Do you remember times when your social life seemed complicated and overwhelming? Perhaps in those early grade school years, and then again in high school and college? Friendships and social networks could provide you with satisfying highs and depressing lows. These were times where we awkwardly needed to figure out who our friends were, how much time did they require from us, and did we need to do everything they did? Our self-esteem and happiness were held in a delicate balance based on the perceptions of others and how we felt we fit in.
Despite many grey hairs and not being able to do a cartwheel without feeling ill, the age of 40 was great – it was freeing from this social pressure…or so I thought. I had finally let go of friendships that weren’t comfortable, and I did so without guilt. I focused on smaller social circles that I could manage in a more productive way, for example people in my neighbourhood, and people who were engaged with us at a family level.
But had I achieved this contentment in my new social network – on platforms such as Facebook? Engaging in these platforms seemed like starting from scratch again. It took time to get over the idea that more was better. I didn’t need to accept every friend request. If I had no intention of communicating with that person from high school in a social setting, why did I need them on Facebook? And the reverse seemed to be true as well. I recall the sting of realizing that some people just wanted to see what I was doing or how life “turned out”, or perhaps I was just adding to their friend statistic.
Over time, I decided what worked for me. I cut down my network to close friends and family – to a group I was comfortable with and felt I could reciprocate with. Having too many people connected to me made me feel like I was creating a circle I could never really keep up with. Perhaps here was the problem – I couldn’t distinguish the expectations of my in-person network to my online network. Of course those Facebook friends didn’t all expect a dinner invite, but if they were engaged in my life online, what were their expectations?
From a professional perspective, LinkedIn is still a challenge for me. Yes, you will find me there, but what do you want to see from me other than my “online resume”? Should I be posting interesting articles? But if I do, am I honestly sharing them because I think my network will enjoy them or am I just trying to look active and engaged? In all honesty, the latter is probably true.
My online social network is a work in progress, but isn’t everything? Any tips and lessons you’ve experienced with your own social media network is greatly appreciated!
Facebook and Twitter: Online friendship – what expectations apply?