 2014 and operate it with the help of 3 part-time assistants. I am also a recently divorced single/co-parenting mom to three little ones. In my former life I created a top-ranked hair and beauty sites for black women called Black Girl with Long Hair. In February 2018 I shut BGLH down to focus entirely on BGLH Marketplace. This series is a look at life, motherhood and growing an indie beauty brand.
I am where I am professionally because of social media. At 23 I was just a girl with an idea. 9 years later my blog was one of the top-ranked beauty sites in the country. Social media is where I found my audience and where my concept spread.
During those years I lived a shut-in life. I spent birthdays, weekends and vacations editing and writing content, rationalizing it was because I had to keep up the momentum of my high traffic blog. Looking back I can see now that that isolation was self-inflicted. I craved the workplace camaraderie I’d lost when I quit my 9 to 5 to pursue blogging full time.
On some subconscious level I figured I could replicate my professional social media success in my personal life. And I began ‘sourcing besties’ on Facebook. It was the worst brand of co-dependency: they were impressed by me and my blog and wanted to be associated, I craved the attention. Likes and comments eventually became daily conversations in Facebook Messenger covering everything from marriage to finance to sex.
What I’ve found is that the flip side to keyboard thuggery — the propensity to say things in a comment box you would never say to someone’s face — is keyboard oversharing, the propensity to reveal deeply personal things to people you hardly know.
The friendships never lasted. Inevitably a line would be crossed, a message misunderstood, accusations would fly and, because ending a Facebook friendship is as simple as hitting the ‘block’ button, it would quickly be over.
The last time I lost a ‘Facebook bestie’ most shocking. At this point I was in my 30s and self-aware enough to know that making friends via Facebook messenger wasn’t the greatest idea. Still, I reasoned that she was an exception because I had learned from my past digital relationships and knew better how to pick friends. Yeh, no.
After about a year a minor argument turned into mud slinging. I blocked her and uninstalled the Facebook Messenger app from my phone. I knew this cycle had to be over.
Facebook has made headlines recently for the collective recognition that its pattern of engagement is incredibly unhealthy. One former Facebook VP compared it to dopamine. It’s affirmation and validation at the click of a moust. The lure of constant positive feedback keep people coming back to social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr.
The thing is, relationships don’t really develop that fast in the real world.
After ending things with my last Facebook bestie I found myself in a position I hadn’t been in for years — having to make friends in the real world.
I texted some of the moms at my kids’ schools and invited them to drinks. I finally hung out with a friend of mine who I’d been blowing off for months. Our evening together — at a party on the Lower East Side — was one of the funnest nights I’d had in literal months. One epic Sunday my hair stylist and I randomly decided to hang after she was done doing my hair. We went home, changed clothes and hit the town, hitting up different Bed Stuy bars as we talked about life and love.
On days that I didn’t have someone to hang with, I resisted the urge to hop online and learned the value of embracing time alone. I ventured out into the city myself, performing at open mics, taking walks through my neighborhood and checking out local bookstores. Slowly but surely I began returning the concept of friendship and exploration off of social media and back into real life.
I managed to coalesce hundreds of thousands of women on social media behind the idea of celebrating black beauty and natural hair, but I was not able to make one lasting personal friendship.
I think the lesson I have learned is that true friendship takes time — and requires way more than a comment box.
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