I refused to get a Facebook until my senior year of high school, long after everyone — and I mean even my sister's dog — had one. Even then, it took two years before I was willing to do anything with my Facebook page. When someone first explained Twitter to me, I had the feeling like the apocalypse might be upon us. Yes, I was a bona fide social media-phobe.
People told me I was being snobbish, and I figured they were probably right. I liked my snobbishness, though. It was comfortable. It was what I knew. And it did leave me feeling a little bit superior. Now, looking back — 2,000 tweets and God-only-knows-how-many Facebook-likes later — I realize that the truth is, I wasn’t a snob: I was scared.
Social media terrified me.
For one thing, I was an awkward person with a bare minimum of social skills in my arsenal to begin with. (Honestly, I still am.) So social media just sounded like more social interactions to potentially fail at — this time, with an audience.
I also knew exactly how prone I am to getting addicted to things. I know that one episode of Say Yes to the Dress will turn into a rabid, unstoppable binge watch, so I avoid it altogether. I felt like social media was a little bit like reality TV: even the people who enjoy it know it’s dumb. And I was afraid of becoming one of those people, chained to something they know is stupid.
But once I finally succumbed to the realization that I should probably stop pretending I didn't live in the 21st century and accepted the inevitable, I discovered that the Big, Bad Social Media monster wasn't quite what I'd thought. Here are a few things about social media I've come to admit.
1. It Can Be Way Better Than Actually Talking To People (Sometimes)
For a socially-challenged person, social media actually turned out to be the exact type of friendly interaction I could excel at. It's a space where you can actually take your time to think of what you're going to say — and most importantly, delete before you realize that your joke implies you've actually read Twilight. Thank God for the backspace key. Now if only I had one of those for the rest of my life...
2. It's Not All That Mysterious
Online interactions have an etiquette all their own, it's true, but I found online conventions much easier to master than the complicated dance of in-person interaction. Rather than being shallow, I found that once you understand social media conventions, you can convey things much more meaningfully than you might in-person, simply because you have the time to get the words right.
3. Calling It an 'Addiction' Is Kind of Lazy
Contrary to all expectations, I didn't get "addicted" to social media. Or rather, I did ... but I realized that "addicted" is the wrong word. Calling social media an addiction implies that it is some sort of "waste of time;" a useless activity that interferes with your "real" life. But in reality, social media is now an important part of my real life.
I don't know how else I could keep track of all the family and friends I have scattered across the country without Facebook. I don't know where I would find interesting and educational conversations about intersectional feminism, if not on Twitter. Social media is way to extend the realm of your real life, not steal from it. So being on social media all the time? That's called living, not "being addicted."
4. It Actually Isn't Scary
I look back at the girl I was in high school, stubbornly resisting MySpace and Facebook, and never once thinking I was missing out. I thought I was protecting myself from some scary boogie man. Looking back at who I was, I roll my eyes and check out the latest thought-provoking Tumblr post from Humans of New York. I wonder what I was so scared of.