There are two things you need to know about me:
1. I'm crazy
2. That is a self-diagnosis
The closest I've ever come to a medical professional telling me I'm insane was when my doctor handed me a questionnaire on a clipboard emblazoned with the Paxil logo and a Paxil-branded pen, and concluded that my occasional insomnia made me the perfect candidate for... wait for it...
But I'd be a liar if I said I didn't have a touch of the crazy known as social anxiety. I don't take medication for several reasons, not the least of which is my slight paranoia that all the readily available anti-anxiety meds out there today remind me a little too much of Soma, the happy pills that keep the population blissfully unaware of the social injustices in Brave New World.
For those who know me, either in real life or as the lame joke cracker on the internet, it may come as something of a surprise that I absolutely hate online social interaction. Well, okay, I kind of hate social interactions in general because I'm always second guessing myself. I never know if I'm going to offend, or worse, bore the crap out of someone. Honest, what comes off as a breezy aside has a lot of self-doubt baggage attached. See, a long time ago, this jerkwad* told me that I'm terrible at telling stories. Now, I knew then, as I do now, that the jerkwad was just trying to make me feel bad about their own shortcomings, but I'll be damned if it didn't work.
But for every squeamish moment in real life conversations, there's a dozen more over social media. There is no instant backtracking if your words come out wrong. Sarcasm doesn't translate, and despite what netiquette advice columns have been saying for decades now, that little smiley face at the end of a mean-spirited comment is not a get out of jail free card. This is why it takes me a solid ten minutes of teeth gnashing and thumbnail biting to write such brilliant insights as, 'Looks delicious!'
I cut my social media teeth back in the beginning of web 2.0 with MySpace, and after a brief and torrid affair, I wrote it a nice Dear John letter and left a bad forwarding address. And for four years it worked. I remained blissfully web presence-free.I laughed as everyone flocked to Facebook when MySpace got 'lame.' I was baffled as to how anyone could convey anything of imporance with the 140 character count imposed by Twitter. I watched in horrified fascination as the whole of society collectively lost their minds over a cartoon farming game.
But I knew it wouldn't last. I knew something would drive me back to the terrifying world of over-sharing and virtual farms. And so it happened, innocently at first. I was cajoled into joining Facebook to keep up with my parents, who were displaced by a flood. Family led to friends, which led to more friends and more family and suddenly I'm once again biting my nails and stressing out over whether I'm a jerkwad because I didn't 'like' someone's check-in at the grocery store. Seriously, when did we start requiring our friends approval of our supermarket preferences?
And yet, here I am, a year and a half later, posting these personal fears on a public blog, that I will then link to both my personal and public Facebook pages, which will in turn link to my Twitter. This will also automatically RSS to Goodreads and my lonely Google+, that likes to taunt my lack of friend-finding initiative. Why do I do this?
Because I'm trying to forge a living as a writer and like it or not, I need to explore every avenue of self-promotion, even those that scare me. I may be bad at it, but for some strange reason, posting this and other quasi-confessional admissions on a blog, under my real name, doesn't scare me half as much as congratulating someone on their favorable performance review or telling an over-sharer that I am not comfortable knowing the details of how they busted the elastic in their underwear. I'm not making excuses and someday I will have to get over my crippling fear of hashtags and self-promotion. Understand that just because I didn't 'like' your post about junior's high fever and projectile vomiting, does not make me ambivalent to his suffering. I simply don't want to be known as the jerk who takes delight in a child's suffering.
Seriously, there is no reason for this to be so complicated and I know it. But until I can finally accept that our inevitable robot overlords are not judging my every shortcoming, awkward I'll remain.
*My phone tried to autocorrect jerkwad to useless. You have no idea how effective an argument this is for machine sentience.