Is it just me, or is does Facebook sometimes bring out the worst in you? (ditto for Twitter, Instagram etc...fill in the social media platform where you have the strongest love/hate relationship; I'm going to use Facebook for this post).
Before I get started, let me admit that Facebook can bring out the best too. Helpful tips, birthday greetings, advice and nice comments on photos are a regular part of my Facebook experience, and of yours too, I hope.
But. There is the dark side. And no, I'm not talking about the political/religious arguments you can find yourself drawn into or witness your friends participating in. That is too obvious. What gets me is, first: the people with 1,439 friends. WHERE DID THEY FIND SO MANY "FRIENDS?" WHO EVEN KNOWS THAT MANY PEOPLE? And if it is possible to know that many people, why don't I know even a quarter of that number? Do I live under a rock? I'll answer that for you: Apparently, yes.
So there are those uber-popular folks on Facebook. They are the first problem. It is possible to feel inferior and resentful just looking at the number of friends they have. But it gets worse. By worse, I mean that random person, you know the one, who posts a photo of a pile of folded beige towels and gets 37 Likes. What gives? WHY DO PEOPLE LIKE A PHOTO OF BEIGE TOWELS? If I tried that, ha! I would be lucky to get one Like and it would probably come from my mother.
To some extent, I know, the number of Likes a given person gets is a numbers game. If Miss Beige Towel Photo has 1,000+ "friends" then 37 really isn't such a huge percentage. But sometimes this remarkably popular person has an average number of friends (whatever that is; I figure average is within 50, give or take, of what I have. You probably figure it the same way. Which means it is an entirely subjective and ridiculous figure, right?!).
I find myself staring at the photo, wondering what is so magical about this person or this photo. Is it the witty caption? I review it. It says something basic like "Finally folded the towels!" That can't be it. I am mystified. If they get comments, I am beside myself. COMMENTS? ON BEIGE TOWELS? WTF, PEOPLE, WTF? I put up a MUCH BETTER, not to mention WITTIER update just a few hours ago and despite my frenetic checking (and prayers), the number of Likes has not risen past 4.
4 vs 37, c'mon! What is going on here?!
I never feel more middle school-ish than when I am sucked into this vortex of low self-esteem and comparison thanks to social media. You'd think I'd have some sense and take a break from Facebook at this point, right? That's what you would do, I bet. Well, you are obviously a much smarter and more mature person and have much better self-control than I do, because I just keep on scrolling down my newsfeed, looking for more punishment.
As I scroll, I start to get even pettier. I see a cool photo posted by my Facebook Friend Danielle and get ready to Like it but then I realize "She hasn't Liked anything of mine in like, forever. In fact, I don't think she has ever, ever Liked anything at all on my page, let alone commented. Screw her! I'm not going to Like her stuff either, no matter how cool it is!" I'm some friend, huh? Yes, it's at moments like this that I feel like a real jerk. But yet I keep on scrolling, watching a video here, Liking a status update there, maybe even commenting to a couple of posts (if the poster has met my definition of Facebook reciprocity, that is).
A few moments later it occurs to me that I haven't seen anything on my feed from my buddy Felix in a long time. What gives? Is Felix OK? Is he still on Facebook? Or has the worst occurred? No, I don't mean his demise. I search for his name and his page, or rather a bare outline of it, pops up. I am informed that "To see what he shares with friends, send him a friend request."
FELIX HAS UNFRIENDED ME. This is it: THE WORST. I have been dissed and dismissed and to add to the insult, he originally sought out and friended me!! Again I am all WTF?? Did I accidentally offend him? Do I post too many cat videos? Too many photos of my kids? Why did he Friend me, only to Unfriend me a year later?
I try to rationalize: it took me a good three months or maybe more to notice Felix's disappearance from my online life, so it's not as if he was a huge part of it. But still my inner voice whines, but still, it's not FAIR! Why did he Unfriend me? Why does anyone Unfriend me? Am I not a fun, popular, cool kid, I mean adult? Again, I will spare you the need to answer this: Apparently not. Or at least not in Felix's view. Or maybe he was just doing some Facebook housecleaning and tidying up his Friend list. I get that; I've done it a few times myself. Nothing personal, but I have Unfriended a few people over the years. In fact, I tell myself, I'm long overdue for a little purging myself and so I hit my Friends list. Ten minutes later, I have culled a few names: people whom I barely remember, a few who merely lurk, the usual suspects.
Sitting back, feeling satisfied, I glance at my Friends number. DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN, now my number is farther away than ever from a being a high number, a cool person number, a number that indicates that I am even a little bit popular! What was I thinking? Can I get those Friends back? Can I Friend some random strangers so that I don't look like an even bigger loser than I did before my impetuous and ill-advised purging session?
Speaking of random strangers, you don't mind if I Friend you, do you? I mean, you've read this post now, and so we are practically BFFs, right? And I really need to get my numbers back up!