I was slow to get on Facebook. Well, slower than most of my friends.
In contrast, I took to Twitter quickly. Despite being visually oriented – and Facebook is far superior for that – Twitter suited me, perhaps because I was initially restricted to words, and also for the pleasure of quick hits of conversation and links to articles I enjoyed reading.
As for Facebook, naturally I’d been seeing my teenagers enjoying it for years. They were getting together with friends – real life friends – in ways that I wasn’t, and sharing snippets of their lives, often through video and images. They did so as an enhancement to their social lives and not – as some would have us think – a replacement for it.
When friends of mine would suggest that I could use Facebook to follow the happenings of strangers, potential dates, or for that matter, my ex – none of that was to my taste. If anything, I purposely stayed away.
Judging a Potential Date on Social Media
A recent article in Time explains “How Facebook Could Sabotage Your Blind Date.” The science behind their “arousal” and “anxiety” issues leaves me shaking my head at inadequate samples (and study design, conclusions, etc.), but common sense would have us pay attention to the topic all the same.
As the starting point for the article is the blind date – and using Facebook to get a look at (and gain comfort with) the person you will be meeting, psychologists suggest that the results may be counterintuitive. Rather than feeling more comfortable after perusing a stranger’s profile, we may feel less. It appears this is particularly true for those with social anxiety, as:
… The initial online experience could start a process of rumination that leads to expectations and comparisons that the real life encounter may not meet or fulfill. That’s supported by a growing number of studies that show regular Facebook users don’t feel good about themselves, because they are constantly comparing themselves to their peers – on looks, accomplishments and goals.
Remember that “social media envy?”
When it comes to checking someone out online, I have nothing against it. In fact, I consider it a standard and straightforward way to get another view of the person you’re about to meet, whether for business or possible pleasure.
Checking out a Stranger on Social Media – for Safety or Information
A little poking around on Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook – or any other social media platform for that matter – certainly serves as a measure of safety or preparation before an in-person meeting. But this is a different dynamic than expectation setting that accompanies a potential date.
Don’t we all know how easy it is to build up someone in our heads, especially if we’re dreaming a little, or if we’re dealing with esteem issues that may then leave us feeling woeful by comparison?
In a related article, “This is Your Brain on Facebook,” alluding to the spike of pleasure we may feel when someone “likes” us or responds in positive fashion to an update, the extent to which the brain reacts is used as a predictor of Facebook usage.
In one of the first studies to connect social media use and brain imaging data, scientists… imaged the brains of 31 Facebook users while they viewed pictures of either themselves or others that were accompanied by positive captions… Specifically, a region called the nucleus accumbens, which processes rewarding feelings about food, sex, money and social acceptance became more active in response to praise for oneself… associated with more time on the social media site.
Are we surprised? Who doesn’t like social affirmation?
Do You Stalk Your Ex?
But what about the negative feelings – and behaviors that may be encouraged and unleashed as a result? What about jealousy, disappointment with oneself, anger? What about the downside to these feelings over assumptions as you fill in the blanks around a status update or a posted picture?
What about those who stalk their exes?
Do you really want to assume that someone’s life is rosy based on pretty pictures and a quick “publish?” Are you following an ex for a limited period of time, in some attempt to process, or dwelling in the land of open wounds?
Stalking an ex is something I’ve known several women to do, especially after divorce. And this particular activity provides a source of pain I went out of my way to avoid, personally. I realize that curiosity gets the best of us at times, but just because we can do a thing – look up someone on Facebook – doesn’t mean that we should, or that it’s ultimately in our best interest.
I’m of the “face down Facebook” persuasion, when it comes to this sort of destructive – or self destructive temptation.
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