I have had Facebook for seven years now, since I was in the 10th grade. When I first joined, my friends had maybe a couple hundred friends – 300 was already considered too much. Likes were almost non-significant. There were no comments to be made on wall posts, you replied by posting on the other person’s wall. There were no fears of employers tracking us down and checking our social media profiles so we posted everything we liked – embarassing photos, inside jokes, photos where we probably didn’t even look good – and never deleted them. Of course, those were more innocent times, given my age at the time and all. But I always felt free to post whatever I wanted to. I didn’t worry about posting a link to a song and not getting any likes, or changing a profile picture and getting no comments, having my wall clean of new posts for a few days, weeks.
Today, my attitude towards Facebook is very different. Not because of how much Facebook has changed (and quite frankly, improved) over the last seven years, but because of how much I have changed. My fear is not of possible employers who might see into my private life – I thankfully know my way quite well around the Privacy Settings that keep changing. My fear is that of exposure.
For someone whose self-esteem has been on the low for a few years, interacting on Facebook is one of the most difficult things I do on a daily basis. Every time I like something, I am afraid that other people may think I am ridiculous for it because maybe I don’t know them that well so why am I liking their Youtube link? Or I haven’t talked to them in ages so why am I commenting their profile picture? Every time I post something I am afraid that others won’t validate my post by filling it with likes or comments or shares. In my worst days, I creep on other people’s profiles and envy how many friends they have (even though it was my personal choice a few months ago to delete about 300 people), or how many likes their photo albums have, or how many wall posts they have, etc.
It’s a silly thing, I know. But I can’t help it because my attitude on Facebook is a perfect mirror of my attitude in face-to-face social situations. I envy people who can handle a busy social life. I wish I could have the courage to congratulate a classmate on a job well done. Or to be able to joyfully and carelessly say “Hello! How are you?” to an acquaintance when I run into one at the mall or at the coffee shop. Or to compliment a friend. Or to feel well enough with myself that I want to express my true opinion, thoughts, preferences, when asked (or otherwise).
I am still trying to figure out how and why I became so worried about others’ opinions and approval that I forgot about the importance of my own. Until then, I will keep posting things on Facebook, liking that profile picture of an old friend, sharing a Youtube link from my classmate’s profile. Maybe that will help me gain the courage to start doing those things in the entirety of my social life.