No this isn’t your parent telling you to get off the Internet, it’s a millennial.
A few days ago, I was at a mandatory training session with other interns that began with a classic “fun” icebreaker. The icebreaker involved getting up and choosing sides when given two options, such as “Coke vs Pepsi” or “Apple vs Android.” I was pretty taken aback when I saw that a majority of the room disagreed with me when I chose “calling” over “texting” (almost as surprised as I was that more people chose Taylor Swift over Kanye West. In what world?)
Social media isn’t real – none of us laugh out loud that much, no one (unless you’re Ashley Iaconetti) cries as much as they use the emojis, and none of us really look exactly like the selfies we post online. Likes, favorites, and comments can often mask an ulterior motive, or might be given mindlessly but lead to over-analyzing from the other side.
Flirting with people I don’t really know IRL is a weird concept to me…now. I used to see people as their profiles because I personally wanted to build online profiles of myself that I liked more than my actual self. More recently, I’ve been able to let go of the stress I used to have over my social media presence – like whether or not I was successfully maintaining a quirky yet relatable yet hilarious presence on tumblr, for example. I can honestly say that my social media “self” is much more aligned to who I really am than it once was, and that’s something that I’m very proud of.
But back to thinking of people as their profiles – I used to solely associate people with what they posted online, because I figured that they posted the most important things about themselves online anyway, I mean, that’s what I thought I was doing. The truth is, when it comes to the Internet, you only get to pick what glimpses of your life you’d like people to see. No one sees the things you don’t believe go along with the image that you’re crafting of yourself. Anyone that’s considered social media famous has figured out an extremely entertaining way of presenting themselves to others through 6 second video clips, 140 characters or less, pictures with clever and straight-to-the-point captions, and very well-edited video clips. When we go to the Internet solely for entertainment, it’s easy to forget that these celebrities are normal people with their own flaws and idiosyncrasies. It’s not difficult to be appear to be a completely different person online. I’ve learned this the hard way, after repeatedly social-media stalking boys I was interested in an embarrassing amount, convincing myself I may have found my soulmate, and then meeting them in person and wondering where that Internet personality had gone.
A general rule for me is after anyone makes a real effort to get to know me, or vice versa, over iMessage, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram (that’s like, really trying, and only happened once) our first interaction in person needs to mutually feel like a good one, or else I just can’t see it going anywhere. This means that both parties have to be able to make it a non-awkward interaction.
Many times, when we’ve gotten a chance to talk in person, I’m the one that makes things uncomfortable. I can feel it in every word that comes out, or doesn’t come out, of my mouth, every time I fidget with my hands and clothes, and whenever I press the home button on my phone and stare at it as if I don’t have a motionless lockscreen. I know that I’m sabotaging something that I’d been eagerly anticipating, but I can’t seem to stop myself. I’ve come to realize that me feeling uncomfortable all those times isn’t become I’m just a horribly awkward person, it’s because I’d found that the connection I thought I would feel wasn’t there.
As someone who has been an avid user of social-media since Xanga was a popular blogging outlet and logging onto my four poorly-named AIM accounts at once was a daily routine, I need to remind everyone, including myself, that the entertaining screens on our phones and computers are not a clear-glass window into real life. It’s good to step back and take a break from the Internet. I’ll never stop loving social media, and it’s role in relationships of all sorts will continue to fascinate me. But as far as it’s progressed us in some aspects of society, social media can also become our downfall in maintaining genuine human interactions if we’re not careful.