Ah, social media. The place where introverts can enjoy the interaction with others without leaving the comforts of their home. They can be outgoing and chat to old and new friends without it being too overwhelming. They can keep track on what’s going on in people’s lives and vice versa. All of this on their own terms. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Unless you’re pretty much as introverted online as you are in real life.
I would like to think I used to be quite outgoing online a few years ago. I gained a lot of new friends from all over the country through mutual interests online as a teenager. I’m actually still good friends with some of them today. So I am very grateful for the opportunity these social networks gives us who tend to struggle with meeting new people face to face.
I like the privacy of these sites, which Facebook didn’t offer in the same way when it came along. My friends had to sign me up on Facebook because I initially refused for the longest time. I didn’t want my real name and information out there. I wanted full control of what people could know about me. Mixing people from school and work with the people I’d met online because of music or writing was a weird feeling. They knew me in different ways. It, therefore, took me another couple of years until I felt used to Facebook enough to start using it properly. Which I by the way only did because I moved to the other side of the world.
After being semi-active on different platforms, I’ve taken a step back from it all. It hasn’t been a conscious decision, but more of an automatic, gradual process. So what is life for an introvert on social media like? Well, it entails the most secure privacy settings and having a few tagged photos and posts waiting in line for you to approve. (I need time to consider if I really want them on my profile. The last photo that I’m tagged in was taken over a year ago, so no photos have made the cut the last 12 months).
It may also include your friends talking about people or events in real life that you have absolutely no idea about because you’ve seen nothing of it. Unfortunately, it means I’m not up to date with what everyone is up to. I might miss if someone got a promotion, broke up with someone or went on holiday. I go on the occasional scroll through Instagram or Facebook, but pressing a like button doesn’t come naturally to me. Writing a comment – even less. I’ll check something if I’m tagged of course, but it can take a few days for me to “react” to it. If I want to wish someone a happy birthday, I do it via messenger instead of posting on their wall for everyone to see. (Now that I think about it, I have no idea why – perhaps I feel it’s more personal that way).
Feeling the need to check social media became too much as it grew and got busier with time. I stopped looking every day as it overwhelmed me just like socializing face to face can do. I never have a lot of chats going and if I do, I often wait to reply until I’ve had time to think it through and feel I have time to reply properly. For example, I’ll wait till the moment I sit down and have coffee in the morning to reply to all my messages in one sitting. I prefer this than to sporadically reply throughout the day.
My go-to places are Tumblr and YouTube, so even online, I’m basically in my own bubble. I mostly follow accounts that have nothing to do with people in my real life and everything to do with hobbies of mine. The difference with these sites is that I’m not interacting with people on them. I’m more of a spectator so I guess in some ways, YouTube is like people watching. I watch people, but I don’t interact with them by commenting. (Not a very great supporter am I? Apologies to everyone I follow!)
You might have had someone suggest you sign up on a dating app if you’re single. This has happened to me a couple of times in the past, but I don’t think I’ve ever properly considered it. A few years ago a friend of mine signed me up on Tinder. I mean, it was a little fun swiping right or left and see who you matched with but… it was a short-lived thing. After mostly just ignoring everyone’s messages, I deleted the app the next morning. I don’t spend a lot of time chatting with people I actually know, and I simply don’t enjoy chatting with people I don’t know at all.
So in today’s society – am I missing out? I think yes, to a degree. Because so much of our lives today are happening on these various platforms. It is a really good way to easily check in with people or connect with strangers. People call themselves friends despite not speaking to each other for years but because they like and comment on each other’s lives with just a few clicks. It keeps them involved. People run businesses on social media, meet partners on social media and share their lives with loved ones or to a following made up out of strangers. So yes, I probably am missing out a little bit. But just like in real life, I need to spend time away from it a lot in order not to feel so overwhelmed by it. And just like in real life, I know that I am happier this way.