I still remember the days of my youth before Facebook. There was Myspace, but I was never into it at all. The furthest I got with Myspace is making an account and forget about it. I did keep a Xanga blog then though I was never good with updating it regularly.
I first heard about Facebook when the logistics of getting in were a bit tedious. Back then in order to get an account on the website, you needed to put down the name of your school and then have someone who was already on Facebook and who also attended the same school as you to verify online that he/she knew you. Such a big difference from how Facebook accounts are made today, where all you need is your basic details like name and email. I don’t even remember who in my school I had asked to verify me but I got in eventually.
I joined on a whim, not really knowing what I expected out of it. It was gaining popularity so I felt mildly curious about why people were into it. And maybe part of me wanted to be liked because at this point I had no social life to speak of, though I know this logic doesn’t make sense. I can count only one person from high school who I considered a real friend, and even with her, I was often so socially awkward and anxious that I could barely talk. I was definitely the kid who spent my free periods hiding in the bathroom and was too scared to eat in front of people in the lunchroom. I often went hungry or braced the humiliation of eating in one of the bathroom stalls.
There was also the virtual online aspect to consider. I felt more comfortable expressing myself through words on a screen or writing on paper than facing a verbal exchange with people. I remember going crazy with the search bar on Facebook. It felt like the whole world was at my fingertips and I could look up anyone I once knew. I thought it was a chance to reconnect with old classmates and friends. I literally opened my yearbooks from grammar school and junior high and entered names of people who I remembered fondly. If I did find their profiles, I would message them to say hi and talk about the past to see if they remembered me.
I recall writing to one former classmate and telling her all the things I wanted to say to her when we were still classmates. It’s sad to think that Facebook was the virtual gateway that allowed me to talk to her, but had I seen her in real life, I probably wouldn’t have had the guts to tell her all those things, much less say hi to her. Like how much I admired her for being both academically smart and always so nice to everyone. After I had my fill of messaging people, I did not send them friend requests. I don’t know why I didn’t. I think I was stuck on whether I had messaged them because I simply felt nostalgic about the past or if I wanted actual friendships from these people who I know very little about now since I last saw them in school.
The friends list itself is a tricky thing. However, I don’t believe the list is an accurate depiction of someone’s social life. There were times I was friended by old classmates and accepted the requests, feeling both flattered over the attention and also confused about why someone who I barely even spoke to in school was friending me. Mostly I accepted the requests because I didn’t want to seem mean. There were some requests I outright deleted, such one from a former classmate who I remember was rude and mean to me and was most definitely someone I didn’t want to allow into my personal life.
On the other side of the spectrum, I have had the experience of friending people who I didn’t know well but sent the request with the hopes of being accepted and becoming friends…sorta?
My friends list has gone through many changes in past years. I used to care a great deal about the number of people on my list but not anymore. Out of the 56 people on my friends list, I only regularly talk to 2-3 people and maybe 4-5 on an occasional basis. 56 seems like a lot, however, perhaps half of those people I have had no interactions with for over a year, or they’re people I know in my personal life (like family members) who I’ve thought about unfriending, but ultimately I don’t because I’d rather avoid the potential of them asking me, “why did you unfriend me?”
I find that browsing Facebook too much has a negative impact on me. In the feed, being bombarded with updates on other people’s social lives makes me feel pressured to also constantly update my own status or upload photos to show people how interesting and noteworthy my life is. And when I have nothing to post yet see others have cool stuff to show on their statuses, I end up feeling worse about myself. What is wrong with me? Why can’t my life be that interesting? I hate the euphoric pull I feel over having my status “liked” too. It seems I can’t be immune to it, no matter how much I wish to be. I am determined to be rational about it, in that I know the number of likes makes no real difference. I’ve tried hard to remove myself from caring about the “like” game, so when I do post something, I’ll close the app and make sure the notifications are off so I won’t get that annoying red number circle on the app icon. Posting on Facebook itself is something I struggle with constantly. Sure, I post when I have legit stuff to share with people on my friends list, but I don’t want to be so obsessed that I repeatedly open the app to check who liked my post or left a comment.
To be honest, I am iffy about certain people on my friends list seeing some of the things I post. That’s why I utilize custom friends lists, where I can add select people to different lists and choose who can see my post after I publish it. Most of my anxiety stems from feeling uncomfortable about certain people seeing select stuff I post and the fact they will know I did xyz, or that I was at xyz on that day. It’s not so much that I believe people will react negatively like, “Wow, I saw your status post that you said you did ___? That’s so lame!” I would say for me it’s a mixture of feeling like I’m too shy to allow certain people (on my friends list) to see aspects of my life and feeling freaked out when I see they “liked” my post. I can’t tell if most people “like” a post because they genuinely like it, or do they “like” it to show they saw the post? I know at least one person in real life (my dad, actually) who has admitted to “liking” other people’s posts without even really reading them.
The one thing I avoid almost 98% of the time on Facebook is the comments sections of pages with large audiences. A lot of arguing back and forth always tends to break out there, or people end up squabbling over an issue that has nothing to do with the actual post.
Anyway, I think I’ve gone on long enough about this topic. I didn’t mean to write so much but I suppose I had a lot to say. If you’ve managed to read this far, do you have any of your own thoughts to share about your own Facebook experiences, whether they’ve been good or bad?