Facebook has done more to help me with my social anxieties than any medications ever could. It’s given me a low-stress way to get to know people, so that when we are face-to-face, I feel way more prepared.
See, I’ve always been fine with social gatherings involving good friends. Friends that I know well enough that I can ask them about their family, or their job, or their parents, and then discuss topics surrounding those things for awhile. It was always the gatherings where I either A) Didn’t know anyone or B) Barely knew people that freaked me out. How do you converse with someone if you don’t know their name? But that’s even better than if you DO know their name, but nothing else, because then you don’t even have the ice breaker of, “Hey! My name is Kim! What’s yours?”
But Facebook has helped so much with that. Once we’re Facebook friends I can become more familiar with your kids, your hobbies, your lifestyle…so when I run into you at the store, or see you at dinner, or sit next to you at the PTA meeting – I can say, “How’s the new puppy doing?” Or maybe, “Did you finish ‘Doctor Sleep’ yet? What did you think?” I can start a conversation with you because I know enough about your life that I don’t have to see there and pretend I don’t know you.
I love this so much. It’s also helped move some of my “casual” friendships with people I might only see periodicially in the real world to more solid friendships because of our discovered similarities.
What? You love Doctor Who? And Diet Coke? AND YOUNG ADULT FICTIONS? Here’s a friendship bracelet that says “BFF” – I hope you’ll wear it forever.
Facebook has just really helped support and nurture those casual relationships in my life so that my anxieties over events has dimmed greatly.
But then…THEN…there are the times when it kills my chances at even maintaining a casual relationship with someone. Someone who I might have been able to run into and chat with for decades without ever flinching, until they posted that thing they posted on Facebook.
I should point out that I rarely send out friend requests on Facebook. Mainly because I post a lot of stupid shit on Facebook and I hate subjecting someone to that. But, if they send me a friend request then it’s their own fault! Also – I only accept friend requests from people I know in real life, since I get tagged in pictures with other people and I feel like they would appreciate if I knew everyone who was seeing them.
All of that said – I don’t get into religion or politics a lot on Facebook. It’s a much more filtered version of my Twitter/Blog persona. I don’t talk about supporting reproductive rights at all, I don’t talk about being an Atheist, I don’t talk about being a former Loser Who Mooched Off The Government. (NOT A LOSER, by the way. THAT WAS SARCASM. I really wish I had a sarcasm font.) The only kinda touchy subject I’ll discuss is my support of Gay Rights and that’s because that issue hits so close to home in the lives of my friends and family, that I’m not sure I could be even casual friends successfully with someone who didn’t support it. So, I put it out there RESPECTFULLY and POLITELY often so that if someone is completely against it – especially if they’re vocal about it – they’ll know my stance.
And that’s where the problem lies. The FB friends who like to post things about not supporting gay rights. And it makes me sad. And it makes it very difficult for me to even maintain a casual relationship because they’re basically saying, “You know those people in your life that you love and would sacrifice everything for? I don’t think those people are worthy of the same rights that I have. Also: They’re going to hell.” And it’s REALLY hard to even greet someone on the street with a smile knowing that.
But I do! Because I’m a grown-up.
Except when it goes beyond the simple declaration of a lack of support. It’s one thing to say, “I don’t believe those Gay People you love deserve to get married. And my church says they’re going to Hell, but I’ll pray for them for you!”
It’s another thing entirely to say, “Those Gay People you love are abominations of humanity and God would never make something so disgusting and they’re all pedophiles and I wouldn’t let them near my children.”
And while part of me is like, “I’m glad to know that person feels that way so I can eliminate that connection in my life,” another part of me longs for the days before Facebook where you could see someone around town and not know that they’re homophobes.
But – for the most part – Facebook brings much joy to my life and helps build relationships and friendship which this Sufferer of Social Anxiety needs desperately. For every one person I’ve had to unfriend, there are 50 that I’ve gotten to know much better and found many points of commonality we share. So, overall? I’m very grateful. It makes my need for a Xanax before social gatherings very minimal.