Social networking. A new way to define yourself, right? What if you don’t know who you are?
On social networking sites like MySpace I’ve started to notice that there’re two main ways people present themselves on their profiles: In-depth, with large lists of interests, favorite shows, books, bands — complete with titles and band names — or very vague, with nonspecific information about genre and personality and very little in the way of actual identifying characteristics.
Take me for instance. My personal profile is desert-like in emptiness. I have things to describe me but they are mostly broad generalizations. I don’t say “I like this band, and this book”, but rather “I like this style of music, and this genre of books”.
For people who fill out profiles in depth, it seems that they either don’t have a life or they have highly specified interests. Even though it would seem that people who expand their online presence to the depth they do means they don’t have anything better to do with their time, this isn’t necessarily true. Since they have so many things they can write about themselves and their interests, they far outstrip the people who generalize. They have more of a life.
As for people like me, who are less well-gifted in socialization, in order to feel more accepted, subconsciously I “dumb down” my interests and personality in order to reach as many people as I can in the hopes that I’ll meet them and be able to talk to them, so I don’t always feel unliked or alone.
Thus, I end up generalizing my personality.
The other reason I find that I don’t explicitly state these things is that I don’t see myself as very interesting. I don’t have a wide range of hobbies or interesting things to say, nor nothing I have experienced or watched or read seems likely to spark a conversation, and that’s the ultimate downfall of my social phobia.
Sometimes I feel incompetent because everyone looks so fleshed out in life. Swimming in a text wall of accomplishments and expansive life experiences loses me in my reading pattern physically as well as in feelings of jealousy emotionally.
I find that, at least if I generalize, it makes me feel like I’m a more approachable person. And I truly believe I am approachable. But I’m also very shy. It would then seem to me that social phobic people would generalize themselves more in order to reach the widest possible spread of people in order to feel a sense of belonging and to make connections with others.
A social phobic is not very well defined in the first place. They’re swimming in a mess of who they think they are, who they feel like they should be, what other people see them as, and so on. Though every person experiences this, the anxiety raising alarm in a social phobic’s mind can feel much worse than a usual case of stress or butterflies. Like teenage identity crises, social phobics are searching hard to find themselves. They begin generalizing, to see if they can befriend other people to “find themselves” with. The desire in a social phobic to belong somewhere is very strong. Having to question one’s identity on a daily basis can make someone go mad without companionship. The vicious cycle begins when trying and failing to find that companionship makes it harder to commit to finding it again. The very people one wants to befriend are the same people who may very well make one feel uncomfortable because of the phobia.
Specific people know who they are. They don’t kid themselves or anybody else. They don’t wait around for companionship in order to feel safe in the world. They are the type of people who can define themselves in one short sentence. They are not less complex (social phobics, don’t go getting a big head please), but they do have fewer complications, if that makes any sense.
Of course, this concept doesn’t always apply. Some shy people may be overzealous in creating their profile in order to get noticed, or extroverted people may not fill out their profiles for lack of time or lack of need (because they’re so well-known anyway).
But this was just a thought.