Hi, I’m Freckle, 28 years old and I can still get very seriously sad when people online — especially on so-called social media — ignore me. And it embarrasses me incredibly.
I mean, I think it has been established that fear of missing out is more than angst-filled teenagers complaining how they haven’t gotten a reply on Facebook chat in less than five minutes. It has been established that the continued load of information about the amazing life of others can hurt people.
But, I want to protest. But — I am a normal person. I have offline friends, I go to the cinema and the restaurant and I drink cocktails until I’m giggly. The cocktail bar crew even recognizes me! I am not a sad person that can only find like-minded people online, I’m normal. I’m normal! I’m hyperbolizing here, remember that. Both on the normal part and what we consider normal.
So why do I turn into Peter (of the Wolf), yelling louder and louder for attention when people in communities/on Twitter ignore me? Why can’t I take a step back, say, “Oh, these strangers” and go to bed without a headache about what kind of unloved social failure I am? And why do I still feel like that such emotions don’t count, because it’s “just” the internet?
I can come up with a few reasons why. Even though we’re acting tough, online communication is a super normal part of our daily life, online friendships, loves and discussions are still viewed in a vacuum. I mean, as long as magazines still make articles like “You Really Can Find Love Online”/”I Was Catfished Through Pinterest,” internet relationships will be viewed as less than normal. It also feels a bit childish: “Why are you so grumpy?” “People aren’t replying to my tweets.” But speaking out about it to the people involved might be even worse. Because rationally, you know that they’re busy. That they might felt awkward replying to something of yours. That they want to, but don’t know how.
Of course, completely cold turkey quitting all things social media might help me. (It wouldn’t. I would be wondering if I was missed and if I wouldn’t be missed enough, I’d just get sad frustrated all over again). Reading Dave Eggers’ The Circle gave me some much needed perspective. No one should be plugged in all the time. That I don’t get a reaction or a direct reaction, doesn’t mean that I have suddenly turned invisible (doesn’t it always come back to being validated by the other?), that I am suddenly hated and/or ignored. And, to admit to some hypocrisy, I sometimes ignore notifications. I like diving into a book or movie without live tweeting it.
Most importantly, I guess I have to remember that I don’t break out into a stress headache when offline friends don’t text me for a day (or two, or three), so why do so about the online ones being absent?
So let’s end the headaches and the worry about feeling left out by those that “count less” (they count for me, who cares about other opinions). It is a resolution I will try to live by with a stumble and a fall; because it’s easier to say how you’re going to better your life when feeling great instead of incredibly small and vulnerable. But I’m going to try.