Is social media turning adults into insecure teenagers?

For better or worse, there are no secrets in social media. If it happens in my circle of friends, it gets tweeted or Facebooked about.

This week, I was talking with someone about not being invited to the birthday parties of some mutual friends. People were tweeting from the parties so it was hard to miss the fact that they were together and I was home. In all actuality, though, the people I'm referring to are friendly acquaintances and not true blue friends, so I understand the oversight. No harm, no foul.

However, after this brief discussion with my friend I felt like I was 15 years old again. Just for a minute, but it happened. What do I care if I wasn't invited? Truth be told, I don't care in the least. Honestly. But that young adolescent in me seemed to rise to the surface for just a few moments. The girl who wasn't asked to the dance or didn't get invited to the head cheerleader's surprise party.

Ever tweet someone who didn't answer you back? How about comment on someone's Facebook status only to see him or her answer everyone else back except for you? Have you ever put something really serious out there, only to feel like you're talking to yourself (the many folks who have announced their suicides via social media and only received snide replies or jokes as responses comes to mind).

That takes me to Google. I wrote a blog post a year and a half ago asking if Facebook was making people lonelier. I discussed my friend who was feeling left out and sad because she was ignored by her "friends" on Facebook. I didn't have much of a readership back then, so the piece has been gathering dust in the archives. That is until people recently started entering "facebook lonely", "facebook lonely people", "lonely people on facebook", and "facebook is for lonely people" into Google search.

According to Google Analytics, these search terms represent four of the top 10 keywords people use that ultimately direct them to my blog. All told, that is 50% of my traffic from search! So many people are using those search phrases that my post on Facebook making people lonelier has risen to the sixth most popular post on my blog out of hundreds that I've written. Imagine that. A piece about people feeling left out because they're ignored on Facebook. There's definitely something to that.

In a new world where we share our private lives in the public eye, everything that happens in our social circles is out there for the world to see. Your friend posts a photo album to Facebook that has photos of her last dinner party that you didn't know about. Someone tweets about the drinks he's enjoying with people who you thought were your friends, too, but who didn't seem to include you. When people talk so openly, there are destined to be those who feel left out and have their feelings hurt. Those who will, undoubtedly, revert back to insecure teenagers; wondering why they were overlooked.

As kids, we actually were insecure. Even the popular kids. But, as adults, thankfully we have the good sense to know what matters and what doesn't. We know the power we have to shape our lives and circumstances and that we are not merely pawns in someone else's story. We all know that.

But, strangely enough, whether we're 25 or 60, sometimes we all have a little 15 year old hiding within us. Why is that?


  1. Adults are just 15-year-olds swaddled in layers of life experience. It's easy to peel back the layers once in a while.

    By the way, I blink too!

  2. I generally don't get too hung up with the personal stuff on social networks. I try to support friends when they share good content, but I couldn't care less about a picture of someone's dog in a Santa suit, or updates about who's eating dinner with whom.

    I do sometimes get bummed when I feel like I'm sharing awesome links to a great new article or blog post and get nothing but crickets. But I don't dwell on it too long. I'm fascinated by the process of what gets attention and what doesn't, so if I'm not getting any feedback that means I just work harder to try and pitch it in a new and more creative way. It's all a process and we all learn as we go.

  3. It's absolutely true, but I think it's true for everything. I was just posting to a FB friend about the loss of her Dad and I shared that I lost mine, too, now making me an orphan. And that I really don't think there is any age to those feelings. I have asked people in their eighties if they ever get over the loss of their parents and I get the same response time and again: not really.

    So I find this oddly comforting. It's not that I've suddenly become a 15 yr old, it's that the 15 yr old is still in there as Christopher Zara said, and is suddenly exposed. Like you, Amber, I have found myself feeling left out and realizing that feeling, I find I try even harder to answer every tweet and post I can without flooding the stream - just as I would have done when I was 15. Maybe I'm a case of arrested development, but I don't think so watching the conversations of others. I think these venues give us the opportunity to show our true selves, which were probably pretty well developed at age 15 =)

  4. Guess we all want to be loved and noticed and feel easily ignored if we are not included. But it is just because we get to know about all we miss and we know others see as well that we weren't there on that party, I think.

  5. This was a great read Amber. Just as one prime example of "the dangers of social media" - I had an ex boss of mine, who I thought was my friend, take some really nasty verbal pot shots at me on his blog, using my full name, a number of years back. To say I was pissed off would be an understatement, yet I chose not to retalliate because I viewed it as stooping to his level. Years later he tried to reconnect with me both on Facebook and LinkedIn, going so far as to call me his friend which was mind blowing after the stunt he pulled. Of course I didn't add him, then he wrote on his blog that he was upset about it and he didn't understand why I wouldn't add him, yet this time around he didn't use my name at all.

    It really does get sadly juvenile, but this is one of the unfortunate things about social media. The "gossip circle" has a new and more accesable outlet and bridges can be burnt alot easier.

  6. There's a lot of truth in this. Twitter has a way of making me feel like crap at least once a month or so. I keep telling myself, that I need to get over it, but sometimes words (or lack of) do hurt. People are very thin skinned and we can't escape the need to be or feel loved. We think we're the superior race, but we're not....

  7. I love your comment, Christopher! Thanks so much for stopping by and chiming in ;-)

  8. Chris, you bring up another great example. When I got started on Twitter I felt the exact same way. Crickets.

    Sometimes I tweet something I think is great and nothin'. Other times I tweet sometime else that doesn't seem all that special---and magic! There are so many variables that can come into play. And, yes, it can get discouraging. But, just keep providing value to your network. That's the key. I'm gonna go look for something on yours to RT to get you started for the day ;-)

  9. Thank you for commenting, Anita. As for the parent thing, I know from my mom's loss of her mom, she never got over it, either. My thoughts are with you.

    I'm quite comfortable in my adult skin. It's a great feeling to know who you are and what really matters to you. It's one of the few good things about being an adult. But, I agree. I think Christopher Zara has something there, too.

    I think some of the biggest names out there can feel left out, too. Maybe it's more of a competitive thing than an emotional thing, but there's something about our wiring that always us wants to be included, isn't there?

  10. Hurt feelings and bruised egos! If that doesn't say teenager, I don't know what does, eh?

    You're right, though. No matter our age, everyone wants to be noticed and appreciated.

    Thanks for adding to the dialogue ;-)

  11. Great example, Ian! And you really hit on something with the gossip circle and burned bridges. As we all know, the web is forever. Even if you delete something, it can be cached or a screen grab can memorialize it forever. Dangerous stuff.

    Your lack of "retaliation" is a solid example of you keeping your 15 year old inner self in check, huh? Thankfully, we all have a bit more adult in us than teenager and that will, hopefully, keep our lives and actions in perspective.

    Thanks for adding your unique life experience to the dialogue, Ian. Great insight!

  12. Frankly, I think the world would be a better place if humans acted more like dogs. Dogs are always excited to see everyone and even a serial killer can get a big sloppy kiss from a dog. Canines are about as non discriminating and inclusive as any creature on Earth.

    But, to your broader comment, we most certainly can be thin skinned at times. I, too, have moments here and there that hit a nerve. But, thankfully, the grown woman in me is more powerful than the teenage girl who has established squatters rights somewhere in my brain.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject, Christine. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right? ;-)

  13. I remind my kids all the time (although they are not in HS yet) that HS is fundamentally what life is like sadly enough.
    It doesn't mean you have to be what you are in HS, but that the relationships and pettiness is pretty much always there. Yes, the lowest common denominator is our high school selves.

  14. I like it. People on their worst days are their high school versions of themselves! Except that when you're grown up, geeks are cool and the high school quarterback usually works for minimum wage ;-)

  15. " As we all know, the web is forever. Even if you delete something, it can be cached or a screen grab can memorialize it forever. Dangerous stuff."

    And that's what bothered me most about what he did - Just for starters what if a potential employer were to see what he wrote? And this was coming from a guy who told me how out of line it was to talk about someone behind their back when he thought I said something innapropriate about one of his best friends when I absolutely didn't, but at least that was behind closed doors instead of out in the public domain.

    It's fortunate that I've managed to keep my inner 15 year old in check on this one because it's been incredibly tempting to let it out, but like I said I don't want to stoop to his pathetic level.

  16. If you Google search your name, does his post come up high in the rankings? If so, and if it were me, I might ask him to remove your proper name or use initials. That way you've protected your online identity while also, subtly, letting him know that you know what he did.

    Or, another route is for you to comment on his blog post about you. Keep to the high road, of course, in your comment. But, in doing so, you can also salvage your online rep and clarify any inaccuracies in what's he's written.

    Sounds like you've got a sticky situation there, though.

  17. Hey Amber...OMG, did you hear about Becky? She's got a big ole butt. What? Does she think she's a rap singer's gf or something? LOL

  18. I see you're taking the teenage mentality pretty seriously! :-) I don't follow Becky's butt on Twitter, but maybe I should so I can get the latest directly from the source ;-)

    Thanks for stopping by, Ms. Soleil. You're always on my birthday party list, baby!

  19. Thanks for having the courage to write about this! I mused a while back that I was quite happy with my social life until blogs and Facebook came along and let me know about all the fun I was missing... even if I was having tremendous fun at that same moment.

    I believe this is because Facebook has hit on something deep and visceral for all of us: a need to be included. With the hyperconnectivity of the social web, however, that need can be shoved into overdrive, so that even the overcommitted among us (guilty) are driven for more inclusion.

    I don't have any really good insights or solutions here, other than to breathe and remember what brings you true joy in life: is it being included in *that one* dinner, or is it the bond you share with your friends, no matter what you are doing?

  20. So if we are in HS even IRL, how bad is it amplified by the internet... so sad

  21. What a beautiful comment, Heidi. Seriously.

    You are so spot on. People who "think" they're happy until social media lets them know they're missing out. I frequently have to remind myself, as well, that there is a bigger picture to all this.

    Your comment provides wonderful food for thought and a great perspective about reality. Yes, it's the bonds that are formed and nurtured that matter most. They're the main course. The other stuff is just side dishes.

    Thanks again for commenting, Heidi. I really love what you said and how you said it.

  22. Oh gosh. I am SO GRATEFUL I'm not a teen today. Boy, kids growing up in a social media world have it tough. I wouldn't want to do it and am so happy this stuff wasn't around when I was a kid!

  23. My oldest has the phone and is CONSTANTLY communicating with friends via text- nearly 1000 a week, no joke!
    its gotta act like a magnifier

  24. I found this article from @heidimiller. It made me laugh... I've freaked out once or twice, only to realize that I really am just "overcommitted" to my own wittiness, or so passionate about my post-- that I forget that for the majority of people involved in social media are involved to strictly enjoy themselves... not to win a popularity contest. I say, keep posting, keep tagging-- and eventually-- your opinion will be valued as much as you feel it should be.

  25. Overcommitted to your own wittiness? I like it!

    Yep, sometimes we all take this stuff too seriously, huh? That's the inner teenager in us! Crisis! Crisis! Danger Will Robinson!

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  26. Thanks for the kind words. I first experienced this back in my LiveJournal days, when I would be reveling in the joy of a fabulous weekend with friends, completely happy... until I read about one of my friends doing something *else* that I theoretically would also have enjoyed doing.

    As the Buddha said, "All life is suffering." Let's just not let Facebook be the source of the cognitive dissonance. :-)

  27. Oh, that Buddha! Profound stuff!

    Thanks again for stopping by and adding to the dialogue, Heidi!

  28. Yes. The last bit rings true for me. I discovered exactly how much my "best friends" were leaving me out of things because of fb and twitter. I ended up trying to arrange something and they both said they were busy, only to go hang out with each other and leave me out, which I discovered by photos on fb and multiple tweets. Needless to say, I called them on it, they denied everything, and I stopped speaking to them. So I don't think it influenced my paranoia in a negative way as this turned out to have been going on for a very long time and on purpose. They just didn't have the guts to tell me they didn't want to be friends anymore. It confirmed my suspicions much like having a nanny-cam to catch the bad babysitter renting PPV or whatever. Still, it sucked that they weren't truthful about things with me from the start. I often wonder if I'd still be trying to hang onto them this many years later if I hadn't found out via the web.

  29. Thanks for sharing your personal story, Kirsty. That must have been very hard. All this social media stuff can be so voyeuristic, huh?

    Well, whether it be finding out online or through some other means, at least you finally know where you stand with these people. For better or not, there's a digital footprint out there for most of us.

    Now, to concentrate on other people who are worth your time and effort. Good luck Kirsty and sharing your insights! :-)


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