To all the sports moms who I’ve spent more time with collectively than my own mom;
To classmates, college friends, and sorority sisters;
To co-workers, work friends, and friends of my family members;
It’s not you. It’s me.
It’s the irrational thoughts and annoying fears that come with my anxiety that cause me to ignore or delete almost every friend request I receive. And here you thought you were the only one getting ghosted.
True story: I worked with a lady for more than two years before I even considered accepting the Facebook friend request she sent me about six months into her job. This was not a co-worker I saw occasionally in meetings. We worked side-by-side every day. Every. Day. So why wouldn’t I be her friend? For the same reason I only had about 150 friends on Facebook until a few weeks ago — the thought of all those people knowing my business was terrifying.
What shady, despicable, inappropriate “business” would these people encounter, you might wonder.
– Photos of my kid at a baseball tournament or a basketball camp
– An inspirational quote shared from another page
– A tagged photo from my BFF’s page showing us having fun
– Hilarious puns or other nerdy word jokes
You know, the wicked, shameful, and disgraceful kind of things that embarrass your parents and make people judge you.
It makes absolutely no sense, but that’s the reality of having an anxiety disorder. It gifts me with a veritable cornucopia of illogical thoughts and interesting ways to mitigate those thoughts. In my mind, everyone who wanted to be friends also wanted to hurt me. Not in a physical way, but a mean-girl kind of way. So, to avoid adding unnecessary panic to my life, I inadvertently became a social media snob.
What does a social media snob look like? For me, it was only accepting a very few, specific people into my circle. These were people that already knew all my secrets (sister, best friend, college roommates) or were from my past and lived so far away it didn’t matter what they saw on my page. I activated every privacy setting I could find and made myself unsearchable (unless you were a friend of a friend). I hesitated to accept requests from anyone I worked with and was especially suspicious of people who sent a friend request just days after we met.
I wasn’t purposefully being rude or snobby. I wasn’t intentionally excluding people from my life. I was protecting myself from some imagined danger.
But no more. I recently decided to try and accept my anxiety disorder and confront some irrational fears that I’ve held on to for way too long. Guess what was at the top of the list. Yep. Social media.
About 10 days ago, I unhinged the gates. I sorted through about 75 pending requests and accepted 15 of them. I even sent four or five requests to other people. Progress! Then an interesting thing started happening. My phone was blowing up with friend requests from all sorts of people. I didn’t like it. I felt my chest tighten every time I got another notification.
I sent this text to the co-worker mentioned above (she understands my deal with this, especially after waiting two years for a reply):
In addition to the laughing-crying emojis, she reassured me that people just want to connect. “It’s okay. Just hit the accept button,” she advised. So, I did. I hit the accept button and now I’m sitting at 278 friends! I have also made decisions on several requests sitting in the queue and there’s only 15 pending right now. I count that as a victory.
The moral of this story is: facing your fears is scary, even when the things that frighten you are silly and insignificant to others. If you struggle with FOSM (Fear of Social Media. Can that be a thing?), please know you aren’t alone. Also, if you’re the person who loves social media, has a million friends, and posts funny pictures and memes, please keep it up. The rest of us need something to look at while we overthink the latest request from the soccer coach’s wife.