I’m a fairly self-assured person. Sure, I have days where I wonder about my place in the world or why, despite my best efforts, I continue to have jiggly arms. Still, most days, I’m confident of my abilities, my fabulous sense of humor, my remarkably average looks and my good fortune to know lots of killer-smart people. How, then, with all this self-confidence, did Facebook (a thing, not even a person) manage to hurt my feelings?

How this happened really isn’t as interesting as the fact that it happened at all and what I realized about myself as a result.

I am fairly particular about who I connect with on Facebook. I don’t accept all friend requests, though I’m connected with a wide variety of people. They range from people I’ve known for years to family members to business contacts to a few I don’t even remember how we met.

Strategies for using Facebook run the gamut from closely manage to wide open. Many people connect only with close friends and family, while others connect with every warm blooded mammal able to click to send a friend request. I encourage everyone to set the parameters which work best for them. This is the reason I didn’t take it personally when a very well known tech blogger declined my Facebook friend request. Never mind that he’s warmly greeted me each time we’ve seen each other; it is still his choice and I respect that.

This respect for people using Facebook as they choose was put to the test recently.

I was surprised one day to find that my access to a friend’s Facebook profile was suddenly limited, meaning that I could not view her wall. Facebook users know that this is where the magic happens – all the news, gossip, updates and conversation. Why would she have blocked me? Had I done something to offend her? While we had only known each other for a couple of years, I thought we were friends. Was I wrong? And, why the change of heart? We used to communicate on Facebook. She commented on what I was doing; I did likewise on her updates. If there were relationship red flags, I had completely missed them.

Her tech-savviness is light-years beyond my own. She carefully manages her social sharing and connections. I knew chances of her having changed this accidentally ranged from zero to nil. If this had been someone who isn’t as diligent about managing their online profiles, I might have assumed they had made a mistake.

My mind was reeling – and that surprised me. I tried to figure out what exactly about this hurt me. Did I really care if I had been shut-out on Facebook? Was my self-esteem that fragile? It didn’t take but a moment to figure out that this wasn’t about Facebook at all, it was coming to terms with the fact that I was wrong about our friendship. Up front rejection is one thing, but having someone change their mind about you after you’ve been friends for awhile is something else altogether. Apparently, yes, my self-esteem is indeed that fragile.

Once it dawned on me that this isn’t high school (after about 2 minutes of wallowing in self-pity), I sent my friend a note asking if I had done anything to offend her and, if so, I apologized. I also made sure to say that I supported her decision to include or exclude anyone from any of her online content – a very genuine statement, even if I don’t happen to personally like the result.

In the end, it turned out that somehow Facebook had totally screwed up her privacy settings and a bunch of her friends now had limited access. I was just the first one to notice it, so she had no idea.

Still, it shocked me to see how a little check-box deep in the Facebook privacy settings led to my own feelings of self-doubt and rejection.  Two things occurred to me: 1. I appreciate my friends and kind of want them to stick around, and 2. If I own-up to being hurt (albeit temporarily) by this, I’m going to look like a wimp. (As you can see, #2 isn’t of much importance to me.)

As the lines between virtual connections and real-world connections become increasingly blurred, it isn’t simply technology and protocol we need to consider. We need to remember that there are real people on the other end of every decision we make. We should always feel comfortable setting our own parameters as long as we consider and are willing to be accountable for how those decisions feel to others.

P.S. – Please check your Facebook privacy settings every now and then just to be sure everything is in proper order.

Image courtesy of chefranden

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