Social media can make you feel unpopular

Girl all alone on playground swingThis is a truth I don’t mind acknowledging as an adult – I was not the most popular kid in the school playground. I was never a cheerleader; I wasn’t ever invited to the coolest parties; I didn’t have a boyfriend who would sneak notes to me in class; and I was terrible at all sports that required hand/eye coordination. When you are terrible at physical education in the United States – to the point where you are the last kid picked for someone’s softball team – you are effectively an outcast.

I had mostly forgotten about the angst-ridden experience that was high school – but then along came social media, and I started to have a few uncomfortable flashbacks. I initially resisted the 21st-century collective fun that is social media because I didn’t understand what good could come of tweeting what you had for breakfast. I stubbornly stuck to my old-fashioned principles until I left my job, and I realized that I might finally need to get involved with the art of being sociable online for the sake of my career.

Having worked for a major broadcaster, in a vaguely creative field, I started trawling job descriptions looking for my next career move, and I noticed that employers invariably wanted someone with a twitter profile (and lots of followers), someone who blogged regularly, someone who understood Facebook as a marketing tool. The list goes on.

I needed to up my game, and fast. I joined LinkedIn, started a blog and then got the twitter profile. I’ve so far resisted Facebook. The more I look for a job, though, the more I start to think that social media is like revisiting the torture of high school. You want to be popular, you want to be seen as hip and fun, but it all feels a bit artificial and forced. It’s like showing up to the school dance without a date – you are meant to be having the time of your life but the experience turns out to be stressful.

Social media, as far as I see it, seems to be built on the psychological premise that everyone craves as many friends as possible and those who don’t have them might as well be losers. I fear employers might fall for this faulty line of thinking, as demonstrated by LinkedIn. I go to the website daily, check my profile and look at updates – I think I’m getting addicted, which is probably what the website’s architects wanted.

One of the first things I notice is how many connections a person has. If you are in the 500+ range you are the high school jock – everyone wants to date you, maybe everyone wants to offer you a job. Anyone with 200+ is doing pretty well too – they are like the cool kids who run for the student body and don’t humiliate themselves in the process. I am hovering well below 100 contacts, which I kind of feel puts me in danger territory in terms of perception: I am playing tuba in the school band and hanging out with the geeks (who go on to design LinkedIn, to their credit). I obsess about adding more people. Do I contact people I haven’t seen in years and who I’ve barely spoken to ever, all for the sake of appearance?

Then there’s twitter, built on followers. I had seven followers when I last looked. There are probably domestic cats with more followers than me. You can’t help but feel like you need to get out more, or you need to start tweeting complete lies to make you sound more interesting.

The latest edition of Newsweek carries this statistic: 67% of women with a social networking profile have deleted friends; 58% of men have. So, if you’re already feeling a bit unpopular in the digital world, things could get worse: people might start deleting you from their accounts or blocking you from seeing their Facebook page.

I’ll tell you what might make me sound terribly unpopular: I find social media a bit of a chore. Call me a geek or a refusenik. If you want to make friends with me, you’ll find me sitting at the school cafeteria (and I’ll probably be sitting alone).

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14 Comments

Filed under Job search, Media, Uncategorized

14 responses to “Social media can make you feel unpopular

  1. April

    LOL Carla!!! You’re right on the money my friend!!! It’s so true especially about facebook. I love it but it really can be a chore sometimes and even if you have 200+ friends it’s stressful. Then you have to keep up because you don’t want to lose the friends you have. When you do it makes you feel like a loser, at least in my case it does. It’s as bad as high school but yet I’m addicted to it though I try not to post my whole life story on it anymore. I think that was turning people off. That and the number of songs I post on there;) Great post!

  2. Really enjoyed this and laughed aloud at the image of you as a tuba player. I agree for writers especially, much of the new media we feel obligated to keep current with is completely contrary to our solitary natures and the reasons we became writers in the first place. (Who knew you tweeted? You should put it on your blog so people who find your blog can check out your twitter feed. I saw a documentary about the NYT, and the younger reporters said news broke on twitter first, and then it gets picked up by the big papers/wires.)

    I don’t really go on FB very much. I lose my momentum with blogging every few weeks, but then feel guilty that I started it to get the experience down in some way, so I have to post. My attention span is so splintered already and social media fractures it more. FB makes me feel obligated to people who aren’t actually my friends–an enormous time suck. I think if I had an office job I might appreciate the distraction more. But all other social media things (myspace, Friendster) fatigued previously, and they weren’t *that* different from FB, so I wonder if people will eventually fatigue on it, too.

    • I do feel like social media is a bit of an obligation. I really don’t tweet that much. Mainly, the only tweets that go out are the updates to the blog. It’s not as if I’m in the cut and thrust of news reporting and have stuff to tweet that will actually get picked up. News can definitely break on there, and if you are a journalist nowadays you will be checking it regularly and following people. I’m not really in that realm. The most interesting thing I did today is remove a huge splinter from Anna’s finger. Pretty satisfying.

    • Cali

      Erin – So glad you wrote this. I can relate. I am an artist/writer of sorts myself and find the content on Facebook to be mostly newsy to the edges of totally banal and pointless. There have been times when I’ve indulged in it myself, and now lately, I am totally sick of it and feel like an outsider. As someone somewhere said, it made them feel like they were in a room where other people were talking and they weren’t really in on the conversation – except you are.

      As well, and as an artist, Facebook has exposed me to a few people I wish I had not met really – or it re-exposed me to people from my past and I ended up sorry I re-engaged with them in real life. Basically, it gave too many people too much access to me. As a solitary person who thinks a lot and feels a lot (picks up on a lot as well,) I found Facebook to be too problematic for me. It put too many people in my mind that were not there in real life to start with.

      I also have a “fractured attention span” and I found it very distracting and obligating in certain ways. Now that I have not posted a thing for almost a month, I feel kind of like an outsider, but I know if I want to focus more on my own creative endeavors, this is the way to go – no real activity on Facebook, except maybe to post my art here and there. Maybe for writers and artists, it is best to have a specific page – like a showcase or business page where you only express yourself creatively and with a certain intent. But there are probably better sites for that even.

      By now, the news is beginning to report on Facebook fatigue, so I do think that many people will get burned out on it. Younger people already are, as is being reported. You can do a google search on the term for kicks. I think the “sensitives” will ditch it long before the die-hards get the message that what it is doing to their lives in some way is not always positive towards their longer-term goals in many areas.

  3. Good post, couldn’t agree more – this article on the Guardian probably sums us up, well me anyway!
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/mar/13/why-the-world-needs-introverts

    • Thanks for sharing the article. I really enjoyed reading it. It’s safe to say I’m more of an introvert.

    • Cali

      I am going to get the book, The Power Of Introverts. It’s made the #1 best seller list on Amazon (maybe more places) for interpersonal relations titles. Yes, I’m more of an introvert to reflects more on life than participates in it. Can’t wait to read the book as honestly, Facebook makes me feel like there may be something wrong with me at times.

  4. Frederique

    This was fun to read and so true! I have a facebook account which i used to keep in touch with people that i never see, people with who I would have lost touch a long time ago. I am glad I have the possibility to do that but sometimes I do think it is a little bit creepy to have friends I barely know! or barely care about! so I try to keep them to a minimum, I don’t care about the numbers of friends I have on facebook. I have never had many in the real life anyway so why kid myself? but you are right, I have sometimes thought that it does not look very good to have only a few. People might think I am not so interesting after all…but whatever, I barely use facebook nowadays. I can not see the point of telling everyone what I have for breakfast everyday especially since i have the same thing every morning: marmite on toast.
    But when something special has happened or I feel very strongly about something then It is fun to get it out there and to know that it reaches people I would not normally share that with. What annoys me most is those who play games like What does the moon think about you? and when you get updates on your wall telling about their scores etc… what is the point?
    It fills up my wall and It makes it harder for me to see the few interesting comments I really look for. Anyway, all in all I still like facebook for now.

  5. Frederique

    forgot to mention that I would rather spent an hour with you drinking coffee than an hour on facebook!

    • Definitely – me too. I think, if things keep going this way, people will lose the art of being able to sit and contemplate things without being interrupted constantly by beeping machines. I’d love to have an hour to sit and just catch up with a friend. We will hopefully have that coffee someday.

      • Cali

        Yes! Exactly. I see it so much and it’s a real bummer in a way – totally ruins the chances of even seeking a more contemplative life as a practice for some who might really benefit from that. That is where I am right now after many hard times in life and facebook just cheapens the whole endeavor so I stay off of it now.

  6. Vivian

    Love this post C. Social media IS very difficult to keep up with and I wonder if it’s because I’m just too old to have learned how to use it properly or if I am just “above the fray” (I prefer to think the latter). I don’t go on Linked In unless it is to view the odd e-mail or connection request and I suspect that as a result I have far below the 100 contacts you mention (in fact I have no idea about my connections and now I want to check!). They say that when you see someone sprucing up their profile and connection numbers they are definitely looking for a new job. I’m sure that’ll be me someday in the future! On Facebook, I never went on the friend request binge that everyone else did in the beginning years and decided that unless I really was FRIENDS with someone, I would not send a friend request. On the other side, I obviously did not get thousands of requests sent to me either as I have a paltry number of friends as far as Facebook numbers go! I should be appalled that I don’t get the frenzy of “likes” and “comments” when I post something the way everyone else seems to every time they write about sneezing and sometimes I simply post something just to feel like I’m keeping up in some weird way. And birthdays? Well that’s probably the single most obvious sign of my insignificance on Facebook! I have noticed that people get a torrent of birthday well wishes on their big day. I get a few at best and it certainly doesn’t seem to help that my birthday falls on a holiday weekend where Americans are too full and hungover to care about even Facebook. But you know what? My unpopularity makes me really appreciate the people who do keep in touch with me over Facebook. I actually think that these people are in fact, friends!

  7. SexyConfidentWoman

    YEAH AND THIS WAS ONE OF THE REASONS WHY I WAS SO SLOW TO MAKE A FACEBOOK ACCOUNT TO BEGIN WITH I KNEW THIS WOULD HAPPEN!
    I think if you have less friends on facebook you just need to be patient because to make a success on facebook is going to take time to master so don’t be disheartened you will eventually get much better at facebook just keep on trying and then you can transfer what you have learnt to twitter.
    I noticed that those you have lots of friends on facebook end with lots on twitter too.

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