Fear of rejection and social media.

I have a fear of rejection.

Though it is less intense now than at other (any?) times in my life, it is still present. I still navigate gingerly around it. The fear I liken to a sleeping dragon, and the actions I avoid are the noise that may wake him up.

Did you catch that?

This fear was a reoccurring theme, if not of my childhood, then definitely of my adolescence. And it somehow grew. It grew until I struggled to even admit favor (toward people, toward objects, toward instances). Like admitting affinity was announcing attachment and pronouncing that here was where I could be hurt. Here was where I was weak. Come and hurt me and I would not be able to hide my hurt because I’d owned the potential for it to exist.

Still with me?

I had a tumultuous adolescence.  I was stuck in my head in a way that I haven’t been since, can hardly fathom now, and hope not to find myself again. Even as I’ve shed much of my flawed logic and unnecessary extremes, I’ve carried tightly a fear of rejection.

This fear plays out in social media in a number of ways.

  • Friend requesting. OHMYGOD, what if someone rejects my friend request? Okay, that’s kind of a duh, but still pertinent. Same goes for Twitter or blog following. What if I don’t get a follow back? Oh, and you know those uber-busy oh-so-popular tweeters that occasionally lament their busyness and ask new followers to raise a virtual hand for a follow back? Oh hell no. I would never ever point out that I had somehow been overlooked. The shame! The humiliation! My mind likens that to grovelling for followers. Which brings me to me next point.
  • Follower requests. Help me hit 20 million bagillion followers today. Please RT! Another thing that I would never do. ASK people to follow me? BEG for attention? Unearth proof of wanting? From strangers?! The asking would be hard enough but oh.my.god what if nobody followed me? What if nobody retweeted?
  • Blog Stalking. My use of Google Reader allows me to follow a few dozen blogs without ever interacting with them, their writers or readers, in any way. I almost never comment on blogs. And this is…why? Do I not want bloggers to know I read there blogs? There’s no shame in blog reading it’s, well, what blogs are for. Still, it can feel like there is some exchange of power there, something anonymity I will give up and responsibility I will assume if I fess up to following. Maybe this case isn’t so much about being rejected as is about my being allowed to reject. Because it goes both ways. As I am hyper-aware of rejection, I also am consistently cognizant of being The Rejecter. What if I don’t comment? What if I can’t form the words to respond? What if I, frankly, don’t care that much?
  • Soliciting. I’ve done it. I’ll do it again. But it’s not without thought and feeling as if I’ve taken some kind of leap. Even so far as I’ve come and so much as I’ve faced, putting myself out there is a needing/wanting/asking way feels like and invitation for rejection. This risk is multiplied by the public-ness of it. My feeling rejected is trumped only by you (and him, and her) seeing me feel it.

That is only a handful of examples and I’m sure there are more where they came from. But each is a variation on the same theme. Social media is much starker than real life. With no body language, no intonation, no light in the eyes or subtle signs of discomfort, there is only text. And pictures. Emoticons. There is no guessing at what is said, yet there is a world of uncertainty as to what was meant. Social media is a breeding ground of rejection. It’s a world built on numbers: friends, followers, likes, hits. It seems only the loud stand out; only the fearless succeed. And what that success entails is unclear. It likely varies by person, by year.

If I am going to be of this modern-day community I need to first own my fear, then step beyond it. Slay the dragon, if you will recall my corny metaphor. Though I imagine it is less about killing the fear and more about paying it less mind. It will exist but I will be less reactive to it. And so, I will openly read more blogs. I will comment on more posts. I will engage with others. I will put myself out there and admit that, yes, I do care.

But, no, I won’t be ruled by that.

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