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Sunday, June 03, 2012

Addicted to Being Popular

I have a problem. I am addicted to trying to be popular. I have never truly been popular in my entire life (though I was friends with a popular girl for about a semester in eighth grade and thus became friends with her friends). Initially, this was very frustrating because I just could not understand why I couldn't make friends easily. Now I know that this difficulty is due to me having Asperger Syndrome, the #1 symptom of which is "significant difficulties in social interaction" (quote from the Asperger's Wikipedia article, which is actually very well written), a symptom which is pretty much true of any type of autism anyway. But still, I cannot shake the fact that I have never been able to unlock the secret to being popular.

My lack of success in this IRL is just as bad online. I've been making websites for over 10 years and not one of them has become popular. Ditto for YouTube videos, with the notable exception of a video I made where I took the attack and transformation clips from PGSM and replaced their audio with audio from the Sailor Moon English dub anime, which got 18,000 hits over two years' time. Not viral by any means, but significant. (Actually, some of my Dark Mercury Arc Fandub Project videos have gotten over 1,000 views, but again that's over at least 2 years). As for social media, the results are pretty sad - my follower counts are all very low on all my accounts, my Tumblr being the lowest with 19 followers. (The only exception is my writing Facebook profile, where I got 100 friends on the first day, but this was thanks to a couple of friends of mine from a writers' forum who, upon reading my announcement on the forum that I'd created a profile for my writing persona, inundated me with friend suggestions, almost all of which I accepted).

I think my addiction comes down to my desire to be a people pleaser and my fears of failure and rejection. I want to feel accepted and recognized, even online. I want to feel like I have worth. Now, of course, I know that I shouldn't let what others think of me be the source of my worth. I'm not stupid. I know well enough that I need to turn to God to find my worth as a person. But I just can't do it. I can't give up enough control of my life to God to let him help me get out of this.

But, at the same time, I know there's no way I can live the abundant life God promises unless I let go of this. So, it's either hold tight to my control and be miserable, or take the risk of letting go and letting God step in. I don't like either option; it's a choix cornélien (a choice whether neither outcome is favorable).

So,which is the better option? Continually strive after being popular, even though I know it's likely a pipe dream? Or forget about being popular and embrace my inner quirkiness? I'd like to say I'm mature enough to do the latter, but I know I'm more likely to pursue the former. I suppose this might be because, as my mom has said, I am developmentally behind others my age, even though I often feel and act mature and did so even in high school.

Perhaps it's the pressure. Social media sites in particular place an emphasis on gaining as many friends/followers/likes as possible. Some, like GetGlue or Foursquare, particularly encourage this behavior by rewarding the user with stickers/badges for certain achievements, similar to the "give the kid a gold star for good behavior" idea from childhood. But it's hard enough for people with Asperger's to deal with IRL social pressures, but to then add online ones -- that's overwhelming.

Gah, that previous paragraph just feels like an excuse. Let's face it, I can't explain away this problem. I had issues with being popular long before social media came on the scene or I found out I had Asperger's. And as I've never been good with patience, that makes the waiting for results that much harder.

I need help. Good God, I need help. Everyone reading this, please help me, pray for me, whatever you feel comfortable doing. Because I need it, and I'm not sure I have the courage to ask God for help myself.

And I'm at an age where I need to get on with my life and be mature. Because, as I saw with my coworker Alma (who was very suddenly taken from us through breast cancer a few weeks ago) and my coworker Esther's dad (who died recently after a long battle with bone cancer), we never know when we're going to die. So we have to make the most of the time we have.

I'll end with some words from Dante's The Divine Comedy:

Qui si convien lasciare ogne sospetto;
ogne viltà convien che qui sia morta.


("Here must all distrust be left behind;
all cowardice must be ended"
- Inferno canto 3, lines 14-15).

 Non è il mondan romore altro ch'un fiato di vento, 
ch'or vien quinci e or vien quindi,
 e muta nome perché muta lato.


("Worldly renown is naught but a breath of wind,
which now comes this way and now comes that,
and changes name because it changes quarter."
- Purgatorio canto 11, lines 100-102)

Lo maggior don che Dio per sua larghezza fesse creando, 
e a la sua bontate più conformato, 
e quel ch'e' più apprezza,
fu de la volontà la libertate;
di che le creature intelligenti,
e tutte e sole, fuore e son dotate.


("The greatest gift that God in His bounty made in creation,
and the most conformable to His goodness,
and that which He prizes the most,
was the freedom of will,
with which the creatures with intelligence,
they all and they alone, were and are endowed."
-Paradiso, Canto 5, lines 19-24)

3 comments:

Amy Nolan said...

Renee Renee Renee, I'm sorry you are having such a difficult time with this. "I think my addiction comes down to my desire to be a people pleaser and my fears of failure and rejection. I want to feel accepted and recognized, even online. I want to feel like I have worth." "So,which is the better option? Continually strive after being popular, even though I know it's likely a pipe dream? Or forget about being popular and embrace my inner quirkiness?"
What I have to say about this is that people should like you for who you are, and anything short of that would be a lie and false and totally not worth it. If you have to be different to get people to like you, then they don't like you for who you are and there's no point because they don't actually like YOU!
First and foremost, start by enjoying yourself and being happy with who you are. How can someone like/love you if you don't like/love yourself? I decided a while ago that I just don't care what people think of me anymore, that I'm going to just be myself and let everyone know what I like and do what I like, and if people don't like it too bad I don't need them anyways. It was a very liberating decision and I feel like I really like who I am and that's all that matters. I think another key is just to tell yourself that you are confident, and act confident, and confidence will come and pretty soon it will be easy and you won't have to try and be confident. I used to be very shy and had trouble talking to people, and now because I am confident and don't really care what people think, interaction comes easy for me (not always, I'm not perfect :P).
I actually made a friend last year shortly after I decided to stop trying so hard to please everyone and just focus on liking myself, and it was all because I decided to go outside my comfort zone and be confident and ask her a question which is something I never wouldv'e done before, and I wasn't trying desperately to make a friend, but it just happened when I least expected it and now she is one of my closest friends and worth so much more than the fairweather friends I've had over the years that I've tried to force friendships to happen. (continued)

Amy Nolan said...

(continued because my whole comment was too long apparently)
As for online popularity, I couldn't give a flying flip how many friends I have on facebook, because I know the friends I have on there on a personal basis and that's all that matters to me, not some arbitrary number of random people I have no clue about but added just to get my numbers bigger than someone else. That's not what matters to me. I'd rather have two or three very close real and true friends than 300 acquaintances I don't even know and probably don't care about me anyways because I'm a number to them like they would be to me. As for posting things on youtube and such, anytime I post my work on the internet, I know that it was something I was passionate about and if people share the enjoyment in it then great, if not, I didn't do it for them I did it for myself so it shouldn't matter. I've never gotten 18,000 hits on anything I've put online, and I've never had more than 100 friends on something. I think there may come a point in which you try so hard that you actually lose sight of what is really important and what would actually make you happy.
"Perhaps it's the pressure. Social media sites in particular place an emphasis on gaining as many friends/followers/likes as possible. Some, like GetGlue or Foursquare, particularly encourage this behavior by rewarding the user with stickers/badges for certain achievements, similar to the "give the kid a gold star for good behavior" idea from childhood. " I think that is rather ridiculous and wouldn't sign up for a site which was such a waste of time as that.
This text box is small and now I feel like I might be rambling because I can't see all that I wrote at one time.... soo.... anyways to sum it all up, accept who you are as a person, and like yourself be yourself in all the little quirks you have, and put yourself out there because there will be people who like you for who you are and those people are the ones worth having around in your life, and stop caring about arbitrary numbers of friends online and social media pats on the back because in the end that won't make you happy but a true friendship with a nice person will be golden and worth soo much more.
Last but not least, I will always consider you a friend and care about you, and you will be in my prayers :)

Misty said...

Thanks for your feedback Amy! I'm happy that it's you who commented, because you have been my best friend for so long and know me very well, even though we haven't seen each other in years.

Thanks for your encouragement. It really helps. A lot. I will take your advice to heart. And thanks for saying you'll always be my friend and that you'll pray for me. That means a lot!!

I hope we can get together sometime soon. I was thinking about you today because I was reading Otaku USA and there was an article in it about Serial Experiment Lain, that one anime series you used to like so much and even made a website about but which I never cared for. Hope you're doing great!!