Looking on social media these days, there seems to be a lot of expectations regarding what it means to be a Witch or a Pagan. You have to be this boho Goddess, bitch who takes no prisoners, Anthropologie wearing, crystal and herb collection owning, jack of all trades. The modern, Instagram savy Witch has three rituals a day, constantly is “present,” does a ton of spell work, is the top of their yoga class, meditates for two hours a day, and only buys vegan organic or Whole 30 food.
I am exhausted just writing that.
There have been a lot of studies on the negative effects of social media on modern society. Besides issues of bullying, productivity, and the destruction of privacy, there is increasingly disturbing research on the adverse effects of social media on mental health. People get unreasonable expectations about what their life should look like and creates a depressive cycle. I have noticed this is especially true for Gen Yers and Millennials.
Clearly social media has its benefits, and I think the Pagan community can whole heartedly attest to that. We’re a small, insular group. Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Tumblr have been revolutionary in terms of connecting people to Pagan, Wicca, and Witch communities both locally and digitally. Social media has also allowed so many Pagans to share ideas about Goddess worship, witchcraft, and rituals and to cultivate thriving businesses based on their skills. I know for me, social media has been invaluable in connecting with other Pagans.
With that said, have we ever thought as a community about some of the negative effects the expectations set by social media have had on the Pagan community? When I attend live events, I have noticed at least one or two people come with the expectation that the event or the people are going to be a certain way (usually super Stevie Nicks like and glamorous). But, you know, Pagans are real people. We have landlords and mortgages and families and day jobs. We as a community are not one thing, but one community made up of many very different people. I have spoken to a number of attendees at public Pagan events who are grossly disappointed in the reality that is the Pagan community. Based on those conversations and my own experience of digital Pagan community (outside of the blogosphere), I am making the argument that social media is creating false expectations of what the Pagan community actually is.
At this point, social media is here to stay. So how do we as a community use it to our best advantage? I am strongly advocating complete authenticity and transparency by social media users in the Pagan community. Yes, depending on the broom closet status of the user this can be kind of tricky. But consider this: since Pagans are completely free to live our lives according to our consciouses (as the Charge of the Goddess says we are) then we have the freedom to express who we are and the reality of our lives with utter abandon in whatever way we see fit. We don’t have to pretend our community is more glamorous than it is. We really can show it for what it really is. Will the raw and real pictures get as many likes and shares, probably not. But the “real” posts will put the reality of the Pagan and Witch community out there and help integrate new Witches and Pagans who first encounter us on social media to the kick ass community we actually are. Therefore we use our own brand of magic to use social media for its highest good and to lessen its negative effects on our community.
© Ariadne Woods