Stuck in the Shade Room: On Sisterhood and Social Media

Sunday, September 30th, 2018


Brooklyn, NY

On the C with Meekz. Heading uptown to my granny’s. Suited in my baggy gray sweats, Meekz in her Nike yoga pants. We’re ready to work. Day two of decluttering the space that epitomizes a loss of love, on many levels. Won’t speak of that in this moment.

The only aspect that makes the mentioning of this detail relevant is the fact that the people helping me through this are here because of the level of trust I have for them. I know certain parts of my life are safe with them. As vulnerable as I am with the world on social media, my friends still get way more than I give in blog and Instagram captions. I am grateful. 

Meekz has been one of my closest friends, since before I was able to truly define love, family, or friendship.

Little-known fact: my original groups of friends have never really shown me love via Instagram, for various reasons. I used to take it as cold and unsupportive, but I was never brave enough to question them about it, and I am glad, because over time, I eventually got a very candid answer:  the people who are closest to you in life love you through actions, not comments and likes. They were not neglecting me, they love me ginunely, here and now. 

Flashback to my initial intention:

I have always posted classroom content. In fact, my first post ever was in 2011 in my classroom, writing on the board. In the summer of 2017, I decided to take my Instagram presence seriously, so I cleaned my page and unfollowed everyone who did not directly impact education. This included almost all of my day-one friends. I wanted my page to be a resource for educators. I wanted them to go to my followers for resources, too. I was purposeful and intentional.

The realization:

As a society, we mentally overdose on social media everyday. Research illustrates how this has impacted our interpersonal relationships. In essence, they suck.

We see each other online, we like, we comment, we move on. We don’t even check on one another. We assume everyone is good because they are only posting what looks good.

Not following my friends allows me to maintain the relationships we had before social media became a thing. I am not the teacha’ in their eyes; I am Val.

To be loved in real life—and not just on social media—is refreshing. They love the fullest version of me. They take the time to personally share their accomplishments and experiences with me. It forces us to check in with each other.

I am guilty of saying, “I didn’t know that happened to you!” because I had been basing my assumptions of their well-being off of what I saw on my newsfeed, instead of being present in people’s lives. Now, I feel good as I nurture and cherish my real social life, not the life I portray on social media.

Why I recently unfollowed everyone else:

It’s been a year since I transformed my page and became intentional about the content I share. But only following people I look to as resources had an adverse effect on me. Honestly, I was growing annoyed and withdrawn. Jaded and uncreative. Even when only logging on once a week, I would be immediately turned off. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love and admire so many of the people I was still following, but it became mentally draining when I would scroll down my feed, only seeing ads, not art. A brainwash of reminders of the “problems” that our “pages” are solving. Essentially keeping things alive that we could easily dead by discontinuing to feed it our attention. My professional peers’ work was so loud, I could not hear myself think. I was a sponge. Wanting to post what I saw was trending to keep up. Placing my energy on what others were weary about. I felt like a robot. Void of critical thoughts. I hate to admit it, Instagram had become the sole inspiration for my work. I was not stuck in the sunken place, I was stuck in the shade room! 

You ever analyze your own daily conversations and realize everyone is talking about the same exact thing. Scary. We’ve given mass media permission to keep our minds controlled. 

Double-mindedly, I want no parts of this, but I know my contribution must be shared to help shift the culture. It is the same for my peers. The sharing of our work is critical. But as I curate my gallery to be an archive of my teaching craft and students’ work, I want to do this in social solitude, not for likes and comments but for love-education and societal reform.

Unfollowing everyone was neither personal nor political; it was for peace of mind.

This expose is not to serve as an explanation 

but as permission for others to focus on self 

when doing the work of serving others. 


  1. I loved this! V. Clay I’ve been following for years and this blog for a long time too. You are light sis. Love you.


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