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Social Media Insecurity

By Rosalyn Eves

As I scroll down the latest tweets in my Twitter feed, I have the uncanny sense  I’ve been transported back in time about twenty years. I laugh at clever posts and file away useful links, but I rarely post things. I’m too often paralyzed by the need to be pithy and clever in 140 characters or less.

I’m on Twitter mostly because, as an aspiring author, I’m told it’s useful to have some kind of online presence. And I have to admit there are perks: interesting links, insights into the minds of some of my favorite authors, and–best of all–interaction with some of those same authors. When Dianne Salerni responded to my review of her latest book, The Caged Graves (a lovely young adult historical novel), I rode that high the rest of the day. But then I find myself reading exchanges between published authors and other people I really admire, and it’s hard to escape feeling I’m back in high school, watching the action from the fringes because I’m not quite cool enough, or clever enough, or whatever enough.  So instead I observe, trying to figure out what’s cool, what’s not, and–most paralyzing of all, for me–what version of myself is most acceptable in this forum.

This social insecurity is a lowering sensation–something I’d hoped to leave behind with my teenage acne. (Which, even more depressingly, I *still* haven’t left behind. Maybe that’s part of the reason the insecurity persists.) And it’s not something that’s entirely confined to Twitter, although I do feel more sure of myself on Facebook, if only because the majority of my “friends” are people I know in real life.  And I can’t really speak to other social media sites–I have LinkedIn and Pinterest accounts, but I haven’t used them in so long that I no longer remember my user name or my password.

Part of the anxiety, I think, is built into the nature of social media. Because these sites are social, because they rely on interactive networks, they’re often an exercise in ethos–the character we create for public consumption. For people with larger than life personalities or a vivid writing voice, this is great. For people like me, an introvert who’s still not entirely sure *who* she is, interacting on social media can sometimes feel like an existential crisis. Or a return to high school.

I don’t mean this post to be an invitation to bash on social media, because I think social media can accomplish great and powerful things. Witness the role of social media in the Arab Spring, or the Church’s efforts to use social media in missionary work. In fact, the Church Handbook 2 states:

Members are encouraged to be examples of their faith at all times and in all places, including on the Internet. If they use blogs, social networks, and other Internet technologies, they are encouraged to strengthen others and help them become aware of that which is useful, good, and praiseworthy.

Clearly, when used thoughtfully, there’s a role for social media.

But I’m not entirely sure I get it. Maybe I’m just admitting to being a social media Luddite. But I don’t think I’m alone in experiencing social anxiety. Most social networks seem to come with their own built-in insecurity: studies show that increased Facebook use is tied to a decreased sense of well-being, and Instagram might be even worse.  “Pinterest stress” apparently affects nearly half of all moms. And NYMag classified six social-media specific anxieties.

What I really want to know is: what has your experience with social media been like? Do you love it? Loathe it? Alternately, are there social media sites you’re drawn to more than others? Why?

 

About Rosalyn Eves

(Prose Board) currently lives in Southern Utah with her husband and three small children, where she teaches writing part-time at the local university. She has a BA in English from BYU, and an MA and PhD (also in English) from Penn State. In her spare time (what's that?) she likes to read, write, try new recipes (as long as she doesn't have to clean up), watch movies with her husband (British period drama is her favorite), go for walks, and generally avoid anything that resembles housework. Her first novel comes out Spring 2017 from Knopf.

16 thoughts on “Social Media Insecurity”

  1. In general, I like the social media I do use (as follows) and simply don't think about the social media I don't use much (e.g. instagram, twitter, flickr, reddit, etc).

    Facebook. I keep a tight reign on my Facebook friends quantity with the rule, "If possible, would I do lunch with this person this week? Or if I visited their town would I contact them to ask to do lunch?" I do not hesitate to refuse friend requests and every now and then I delete people out of my active set. There is a slight exception for "people who live interesting lives that I want to watch" (e.g. a friend from seventh grade who now works in Switzerland). I like being able to keep tabs on these people without actually having to put in the effort of writing weekly emails no matter how brief; and I like being able to mass share pictures and thoughts without creating a mass email.

    The big down side of Facebook is that I find I put more effort into friendships with my friends who /aren't/ on Facebook. The friends I have to say, "I wonder how she's doing," and give a call. The friends who I /don't/ know how they're (publically) feeling and having to ask, "So what are you doing this week?" If it weren't for the picture-sharing factor, I've been tempted to drop all friends within a ten mile radius of my house simply to force myself to /not/ assume I know how they're doing because they posted about vacuuming their living room two hours ago.

    Pinterest. I adore Pintrest. I find wonderful recipes there (and the occasional failures). I find neat craft ideas. I find good ideas on to entertain my toddler. I don't understand one bit the "Pinterest anxiety" other people feel. I treat Pinterest like a glossy, home, family, etc magazine that would show up to my door. These things are staged and based on priorities I may or may not have. I'm proud to declare that /my/ priorities are /mine/ and I'm not even going to attempt to make a first year birthday party fancier than my wedding reception. I also frequently cull my pins, "Eh, that cookie recipe looked good last year, but, nope, if I haven't made it in the past year I'm never going to make it."

    And blogs. I used to love reading personal blogs, but those seem to have gone to the wayside. Now I keep track of blogs on sewing tips, expat experiences, recipe sharing, and, truly, just places where I might see something "I want to pin." Pinterest, I suppose, having replaced the manila folder I used to stuff magazine and catalog pictures into, and blogs having replaced the magazines.

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  2. For me, I only get anxiety when I get this weird feeling and I want to make too many items in my crochet folder on pinterest because I must make ALL THE THINGS. But then it goes away and I happily stuff my yarn and hooks into a drawer, to be forgotten about for a year.

    However, I do feel silly competition with this one girl from college. I really like her, but she married a guy I dated (he ended it) and part of me gets the crazies and I must feel like I'm better than her. Which I'm not. It's way stupid. I'm slowly getting over that.

    But I was on Facebook at 18, right when it first became available to college students only, and so I guess I have a different perspective on it. I've only ever used it to interact with my friends, not to just window-shop on their lives.

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  3. Insecurity? I'm not sure I'm ever going to get over that. I keep hoping, but then I make a comment in Relief Society and second guess myself all through Monday over it. I wish I would grow out of it, but maybe it will be my weakness until death.

    For me, social networks are just another social setting. And just like all those places I go to in my real life, some days I find insecurity or anxiety, some days new ideas and understanding some days inspiration, joy, and friendship.

    I haven't figured it all out, but I don't think it's going to go away. As an author, PR communicator, and mother (yes mother) it' a world I chose to go and listen and add my voice as I can.

    And just like a Relief Society room or a crazy mall or party, I receive and give and then go into my own place again. Yes, sometimes to be alone with my insecurity.

    But more than anything for me is the challenge that social networks bring of overstimulation. And that is one that I'm stilling working to overcome.

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  4. I have Facebook and a BLOG. The BLOG is like a family journal – we live far away from any immediate family and we use it as a way of everyone knowing what we are up to. We then print it out in a book every so often as a family history.

    I love/hate Facebook. Use it to mainly keep in contact with my friends far away. but I find it hard when I see friends in my close circle at church that I live close to – having social interactions outside of Facebook, talking about it on Facebook and leaving me out. I once again feel like that outsider at high school – standing on the outside and wanting someone to invite me in to be included.

    I want to quit but how would I stay in contact with my friends far away that will only use Facebook? I have tried for several months at a time. I have made it that I can't see the posts from the others that leave me out – but I know they are there. Mostly these days i try not to care – also not as easy as it sounds.

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  5. I've never understood social media depression, until I read this little note on NPR's All Tech Considered: http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2013/09/16/223052837/whether-facebook-makes-you-lonely-depends-on-how-you-use-it

    I've never understood it because I've never felt worse from internet use because of what other people are doing. I've had really bad arguments that upset me (but you can have arguments offline too), and I've been upset by the evidence that there are some really nasty people around there (I engage with a lot of feminist social media, and the hatred that women face even today all over the world just breaks my heart :/ ), but I've never felt bad about my life simply from having seen other people's lives on Facebook. And I was always baffled as to why that is, why am I immune to this supposedly proven phenomenon.

    But it all really does depend on what you do, how you use it. I don't know if this quite applies to Twitter the way it does for Facebook, as I don't have Twitter. But I imagine it can correlate, considering how you describe your lurking on Twitter as a source of anxiety…

    So I guess my general advice for everyone is: don't feel forced to do something or use a social media service if you don't want to. If Twitter isn't helping you, if it's actually making you feel worse, then don't bother with it. I don't think anyone should be ashamed to say "I don't use that" if they really don't want to.

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  6. I try to be real on Facebook, if the day is bad or house is messy I let it show. And I think Pinterest is one of the worst things to happen to moms in years. Because no one really lives a Pinterest life.

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  7. (Oh and to add to the high school aspect: I had pretty much no friends in middle school, and only sort of cursory friends in high school – I talked to them in school a little, but we never spent time together after school. So I'm no social butterfly. Though I may have Asperger's syndrome, so that's a possible reason why social things work different for me…)

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  8. I'm loving these comments so far! Thank you all for sharing.

    @Janell, I typically enjoy Facebook, too. I avoid Pinterest mostly because I'm a very visual person and I don't have time to get sucked into it like I know I would–but I'm glad it's there for the people who do enjoy it!

    @Tay, I'm glad I'm not the only one who gets inspired to do everything (and then doesn't follow through). Interesting perspective on Facebook, too.

    @Teresa, part of me is glad that I'm not the only one who still struggles with insecurity as an adult–the other part of me is sorry that anyone does. And yes, I think social networks (in some form or other) are here for the long haul. That's part of the reason I persist, despite not being entirely comfortable with them.

    @Elissa, your experience with Facebook sounds painful–and I know you're not the only one who's had that experience. We also have a family blog and I love it–it's the only form of family history that I'm actually doing at the moment.

    @Inari–I don't usually feel depressed by Facebook, which is part of the reason I'm so surprised that I struggle with Twitter. Maybe because I don't know as many of my potential readers, so I can't gauge how they'd react? Your advice is spot on, I think. I'm still trying to figure out if the usefulness outweighs the downsides (for me anyway).

    @M2theh–I always love posts that keep it real; I think we do each other a disservice if we make things too rosy colored. That said, I have a lot of friends who really love Pinterest–they like feeling inspired by the ideas there, as long as they recognize that some of the ideals aren't really achievable.

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  9. You are a kindred spirit. I was just thinking about this the other day. After some reflection I thought to myself; "I suppose I will never be cool, and that's okay." And it is because I have friends that love me no matter what. Still, I can't help over thinking what I sometimes post online. Is it too personal? Will someone take it the wrong way? Is this how I want to represent myself? Is it worth the anxiety? Finding the right online presence can be a little tricky for sure.

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  10. I love Facebook and Pinterest.

    I love that FB is a quick way to see/share little and big things going on in your life, from the mundane to the monumental, and that you can connect with people that you wouldn't otherwise be able to. It's like having a quick cup of hot chocolate chat with someone, without the expense, calories, trying to coordinate schedules, or so much time. It's also a motivator for me: I definitely do not get enough real live interaction with people for me to thrive, so FB helps fill in there, and I say it's motivating to me because I use it as a reward for doing tasks around my house. Slow FB days make it really hard for me to get things done sometimes.

    Another note on Facebook: Sometimes I have accepted friend requests from people, knowing (and actually calendaring) that I will unfriend them in 3 weeks. This gives a chance for old guy friends, for example, and me to just peek in on our lives now, see if we seem happy and adjusted, and then step back out for another 10 years.

    As for Pinterest, I love that cool ideas are all gathered in one place for me to look at. I, too, love to look at Family Circle, Women's Day, Real Simple, and Taste of Home magazines, and Pinterest is just that for me — without the waiting for the next issue to come or paying the subscription price. I don't pin much in the way of home decorating, party throwing, fitness, or fashion — I'd say that those are the biggest areas that women get caught up in 'keeping up with the Joneses' in. I love finding a new recipe to try, gorgeous photography, funny memes and eCards, and inspirational quotes and talks, easy crafts for me and my kids, and people sharing their brilliant ideas for making things easier and/or cheaper.

    Also, I have recently come to love the option of a Secret Board. I have always tried to keep a list around this time of year of ideas for Christmas gifts for my kids and husband as well as keeping track of what I've bought already for them. I was always worried I'd leave the list out where it would be seen and ruin all the fun. This year, I have a secret Christmas board on Pinterest with all of my ideas and purchases right there in visual form to keep me on track. And it won't be accidentally discovered by my family. Yay!

    Lastly, I am still in mourning over the loss of blogs. There are still some blogs out there, and I regularly read about 15, but compared to what once was in blogland…depressing. Again, they help fill my need for social interaction and stimulation.

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  11. I stay on FB because it's not going to go away. I'd love for it to not be in my daily life right now, but someday when it morphs into whatever it becomes that's essential for being included at all in society (bc you know it will), I don't want to have to start over. And as long as I have an account, I can't leave it alone. I wish I could! I do love using it to share photos with family. I used to be good about not even sharing my posts with most of my friends list, but lately I just share with everyone. Occasionally someone pops out of the woodwork with a nice comment or a helpful idea, and then I'm glad they're still around. I figure, people who don't care about what I say have probably hidden me from their feeds anyway. I go in phases where I post a lot for a week and then hide out for a month or so.

    I have a Pinterest account but haven't touched it for at least three years. It's a total time suck! Thankfully, avoiding it has been easy because it doesn't appeal to me at all. I love to create, I'm very visual, but I like original ideas and Pinterest seems like just a lot of copycatting. I also want nothing to do with elaborate parties that are just for show, and I'm sad that so many people end up depressed feeling like they should have a Pinterest life.

    I don't blog anymore. I follow niche/professional/topic blogs, but personal blogging has been on its way out for about five years now and I don't see a future for it. Facebook is a more efficient way to share. I do wish the note feature was used more on FB though, as a replacement for the longer thought-sharing that could happen on blogs. In that same (opposite?) vein, that's why I don't use Twitter- too short. I prefer to hear complete thoughts, so when I can only handle so many social accounts, it's not valuable enough to stay. Same with Instagram. As my kids get older, I expect I will have to re-evaluate where my online presence needs to be based on what they are using. Already FB isn't cool among the teenagers bc it has been invaded by parents…

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  12. i have a tolerate/hate relationship with facebook. i have an account and go online almost daily to check it, but i have only posted three things in the last six years and i probably comment about once every two weeks. it is a fairly voyeuristic experience for me. i hate the interface and wish i could just leave it alone, but it is the only way i get news/pictures from my sister-in-law and helps me keep a finger on the pulse of some other close friends that live far away. i had really wished that google+ would catch on because it's such a cleaner experience for me, but alas, first to market and all that.

    i love pinterest as a catalog for all of those pictures and ideas that used to occupy physical space in my house. it was a timesuck initially to transfer bookmarks and links that i had emailed myself onto it, but since then, it's something that i use occasionally when i come across something new i want to pin. i don't really get on and browse it, especially now that they have started putting in pins from random strangers that i don't want to see anymore. i can see how it would be problematic for people that feel pressure to live up to expectations that arise there, but that's not my personality, so i'm fine with it.

    for me, my social media of choice has become instagram. i have lots of friends and family on it and it is so fast and easy to use. my sisters, who didn't have time for blogging, can throw pictures of their kids on there way more often and i actually get to see pictures of my nieces and nephews, which means a lot since we recently moved away from my family. i also find that hashtags work well with my humor and i do get a little bit of a high when i feel like i nailed a good joke on there.

    since getting into instagram, my blog has suffered considerably, but with three small children, it was already starting to suffer considerably, so i don't know that it's really replacing it as much as just allowing me to pick up the slack.

    i will say that there are a couple of people on instagram that i would like to stop following because i feel like their pictures are always an attempt to get compliments (constantly posting pictures of them at gym, etc.) but i don't want to hurt feelings and i wish that pressure weren't there. i also do sometimes feel like i should "like" someone's pictures because they always like mine, but really, who cares?

    as an introverted mother of three little kids who recently moved away from friends and family, i feel like social media serves an important roll in my sanity right now. it makes me feel connected to the outside world at a time where my physical world is generally confined to my home. if i check instagram a little more often than i probably should, so be it. i think my husband feels the same way about twitter. he is an introverted, self-employed musician and it is a way for him to connect with other people in his world and to reach out creatively.

    as with anything, moderation and knowing yourself and your personality is important.

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  13. I don't feel any desire to join Twitter, because I just don't see what the point would be for me. I don't have a smart phone, so I haven't bothered with Instagram either. Thankfully my little sister's Instagram photos go onto Facebook. 🙂

    Facebook, though, has been a huge blessing for me. I'm disabled and my health is up and down, so it's been such an easy way to connect with the world when I have to be at home. I often wonder what people like me did before the internet! I'm not much of a tv watcher, so the idea of watching tv all day doesn't appeal to me at all. 😉

    I'm still not sure what exactly keeps me from comparing myself to others on social media. I think that since I've had health issues since my mission almost twenty years ago, learning to not compare myself too much has been a survival tool. Facebook, then, has been a way for me to count my blessings, say them publicly from time to time and hope I'm not being too annoying, and to let people know that I care in whatever small way I can.

    As for blogs, I did start to get discouraged when reading friend's blogs a few years ago. Facebook has made that a lot easier, because there aren't large entries with all the wonderful things friends and their children have done that tempt me to think of all the things I can't do with my own kids. I do still love blogs that share craft ideas and funny stories to a more general audience.

    As for Pinterest? I love Pinterest! I used to be in love with card catalogs back in the day, and now if I want to find something to do, all I have to do is go look. And as for ideas being original? There are so many out there! And if I'm enjoying what I'm doing, I don't really care so much if the neighbor puts out a pumpkin decorated a lot like mine. If I want to come up with something "original," it will most likely have been inspired at least in part by things I've seen in the past somewhere.

    If I don't want to spend too much time on Pinterest, I either don't get on, or I give myself a time limit. Fortunately, that's worked for me. But if I end up spending too much time once in a while, maybe I needed it. (Maybe.) And my kids think that I have too many Pins, until I start to show them some of my favorite ones, and then they think I'm only slightly mental. 🙂

    And I have a hard time writing without using emoticons. That may be the biggest side-effect of social media for me. The best side? The ability to so easily network and help others network, possibly, or the ability to keep up with old friends. I would love to find someone who would pay me to be an online concierge of some sort. 😉

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  14. As a therapist, I've seen facebook be incredibily validating for people. Like scrapbooking, journaling or any expression of art, it is a statement that you matter. What is essential is listening to a dependence on that validation instead of finding it from a source that is more constant and true.

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