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)