I am in the midst of a blossoming friendship with a woman in my neighborhood. We get each other. Our values are in alignment. Our kids have a great time playing together. And best of all, our friendship is low maintenance because we both understand that the other has a lot on her plate. At the present moment, we are not friends on any social networking platform.
Getting together for playdates always comes with a particular element of excitement because I haven’t seen her selfies pop up in my timeline since our last outing. Chatting over coffee is always engaging because I’m never listening to a retelling of a story she already publicized for all of her Instagram followers. Bumping into her at the local supermarket or the pizzeria is always a surprise because I didn’t see her geotag herself via Facebook prior to heading out of the door. However, as our relationship continues to progress, the pressure to make our friendship social media official lingers in the background. Since we are living in the age of technology, this would be the natural progression of things, but I have concerns that connecting on social media will somehow taint our friendship and I’d much rather protect out real-life connection over a digital one. Simply put, I’m afraid that I’ll like her less if and when the time comes to hit that “accept” button on a friend request. And though we might not always verbalize it, I think we’ve all had the experience where we really dug someone in real life but were completely turned off by their social media presence.
Social networking platforms, in many cases, provide us with unadulterated access to one another. Nothing stands between our inner-most thoughts and the “post” button except our internal filters. And let’s be honest, some of us have the ability to self-regulate more effectively than others. According to social scientist and author Sherry Turkle, those who overshare are trying so hard to impress others that their energy is wasted on trying to wow their audience, which leaves little energy left to actually filter the information that is being publicized.
“This effort is known as ‘self-regulation’ and here is how it works,” Turkle writes. “When having a conversation, we can use up a lot of mental energy trying to manage the other person’s impression of us. We try to look smart, witty, and interesting, but the effort required to do this leaves less brain power to filter what we say and to whom.”
In addition to the annoying tendency that some of us have to overshare, there are also those who fake the funk. We all know someone who completely misrepresents their life or tells outright lies on social media. Their perfectly curated Instagram feeds tell one story but their real lives tell another. And while the things that another adult is posting on their social media accounts probably shouldn’t bother me so much, there’s something that is innately unsettling about having someone confide in you about their relationship being on the rocks only to see them turn around and post images using #relationshipgoals or having a loved one who asked to borrow money turn around and brag to their Instagram followers about how much they spent on x,y,z.
Now that I’ve fully entered adulthood, social media has a tendency to overcomplicate relationships in a way that I don’t recall happening back when I was a teenie bopper peddling through these Myspace streets. More and more often I am finding that there are some people who I like a lot more when I’m not friends with them on social media.
What about you? Do you find that you like people less after you friend them on social media?