Social Media Feels Like High School (And Not In A Good Way)

by Brandi Jeter Riley
Originally Published: 
A girl with an Afro hairstyle wearing sunglasses sitting in a café drinking coffee while browsing so...

People who just met me over the last few years would be surprised to discover that I was late to social media. I never did the AOL Chat thing, and by the time I got to MySpace, the platform was on its last leg. But things changed after I had my daughter eight years ago. I started blogging and was longing for more connection with my friends and family across the country.

It started off as just being a place to be silly with people I knew. My friends list was made up of IRL friends, and I was leery about accepting requests from strangers. I think we all were.

But things are so different now. We’ve let down our guard. I regularly come across people on my feed and I’m like, “Harpo, who this woman?” It’s bananas!

That’s just how things are, though. Social media is a major part of our lives. Where it used to be on the periphery of our real world, now it is the real world.

Except for one thing.

In the real world, people grow up. Sure, you might have your grade school and high school drama, but then you get older and realize how petty it all was.

In this new “social media is life” world, however, we’re totally regressing. It’s a mob mentality and we gang up on people. We’ve brought back old school name calling and introduced new school shade.

And you know what?

I’m so over it, and quite frankly embarrassed by it.

I’ve witnessed grown women, mothers no less, go back and forth with each other for hours over who was buying Instagram followers. FOR REAL? INSTAGRAM. FOLLOWERS. WHO TF CARES?

But I refreshed that thread all day long watching it play out just like that Michael Jackson meme where he’s eating popcorn.

Even more embarrassing than spending an entire day watching other women go bonkers are the times when I’ve gotten involved, posting ridiculous status updates and tweets. I’ve riled people up, and had emotional exchanges with people I’ve never actually met. What is this nonsense?

The other day, I wrote a Facebook status with a pretty basic “be nice to other people” message. I’ve been feeling a bit self-conscious about the amount I share on social media lately, so I’ve been posting thoughts like that a lot less frequently. I debated whether to post at all, and considered how to word it so that it didn’t seem like I was talking about any particular situation in order to avoid conflict.

As careful as I was, someone still decided to come on my page and call me out about some Internet sin she thought I had committed. I deleted her comment, so she cursed at me. On my Facebook page, no less — where I’m friends with my pastor, colleagues, my husband’s coworkers, moms from my daughter’s school, and other people I love and respect — she dropped the F bomb over some stupid social media thing.

I was mortified. Imagine trying to explain to your friend from Bible study that you don’t really know the woman who cursed you out on a Facebook thread, even though you’ve been her “friend” for years. We’ve never had dinner together, nor do we have each other’s telephone numbers. Yet something I did to her (online) was so offensive that she had to curse at me. It’s baffling and just plain weird.

As someone whose job is basically the Internet, I’m more dialed into social media than most of the folks I know in real life. There are going to be some things that they just don’t get, and I’m fine with that. I’m grateful for the amazing connections I’ve been able to make online, and the opportunities that come with being good at social media. I also love the things that I’ve learned about other people, and being more plugged in to the world at large. Social media is good, it’s an amazing tool and resource. Maybe I’m just in it too deep.

The Facebook High School, Class of 2018 stuff is starting to get to me. I’ve been asking myself a lot whether I’m interested in being so invested in a world where arguing with virtual strangers is normal. Could I be using my time more effectively offline? Is there a better way for me to connect with folks and expand my world than scrolling and liking all day long?

I don’t have the answer… yet. But for now, I’m dialing back a lot on social media. I’m culling my friends list and making an effort to really get to know the people who are on my feed. The mute, unfriend, and block buttons are in full effect, too. Look, I didn’t survive four years of high school only to have to go through it again on Facebook.

Man, I miss Myspace.

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