Thank You Mark Zuckerberg

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
The story of an introvert who loves social media.

Submitted: July 12, 2012

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Submitted: July 12, 2012




Seemingly every day now, there’s a new article written for some magazine or website about the horrible things that social media is doing to us – how it allows people to create false identities for themselves, about how it’s not a true form of communication, about how it has replaced real (i.e. face-to-face) interactions, and how it is rooted in narcissism, laziness, and every other negative trait that Millenials have been branded with by older people who remember the good old days when the TV had four channels and there weren’t things like “the Facebook” or “the Tweeter.” Tell an adult over the age of 50 about Facebook or Twitter, and chances are you’ll hear a reaction like: “I see my friends, so why do I need a Facebook?” or “Why do I care if someone eats a sandwich?” I find these arguments so frustrating and annoying that I find myself in the unexpected position of vigorously defending these social media sites, despite their obvious flaws.

I’ve taken a long, unusual road to becoming something of a social media obsessive. Early on in my life, in elementary or middle school, I was fairly sociable at school and had a small group of friends that I would hang out with during the day. I also learned the language of sarcasm and joke-telling at a very early age, but hadn’t yet developed any control over it, so I would loudly and frequently make sarcastic remarks during class that would sometimes drive my teacher insane, but endeared me to the other students and established my reputation as a sort of witty class clown type. But even then, at the height of my popularity -- much like The Beatles when they stopped touring and became a studio band -- I tended to just go home and rarely had a desire to hang out with anyone outside of school.

In high school, that feeling of just not wanting to do anything became much more pronounced once I was surrounded by a bunch of people I couldn’t stand and forced to learn a bunch of things that I didn’t care about. I quickly realized that I didn’t have an audience for my humor, so I learned the art of staying silent to avoid having to ever talk to my peers. During the day I almost never talked, opting to sit quietly and sometimes do a crossword puzzle during class while the idiots yammered away, and at the end of the day I’d gratefully get home and take a nap and do nothing (including homework) for the rest of the night. I had no friends and no real identity. I’m guessing most people at the school figured I was a future serial killer who went home and tortured kittens.

One of the things we did in AP Psychology senior year was take the Myers-Briggs personality test, which boils the wonderful tapestry of life that is humanity in all of its diverse and unique forms down to eight letters, four of which become your identity: I or E (introversion/extroversion), N or S (intuition/sensing), T or F (thinking/feeling), and J or P (judgment/perception). You were assigned a letter based on how you answered the test’s incredibly leading questions, like: “Often you prefer to read a book than go to a party. YES OR NO” (my answer: yes). I ended up being labeled as an INTP (which has now shifted to occasionally being an INFP or INTJ, depending on the test), but what really stood out was my “I” score. According to the results, I had given the “I” answer for every question that was intended to measure introversion/extroversion.

I always knew I was an introvert, but this was the first time I had quantifiably seen that I was such a strong introvert, or maybe a hardcore introvert if being an introvert was ever hip enough to have a cool, extroverty word like that in front of it. The definition of an introvert varies, but it typically describes someone who is more concerned with their own mental life than gratification from the outside world. Extroverts gain energy from social interactions and tend to be outgoing, while introverts lose energy from socializing and tend to be shy and quiet.

It’s a tough life being an introvert, especially in America. Traits that extroverts have are the most valued in our culture: they’re people persons, they can make friends and connections, they can “put themselves out there,” they take risks, they go out and party which makes them cool. Introvert traits are not just ignored, but people often actively try to cure me of them, much in the way that left-handed people used to be forced to write right-handed because people feared that they were possessed by Satan. Introverts are constantly told that they need to “go out and let loose” or “quit being shy and just talk to people,” as if it’s really that simple for an introvert and as if the thought of doing so had never in a million years occurred to us. And if you’re an introvert on the job hunt, good luck finding a description that is looking for “someone who is quiet and uncomfortable in social situations, has difficulty making friends, and a fear of public speaking.”

Like any good introvert, it took me a long time to get with the times and make a Facebook account. When I did, I was at Inver Hills Community College, where I enrolled after getting soundly rejected by every college I applied for just because I barely graduated high school with a 2.2 GPA and no extracurricular activities. I was quickly sucked into the addictive Facebook vortex, but also had no idea what I was doing. People that I hadn’t talked to in over a year sent me friend requests, and then I, thinking that standard practice was just to add anyone who had ever looked at you and didn’t show outright disgust, aggressively added some people from high school that I almost never talked to and still don’t talk to. I also thought accepting a friend request was a sign that someone truly accepted and understood you, that they were aware of your flaws but had accepted you for who you were and were eager to create a burgeoning internet friendship that could be cherished for years to come.  It certainly didn’t occur to me that people might get a friend request from me, see the red notification and say “oh cool a friend request oh it’s just that Josh kid well whatever I guess.”

For the first few months, my Facebook was a cold, depressing place. It usually consisted of me throwing out completely unwanted observations or updates on my life, which then went unliked and uncommented on and just kind of sat there in the ether, like ancient cavemen who would scribble on walls and only have their writing read thousands of years later by archaeologists. It didn’t help that I was one of “those guys” who didn’t have a picture of himself, instead opting for a picture of Conan O’Brien in Simpsons form, which was presumably to show my allegiance to the embattled entertainer after his fiasco at The Tonight Show but was really to avoid showing people my face and shame at being at a community college. (To date, there are still basically no pictures of me on Facebook, simply because I never go to events where people are randomly snapping pictures and then uploading them. Where does this kind of stuff happen? I am legitimately curious.)

It took me about a year to come to a big realization: nobody on Facebook gave even the slightest bit of crap about my life or how it was going. Which made sense, because I didn’t care about anyone else’s, so why would they care about mine? So instead I began using Facebook as something of a writing tool, a way for me to craft little nuggets of humor or wisdom that would hopefully appeal to others. I rarely think anything I write is too funny out of context, but I like to think it’s effective as a bit of fresh air in the miasma of stupidity that is otherwise a typical Facebook news feed. Activity began to pick up a bit after that, and that was when I began to see the power of Facebook for someone like me: it’s a way to communicate and make friends that is all in the written word, where I am most comfortable, with none of the awkward pauses, passive-aggressive signals, and all the other stuff about real life conversation that intimidates me. In other words, it’s the perfect place for an introvert who wants to make friends without entering into situations that they find deeply unpleasant.

Facebook didn’t work for me when I had no friends and wasn’t meeting anyone, but it became an invaluable resource when I transferred to Hamline University and began meeting people that were actually interesting. As part of my introversion, I’m extremely shy and take an incredibly long time to open up around people (my best friend at Hamline didn’t even know my name for the first two months of the year when we were living three doors away from each other). But on Facebook, all it takes is a friend request, and I feel like people can see things that I’ve posted and get to know me. That can then supplement real-life conversations, because people know what I’m interested in, and I’m not bad at talking once it’s on a subject that I care about with people that I’m comfortable around.

All this is a long-winded, possibly TMI way of saying that I am the type of person these social media discussions always overlook. In the hands of an extrovert I imagine Facebook is an obligatory annoyance, something they don’t really need because they can meet people out in the real world just fine. But for introverts, Facebook and other social media is probably the biggest victory we’ll experience in our lifetime. It’s taken the socializing and friendship-making power that used to belong solely to extroverts and given some of it to introverts. It’s leveled the communication playing field. Without it, there’s a good chance that I’d be sitting alone in a darkened room surrounded by jars of my own urine. Instead, I am still frequently sitting alone in a darkened room, but in that darkened room I am able to communicate with people that share similar interests with me, and that contact keeps the bit of sanity I have left and gives me the confidence to urinate in the toilet like a normal person to keep my room smelling relatively fresh.

So thanks Mark Zuckerberg. You’ve made the world a little bit easier and more enjoyable for an introverted dork like me.

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