Truth is, if you ever meet me in person, I am probably not what you expect. People hear social anxiety and they imagine someone who is reserved. But I am actually the opposite. I tend to say the first thing that comes to mind, simply because I am nervous and feel the need to fill any awkward silence so that people don’t start judging every little thing about me. I guess anxiety manifests it self in different ways for everyone.
When I was in middle school there was a new wave of social interactions that had me rather frightened. With new technology and the dawn of the internet, social media became the future. And all the kids at school were constantly talking about the various sites they were on, which mostly consisted of Myspace.
See, I was right after the AIM or AOL trend but right before Facebook took off. My first years of social media were spent on Myspace, where I meticulously picked out who made it to my top friends, followed tons of people (with few following me back), and ranted about my crushes of the time never seeming to notice me. I spent hours trying to make my profile interesting, and trying to make friends. It was exhausting.
These are my first memories of social media. And for a teen who craved being liked by people, because face it we all want to be liked, this was a stressful place where people could treat me the same way they did in school. I was invisible walking the halls, and invisible scrolling through the internet.
In the beginning, I hated social media. It was just another way for kids in school to bully me.
So what has made me have such a dramatic change of heart about this online world?
I guess when I left public high school to start homeschooling, losing touch with the friends I had and the people I cared about became a reality I never expected. We always say we are going to be friends even after school, but after leaving school, I learned it wasn’t as easy as it seemed.
And being someone with social anxiety, it can be hard for me to reach out to people. I have a hard time keeping in touch with people when my depression gets the best of me. Over time I start losing touch with everyone, but my feelings for the people doesn’t disappear. I still care so much for so many people, but I hardly talk to them. At the same time, I want to know they are ok, and know of their struggles.
So I am going to take a minute to break down each social media site I love, and why as well as what I hate.
Facebook is a world of it’s own, and it is a dangerous one. People connect, people stalk, and people can be creepy. We all have our feelings about social media, and especially Facebook. There are so many things I hate about Facebook. I hate the ability to a ton of people in posts, I hate that most of my feed is always about companies trying to sell me things, I hate people finding me using my name. I DON’T THINK KIDS SHOULD BE ON FACEBOOK. It can be a weapon, and there are so many ways to hide posts from parents that they don’t even know of.
But I love it. I spend hours a day scrolling and watching. Because suddenly that kid with social anxiety who has a hard time reaching out to their friends, gets to see what their friends are up to.
I am a nostalgic person. And when memories surface of people who have meant so much to me at some point, I start to wonder what they are up to. A lot of times, I take to my phone and I search them. If I am not already friends with them, I add them. And I spend a few minutes seeing where they are at in their life.
It is calming. I don’t have to get anxious about trying to start a conversation, or fill silence. But I get to know that these people are ok, and happy. And when they need small reminders that people care, I can drop a quick comment.
Twitter is my world away from the world. I get to say things I would never be able to say in real life, out of fear of the people in my real life community, in 140 characters or less.
Instagram, however, is my jam. Call me conceited if you want but I love to take selfies. They are small reminders of how far I have come. As someone who used to struggle to see themselves as being worth anything more than the space they take up, I love being able to share photos and people like them and comment.
My self worth isn’t based on the number of likes I get. But at the same time, it can be a nice pick me up on a rainy day.
The DM feature is scary to me, because it stays filled with pervs and so many young people are on instagram. But at the same time, it’s nice to connect with people of similar interests. I don’t like being able to share location on any social media platform, because that screams “Here I am” to anyone who may want to hurt me. And I don’t recommend it to children.
But it’s nice to be able to control who sees my posts, to some degree, by having a private profile.
I find social media to be a tool for growing and connecting.
Many of you probably already see it this way. But as someone with social anxiety, I often wonder what my life would be like if I didn’t have a screen as a mediator of sorts.
How lonely would I be if I didn’t have the chat heads to look forward to?
Would I build up the confidence to meet new people without my vices getting in the way?
Or is it the perfect tool to get to know someone, build a relationship, and be able to avoid some of those anxieties that freeze me up?