The Fear of Rejection on Social Media and the Internet

I’ve never been afraid to speak my mind. Ask me anything. About anything. Really. I promise to give you my opinion. I’ve never been sure if this talent for being obnoxiously opinionated and unafraid of rejection was a blessing or a curse, and honestly, I’m still not sure. It’s probably a bit of both. But on the Internet, it is, without question, a gift. I tweet, post photos on Instagram, share my thoughts on Facebook, and make goofy boards on Pinterest such as “Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hair” without fear of any judgment or rejection.

However, I realize that for most people, this isn’t the way things work. Everyone doesn’t share my stupidly confident, arguably obnoxious personality online, and for some people, putting themselves out there can be downright difficult.

I’ve heard stories of people who delete their posts that don’t get a certain amount of activity. I have a close friend who actually monitors each of her Instagram posts. If she doesn’t get a certain number of likes or comments, she feels like she’s failed. This definitely isn’t a rare thing. In fact, there’s a good chance that most people do this, at least on a subconscious level.

From one confident social media user to all of the shy ones: Never fear. I respect your struggle and I don’t judge it, so I’ve put together some tips to fight the fear of rejection online.

Don’t see it as rejection: On social media (and in all of life, really) everything is about perspective. Perception is reality. The late, brilliant David Foster Wallace has a great speech about the issue of perception and controlling the way we think about things. I’ll include a link to a shortened version of the speech. I urge you to check it out. Spoiler alert: It will probably change your life and it might make you cry when you realize that someone as amazing and insightful as David Foster Wallace is no longer alive. (http://youtu.be/dexIA_OfLzg) In the speech, Wallace talks about being aware of how we think about things. Take his words to heart. Though he probably wasn’t thinking at all about social media when he said them, they’re still applicable. Not getting a like or a comment isn’t the equivalent of being rejected. There are likely hundreds of different reasons that someone didn’t acknowledge a tweet, photo, or comment, but I’m willing to bet that it’s not because he or she is trying to hurt or reject the poster. The same goes for if someone unfollows you or deletes you as a friend. There’s a chance that person didn’t enjoy your posts, but it’s just as likely that he or she was simply trying to drop a few people in order to clean up a timeline. And that’s fine. You can do the same.

Learn from everything: Pay attention to what gets the most attention on social media. The simple fact is that some kinds of posts work and some don’t. In my experience, photos of cats, gorgeous places, and famous people get more activity than photos of mediocre looking food, close-ups of my face, or personal “man crush Monday” posts. If you’re looking to get hits on one of your posts, post what works. Remember what’s worked in the past and use that information for your future social media use.

Let it go: Though knowing what people like to see and using that knowledge to get attention on social media can be effective, I would proudly make the argument that getting likes, comments, or follows online shouldn’t really be the goal anyway. Social media, when you get right down to it, isn’t about anyone else. It’s a place for people to share their thoughts and their opinions. You don’t even have to interact with anyone else if you don’t want to. If you’re happy with your posts, who cares what anyone else thinks? I post photos of Benedict Cumberbatch on my Instagram every single week. I’m about 90 percent sure people are getting tired of seeing him, but I don’t care. Benedict’s face makes me happy, and I want it on my feed, so I plan to keep posting it. Channel your inner Elsa, and let it go. (http://youtu.be/moSFlvxnbgk) If people don’t immediately respond to your posts, keep in mind that you’re rad and awesome and if you believe that, then that’s all that really matter anyway.

Stop comparing yourself to everyone else: I must admit that even I’m guilty of comparing myself to others online. It’s not exactly a fear of rejection. It’s something deeper. Something worse. I’ll call it social media envy. I’m not making this term up. People really are talking about it. Here’s an article the New York Post did about the idea of social media envy. (http://nypost.com/2014/01/16/americas-ugly-epidemic-of-social-media-envy/) Here’s a blog about the topic from the Huffington Post. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/fahad-faruqui/the-accessibility-of-envy-on-social-media_b_979016.html) Yes, people are definitely talking about this issue. And for good reason. It is impossibly easy to fall victim to social media envy. It always feels like there’s so much to be envious of on social media. Every time I log onto Facebook, I see photos from someone’s big trip, a happy engagement announcement, or another kind of big, monumental piece of news. It looks like everyone is making the most of their lives. They’re seeing exciting places and staying up to watch the sunrise. They’re falling in love, getting married, and scoring impressive internships. And I’m… sitting in my room on the computer, surfing Facebook. It’s a huge bummer every time, and it’s understandably hard not to feel jealous. But making comparisons like this is silly. It’s important to remember that most people’s lives look perfect online because that’s what they’re choosing to share. People don’t want to share their bad days with the world. They want to share the good, the beautiful, the really memorable. Don’t compare yourself with others online because odds are, they’re probably looking at your profile, dreaming about having a life as nice as yours, and doing the exact same thing.

Realize the possibilities: I’ve had blog posts and tweets go viral and it is cool. It’s great to get recognized by others for your opinions. When I wrote a reaction to “How I Met Your Mother’s” finale, it spread like wildfire. Even now, weeks after the post was published, I still get comments on it. This could happen to anyone. I promise the post wasn’t anything special. All it takes is putting yourself out there. So before you take down your blog post that hasn’t gotten much activity, remember that all it takes is one big share for you to hit it big. Online, the possibilities are endless, but if the fear of being rejected or ignored keeps you from posting, your chances of going viral are drastically reduced.

When you get right down to it, nearly everyone feels a little uncomfortable when his or her posts don’t get a flood of attention. It’s a totally natural feeling. But it’s also silly. No one else sits around, judging those who post a tweet and don’t get retweeted. Honestly, no one else really cares. So you shouldn’t either. Social media is whatever you want it to be. If you want to post pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch every single day, then do it, regardless of if anyone cares to see them. (And hit me up, please. I would genuinely love to see pictures of Benedict every day, so you’re guaranteed at least one appreciative and loyal follower.)

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There are no strict rules to using social media. Truly, there are no rules at all. You’re pretty much free to post whatever you like. Everyone might not like what you like, and that’s fine. Life would be ridiculously boring if they did. So follow the people that you want to follow and let others do the same. Don’t let it get you down if you’re not one of them.

On social media — and again, in all of life — I recommend trying to follow this simple golden rule:

You do you, girl.

Or boy. Or man. Or woman. Or monkey. Hell, I’m not even going to limit this to humans. Just do your thing and do it with confidence. I bet people are going to jump at the chance to follow someone who’s doing that anyway. And if they don’t? Oh well. It’s just social media. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not going to matter if your post got 1 like, 10 likes, or 1,000.

If you’re happy, then you’re doing it right.

If you would like to reach me for further questions or discussion, you can email me at schylermartin@gmail.com or reach me on Twitter @SkyyTweet. I’m always up for conversation. I promise not to ignore you. (Unless you’re rude or creepy, y’all. Let’s not get crazy.) Seriously though, feel free to reach out.

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