I feel invisible.
January 6, 2014 8:28 PM   Subscribe

I feel invisible. Either that, or just forgotten/not cared for. Any solutions or experiences coping with being ignored?

Last December, I resigned from my job in retail. I was unhappy and burnt out, and just couldn't take the steam anymore, so I decided to resign, get some rest at home for the holidays, and come back to where I currently live recharged, then jobhunt.

I was fairly close with quite a few co-workers. We would crack jokes, laugh, and enjoy each other's presence in person. I decided to do something random, and quite fitting for the holidays, by taking a picture of myself with each employee at the store - as many as I possibly could - individual pictures. I then posted those pictures on a photo-sharing website (private) and enclosed the link to the photo-sharing website in my farewell email (those emails are common at my former place of work), along with an invitation to add me on FB, Instagram, and also shared my personal email. Only a few co-workers approached me and thanked me for the photo-sharing album, complimenting me on the idea. Most did not respond or say anything until I asked them if they saw the photos.

After my last day at work, I only heard from one co-worker, but got zero, zilch, nada personal emails/Facebook/Instagram adds. It really stung. I felt I put all that effort into connecting with everyone, only to get almost nothing in return/no reciprocals at all. I thought I had developed some good work relationships, and saw a potential for personal relationships to expand as well, but I guess I was wrong.

I sent quite a few personal friends of mine personal videos on texts during Thanksgiving personally wishing them a Happy Thanksgiving. Only a few friends personally responded; others did not. I understand not getting a reply on Thanksgiving Day (or a couple days afterwards, everyone is busy with family, friends, yada yada), but to completely ignore/not respond is another thing. (And, for the record, some of them had read receipts on their iPhones turned on; so the videos were shown as read/seen. It's not a matter of the video not being delivered.)

Lately, I've felt I'm invisible in some way. I get almost no texts at all on an average day; most of the texting are started by me, and not the other way around, and I've had a few people recently unfollow me on Instagram for no apparent reason. I don't post 2 or 100 photos a day on Instagram, I feel my photos are decent (of course, everyone has their own standards), and... it's just rubbing me the wrong way. It's kind of like, all of a sudden, I'm not wanted in anyone's lives. I don't know who my true friends are. During I was home at Christmas, I felt like my mom kept brushing my suggestions off, such as what kind of food to serve at our Christmas party, and my sister was acting kind of attitude-y towards me (she's 18, though, so I guess that's to be expected). It's kind of feeling the same way from all sides.

The question I have for the Green? Any good ideas on how to cope and to stop feeling hurt by each unfollow, ignored text (and believe me, there's quite a few), short of therapy (can't afford it right now, looking into it for the future long-term)? How do you cope with it, especially if you're already a lonely person by nature? Is there a way to make myself more attractive/likable to people (if that's the issue at hand)? Also, any suggestions on making new friends? It's a bit limited in the Deaf community as it is.

Certain dynamics include... I'm Deaf. My co-workers were all hearing; family hearing; personal friends (including those who unfollowed me on IG/ignored my texts = Deaf).
posted by dubious_dude to Human Relations (36 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, I think you are allowing yourself to feel way too much angst over social media. Stop caring about social media. (I'm including texting in social media.) Focus on getting together with people in person, and building friendships that way. I don't think real friendships are really that common among people in low-investment jobs like retail. What seems like a good friendship on the job can peter out almost instantly once you no longer work together, just due to the pressures of daily life, when it takes effort to get together and stay connected.

I think people find efforts to put a lot of care into social media ... like composing individual videos that you text to these friends ... to be "too much," to be off-putting in a way, because it carries the potential for a spiral of you expecting reciprocation in kind.

And I also think people just kinda want to space out and be consumers on social media, except with their super-small inner circle of friends. So it's not that they don't like you as a work friend, but it sounds like your efforts at connection may have fallen flat because they were a bit "try-hard" and overdone and make them fear, perhaps, an expectation of more closeness with you than they feel your relationship warrants.

If I got an individual video by text from any but the closest of friends ... I'd be put off by it.
posted by jayder at 8:42 PM on January 6, 2014 [18 favorites]

Learn to accept this fact: social media does not define a person.

Just because you are ignored on social media does mean you are not liked.
Just because someone is connected to you on social media does not make them a friend.

Yes, in the midst of all the holidays, people get busy. So why not connect the old fashioned way? Stop by your old workplace and say hi. Call or write an email inviting someone to a specific event (coffee on Tuesday, sushi on Friday). Good luck!
posted by HeyAllie at 8:43 PM on January 6, 2014 [8 favorites]

This is one of those classic A/B questions where someone is asking how to fix one thing, when the problem is something else. Just glancing at your question history, it's pretty clear you have anxiety and/or depression. Get that sorted out, and stuff like this will just either go away or seem dramatically less important. Go see a therapist. I know you say you can't afford it, but you can't afford not to do it.
posted by empath at 8:46 PM on January 6, 2014 [27 favorites]

A lot of people can't be bothered or are too busy to be bothered or forget to be bothered. This will often have very little to do with anything you're doing. IMO, friends, and there are only ever few true ones, are the ones who consistently make the effort and those are really the only ones you should be concerning yourself with. The others - forget about them.
posted by heyjude at 8:50 PM on January 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

i feel like your mention of being deaf at the very end of your post changed your question a lot. is this a huge factor here? can you elaborate on that a little more? what i understand is that you are deaf, living amongst a community of hearing people... and there is a limited deaf community around you? do you feel this is making it hard to connect with others? am i understanding this correctly? (pardon if these questions are insensitive, i am just trying to get a better understanding here.)

on a separate note - i went through a huge phase of feeling lonely when i moved to a new town. it took YEARS to build up new friendships, and there were a lot of people that came and went. i kept trying, kept taking chances at connecting. not everyone sticks, there are a lot of flakes but every once in a while there are the few you really connect with. also, there has to be something you bring to the table - it's not about the number of followers but the content of what you are putting out there, be it social media or otherwise. sorta why people post lots of pictures of food they cooked, or animals they love, or whatever their interests may be. this may sound hokey... if you give yourself to the world, it will give back - but you have to lower your expectations and stop keeping score. it'll come to in due time.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 8:53 PM on January 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Hi OP,

It is great that you've reached out for help here. It would be useful to get some more information, such as your age, whether you've always felt this way, etc., so that the folks here can be more specific about their suggestions.

First of all, I do think that you are over analyzing at least some if not all of the situations you describe above. That's ok - sometimes stress or anxiety makes people feel vulnerable momentarily. For example, someone may have made a personal plan for getting more exercise, or eating more healthy foods, but for some reason haven't been able to achieve their goals. This person may take the resulting latent frustration towards oneself and imagine that others are poking fun at them because they are unfit/unhealthy etc. This was just am example - your situation may or may not be similar.

However, if your feelings have been thus for a long time, or if they have a repeating pattern, than there maybe some underlying issue that needs to be addressed by a professional.

My guess is that you'll get a lot of (good) advice about therapy, and IT DOES HELP. The key is to find a good therapist with whom you are able to form a connection or find common grounds with.

The other thing that helps is reading some quality books. They could be self-help type books, or books based on any topic that you find fascinating. It is surprising how flooding the mind with worthwhile thoughts automatically purges out the negative ones.

Hope this helps!
posted by Spice_and_Ice at 8:53 PM on January 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, since you mention being deaf towards the end, I am assuming it has no huge bearing to your question. In my mind it wouldn't be fair to assume otherwise. Please let us know if that's not the case.
posted by Spice_and_Ice at 8:56 PM on January 6, 2014

Response by poster: cristinacristinacristina: definitely not insensitive questions at all.

It's actually that I'm living with Deaf roommates (all of which I get along with great, for the most part *knock on wood*), am in a vibrant and strong Deaf community around me. It's the people in the Deaf community who is kind of 'ignoring' me - I admittedly don't make much of an effort with the hearing community, only because there's a communication factor, and I would prefer to be friends with people who are Deaf, too. My co-workers were all hearing; family hearing. The point I was trying to make is that I feel the same way (ignored/sometimes unimportant) in BOTH the Deaf and hearing worlds - I feel "stuck in the middle" in a way, in between both worlds. Being Deaf isn't a big bearing on my question, but may help to shed some more understanding on my feelings.

It's actually kind of a "Deaf" thing to send video texts to friends - even random/not-so-close friends. To make it a bit more clear, I did not send any of my co-workers those video texts - that's a separate issue.

It's normally easy-ish to connect in the Deaf community, but it's also a small community, so people can sometimes be judgmental or use your past against you. Not saying that's the case in my situation, but it's the reality for many Deaf people.

Hope that all made sense. I'm 27, been lonely for a long time, pretty much since I was born, actually. Used to have an imaginary friend in elementary school. But, I don't think I have depression - I'm not suicidal or feeling down most of the time - just sporadic times like this. Hope those answered the questions in this thread so far- no intention to threadsit.
posted by dubious_dude at 9:01 PM on January 6, 2014

Lately, I've felt I'm invisible in some way.

Oh boy howdy do I know that feeling.

But, I don't think I have depression - I'm not suicidal or feeling down most of the time - just sporadic times like this

Suicidal ideation is often a feature of Major Depressive Disorder, but it's not a defining characteristic, nor is it (I think) a required symptom for diagnosis. Looking through your question history, as empath did, it seems really really obvious (partly because I'm in a very similar boat) that you are probably suffering from depression of some variety, and anxiety.

I hope this counts as answering your question, because you're not really asking about what to do about Facebook; you're asking about how to handle feelings of rejection in a milieu which (for better or for worse) is about transitory connections at best. More deeply, you're asking how to handle the rejection you're feeling. That feeling of being rejected, of having negative feelings out of proportion to what has actually happened, could be a hallmark of several mental illnesses.

Your best bet, and I hope to hell that you can afford it, is to find counseling. Looking through your history it looks like there've been a lot of stressors in your life recently, and I'd be willing to bet that some time with a professional will help you unpack those and come to terms, as well as come to terms with this specific issue.

I have depression, anxiety, BPD, and possibly one or two other problems that the jury's still out on, and I'm queer, so I think I've got a bit of a handle on what it's like to feel awful things and have no idea what to do about them. Counseling will help. If you need/want to talk more privately, feel free to MeMail me anytime.

Best of luck. Life can be better than this.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:18 PM on January 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

Is it possible to use social media less often or not at all? I found social media very isolating and unfulfilling, which seemed counter-intuitive at the time because we're all supposed to be more visibly connected, and but I felt pretty good about it. And then I discovered that it's even more isolating to drop facebook because it turns out it's now the only channel lots of people use to communicate or invite friends to stuff.

I've had to sacrifice a lot of those relationships, but I wonder what use they were anyway -- one of these was someone I talked with every day, a close neighbor. And then I remembered that maybe it wasn't that great of a connection. After all, there was that one time she nearly chopped off a finger cooking (I heard her hollering and found her and drove her to the hospital) and she updated her facebook on her phone the whole way to the hospital instead of focusing on not losing too much blood! With friends like that, maybe I'm not missing so much.

Overcoming isolation sometimes means you have to try a little harder to make connections. My dad passed away a few months ago, and it's been tough going sometimes. And there've been friends I've known most of my life who I thought would be there for me, but haven't been there at all. I was really surprised by this. But it makes me really appreciate the ones who are thoughtful. And it's helped me try to reach out to people I haven't heard from in a while. It's not hard to initiate. I don't even tell them about my dad -- I just enjoy the pleasure of finding new people to like and listening to them.

so, tl;dr: Drop social media if you can, because it's not how life really is. And don't be afraid to be the one to initiate.
posted by mochapickle at 9:29 PM on January 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

It's January 6th. Please don't judge people by their holiday season communication levels. You quit that job in December, today is the Epiphany - I mean, the holiday season is only just now coming to a close. My tree is still up. Some kids are still on winter break. I mention all of this because here I am right now waiting for a bunch of responses from my friends, I guess I could choose to feel "invisible," but instead I choose to find an explanation in charity: it's still the holiday season, people are off. I'm still waiting to hear back on several texts and emails from folks who usually respond right away, because folks are unusually busy right now. Don't forget that.
posted by hush at 9:32 PM on January 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

FWIW I worked at my last job for five years. There were a lot of young people there and there were near-constant happy hours, birthdays, softball games, potluck dinners, etc. I was friends with a lot of these folks on Facebook (still am) and I had stayed friends with a lot of people who quit so I thought it would be totally reasonable to keep hanging out after I quit.

It didn't happen. No happy hour or lunch invites and my new job is less than a mile away. Occasional birthday invites but mostly when the person invited 200+ people. There was one person who stayed in touch. But she's awesome. Really just the bee's knees.

About six months after quitting, I had a birthday party. I looked around at the friends who were there and realized that none of them knew me from the same experience. A girl I shared an office with eight years ago and her husband, a friend I made on the campaign trail, my best friend who I met on public transportation, a friend from my new job, etc. I thought that was pretty cool - not only were they all mixing and mingling but they were there because of me, for me.

I think as we get older, it becomes harder to make friends with a big group of people. You don't get the 20 sorority sisters or beer pong teammates at once the way you do in college. You pick up friends in ones or twos. But that's okay. Hell, that's great. So focus on the friends you do have. It's okay to reach out to people you miss but don't worry if they don't reply. Work on quality rather than quantity with regard to your friendships.
posted by kat518 at 9:34 PM on January 6, 2014 [16 favorites]

I'm sorry you're feeling this way. Please know that many people have this feeling of invisibility. I know I do! The thing about work friends is no matter how much fun you have there with them and how much they like you (because you weren't imagining that they do!) it is difficult to transition work friends to real life friends when the shared work part goes away. Know that if you were to run into any of them, they would be pleased to see you. But anytime there is effort involved (telling them to find you on Facebook or Instagram or replying to a text) a large percentage of even well meaning people will think to themselves "oh, I should do that." And then never get around to it. People are basically lazy.

You should be proud of yourself for making the effort you are making to grow your friendships. That is where a lot of people who feel lonely fall down on the job - they wait for people to come to them. Maybe just sidestep a bit from the social media to the in-person efforts and try not to be hurt when less than 100% of people agree to make plans (maybe a lot less). It's just the way things go even for the most likeable people. The deepest friendships are built face to face on a shared foundation of common interests. Also, keep in mind it's totally normal to have a small group of close friends rather than a huge group of them. I think tv and movies lead us to believe we should all have dozens of bossom buddies, but that isn't reality for most people.
posted by cecic at 9:34 PM on January 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

Have you read the book "Alone Together" by Sherry Turkle? She's a MIT psychologist who studies how people relate to one another via technology. Nutshell takeaway: our interactions on Facebook, Twitter and text messaging are low-risk and low-reward. They occupy our time and energy but do not have the payoffs that in-person relationships have, and worse, keep us preoccupied so that we don't invest in the interactions that matter. (There's more, but that's her basic message as it pertains to your situation.) I'd suggest reading that book; also one you might find helpful is "Loneliness" by John Cacioppo.

Re: coworker friendships. Unfortunately, it's pretty normal for friendships with coworkers to fall off after one of you leaves the job. That can be really hard. I've been there. But maintaining a friendship with someone usually takes regular interactions with people, and if you didn't replace the job with a standing bowling date or something to that effect, it's completely normal for that to happen. Has nothing to do with you personally, or being invisible.

Can you join some sort of in-person community -- a club, a volunteer organization, a church, etc. -- where you may not be surrounded by BFFs but WILL have regular interaction with folks, during structured activities? Putting more of your energy into in-person interactions and finding something structured to occupy your mental space may help a lot.

Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Find someone on a sliding scale if money is an issue. You'll get through this. We're pulling for you!
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 9:39 PM on January 6, 2014 [9 favorites]

Assigning much value/significance to social/virtual media communcations is tricky. I do believe people can have meaningful interactions via text, instagram, facebook, etc. but it is important to remember that not everyone uses them in the same way or to the same extent. I am the same age as you and I think this goes particularly for people like us who were coming of age just as cell phones and social media were coming into existence: some of us adopted these modes of communication and some of us just don't make it a habit. I regularly don't respond to facebook messages and casual text just because I don't really like communicating that way, or I mean to respond but I put it off because I find it a hassle (not a habit for me) and then I forget.

All this is to say: you can still obviously use instagram or text, etc. but don't depend solely on these modes for positive social reinforcement. Don't take it personally if not everyone you know interacts through social media and seek ways to incorporate other types of human interaction into your life.

Also, I have worked retail and despite the fact that you have a certain camaraderie in the store (because you're all in that hell together! maybe that was just my experience...) and feel close because you see each other all the time, I don't think it's realistic to think those coworker relationships will be long-term unless you already had a habit of hanging out outside work. I felt a little sad when I went to visit the store I worked at and interacting with my former coworkers was a little distant/awkward but the truth was I no longer in the loop because I had chosen to leave to do something else and I felt good about my decision. It doesn't mean that relationship was pointless or meaningless, it was just finite and served it's purpose.
posted by dahliachewswell at 11:29 PM on January 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Your expectations are too high. This is what life is like most of the time. Sorry. Try dating or something if you want attention and intimacy.
posted by Nomyte at 11:33 PM on January 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

Agree with everyone that you shouldn't judge your friendships based on their texting and social media behavior over the holidays. Keep in mind that a lot of people were out of town or otherwise busy, plus now everyone's coping with this crazy weather.

Once the weather weirdness settles down, maybe you could try organizing an in-person get together?

Also, can you have pets where you live? You might consider getting a cat (or two) so you'll always have companionship and affection regardless of what's going on with your human friends.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:45 PM on January 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

dubious_dude, I can relate about all the picture-taking that didn't get much of a rise out of anyone. (I think taking photos with everyone like you did was very cool!)

Every year (on special occasions) I put together albums of photos for family/friends ...I make sure everyone is included and it takes quite a lot of work. Well, every year practically no one even acknowledges the effort. Disappointing! Here is the interesting thing, however. I decided not to upload photos recently for an event and several people contacted me to ask where the album was!
Soooo they had been enjoying and appreciating the work, they just didn't articulate it.

Here's a suggestion that is guaranteed to get people to like you. Ask them questions....about them! Works every time. Or ask their opinion about things. People are such suckers for wanting to "matter" and the way to their heart is through questions!
posted by naplesyellow at 11:52 PM on January 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: There's been a lot of good points given in this thread, definitely a lot of things to consider.

A few thoughts/answers to questions:

*What bothers me the most is not the fact that people aren't responding to my texts - it's, rather, the fact that they don't even bother to extend a courtesy to let me know they're busy - for example saying something like "dude, I'm busy... I'll get back to you later" or something to that effect would really make a difference and make me feel less ignored. Why do most people not do that? I'm a bit "OCD" about replying to texts, and if I'm busy, I'll let the person know instead of just point blank ignoring him/her. My expectations may be too high because my standards are too high, I guess, but I would think it's not that hard to do for the majority of people out there.
*About mental illnesses/depression... sorry, you may say I'm in denial, but I honestly don't think I have any mental illnesses or depression. Yes, most of my questions here has been pertaining to serious issues, but it's often when I post here that it's related to those serious issues/questions. It's not like I'm doing this everyday. This post was more of a last-straw thing. I don't feel sad/pointless/worthless everyday. So, I have to respectfully disagree with some of the posters here who suggested depression or other mental illnesses. It's not a bad thing to suggest those things; I just don't think they apply to me. :)
*In response to mochapickle, the problem is that I do initiate most of the conversations with people. I text them, I ask how they're doing, I pretty much do all the work reaching out to people - it's the opposite, they don't initiate anything with me. That's what frustrates me - most of my efforts are falling flat. I could try in person, however, most of my friends are out of town or have moved elsewhere.
posted by dubious_dude at 12:20 AM on January 7, 2014

It sounds like you're making a one-size-fits-all approach to making friends. As an anecdotal example: I usually keep work friendships at work, I dislike having my picture taken (especially for posed pictures), and I don't have Instagram. Among your old work friends, would you be able to figure out who did and did not like being photographed, or which people were most active on Facebook? Try hanging back a bit and personalizing your interactions with everyone: see if you can read their expressions, figure out how they like conversations to go, and approach them with that in mind. On social media, notice who initiates contact with you and what motivates them to do so, and work from there. If you can't figure out one person, think of them as practice and move on; no one can win over everyone. And it really is hard to cultivate friendships as an adult. If you go for days without social interaction, it can be disappointing and frustrating, but it's not as abnormal as you think.

Additionally: you say you're looking into therapy in the long term and describe yourself as "a lonely person by nature." These are reason enough to go into therapy, and with therapy sooner is always better than later. Don't get hung up on the words "depression" or "anxiety" or whatever. If you feel desperate or hurt or lonely even a fraction of the time and think you could benefit from a professional perspective, then YES, you should seek therapy.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:58 AM on January 7, 2014 [6 favorites]

Your "I feel invisible" wording automatically made me think: red flag for depression. "Do you feel invisible?" is often one of the questions health care providers are trained to ask their patients during screenings for depression. I remember getting asked that by doctors who were assessing me for PPD right after I had both of my babies, so I can't help but link the two.

Check out this old Ask from somebody who felt he had trouble connecting with others his whole life; and see this excellent comment about having felt invisible in the family. See also this particularly spot-on comment that cautions against devising little tests of friendship that your friends don't know they're taking.

BTW I would fail your "unspoken tests" of friendship, OP. I'm with @Metroid Baby; I'm not on Instagram. I get peeved at folks who post pictures of me online somewhere for all of my coworkers to see, because my coworkers are not my friends. I try never to mix the two spheres of my life. Also, I don't feel all that special when I see that well-meaning people like you treat me the exact same, kind, social-media-happy way as they treat everyone else with whom they are friendly at work: "The friend to everyone is the friend to no one."
posted by hush at 5:36 AM on January 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

*What bothers me the most is not the fact that people aren't responding to my texts - it's, rather, the fact that they don't even bother to extend a courtesy to let me know they're busy - for example saying something like "dude, I'm busy... I'll get back to you later" or something to that effect would really make a difference and make me feel less ignored. Why do most people not do that?

I almost never reply to say I'm busy; the only exception would be if someone pinged me repeatedly to the point that I wanted to shut them down. So in a weird way telling someone I'm busy reads to me like "stop pestering me," and thus feels harsher than not responding at all. I'm not at all saying this is how your friends read it when you say it (you're probably not as cantankerous as me), but you asked why some people don't so I wanted to share my perspective. Other times I'll get all caught up in my own head trying to guess the other person's reaction if I DID send them a "busy" message, and I get worried that they'll think that if I'd had time to tell them I was busy I could just as easily have used that time to send a real message instead, or that they'll take ANY communication from me as an open door to send me yet ANOTHER text that I have to feel bad about not responding to ... it gets complicated quickly, and is easier for me to just trust that my friends realize that I would respond to them if I had the time.

Either way, my point is that there are a lot of reasons that people don't send you back an "I'm busy" text, and MANY of those reasons don't have anything to do with them not liking you. I'm sorry this is bothering you, but maybe it would help you to cope with those un-responded texts to remember that they're probably not truly being ignored so much as - well - not responded to in the way you would like?
posted by DingoMutt at 5:49 AM on January 7, 2014 [7 favorites]

Yeah I wanted to add that even if you get along great with these people at work, they are co-workers first and rarely friends. It's stupid and I've felt sad that things drifted off too, but that's just the way it is. You may have 3-4 coworkers over your lifetime that actually stay friends but the rest... nada.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 5:52 AM on January 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

Social media, the holidays, co-workers. All of these are factoring into your disappointment right now. I just want to add that the co-worker thing is possibly even harder in retail. You have a lot of fun working together but many, if not most of your co-workers will have something else going: school, another job, what have you. Or they are burned out-- or trying not to become burned out-- and they want to give the job as little space in their head as possible. Or introverted and a shift in retail is as much exposure to humans as they can take. Don't sweat this.
posted by BibiRose at 6:34 AM on January 7, 2014 [6 favorites]

I haven't read most of the replies, but one great valuable lesson I've learned in life (and believe me, it took a long time to learn) is that you alone are responsible for your own happiness- it cannot come from outside you or be dependent upon others. People sense when your happiness is dependent upon them and it usually makes them run for the hills- it's your behavior and desperation, not YOU, that they are running from. Once you are happy and fulfilled (or working towards fulfillment) and have interests and goals other than getting others to like you (sorry if that sounds harsh; I do speak from experience) people will naturally want to be around you.

As for how to become fulfilled, it's easier than it seems- there's actually nothing to it; it's more about changing your mindset. I suggest reading popular books on Buddhism, or anything by Eckhart Tolle. Also, learning to appreciate what you DO have is huge.

Good luck!
posted by bearette at 7:34 AM on January 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

About mental illnesses/depression... sorry, you may say I'm in denial, but I honestly don't think I have any mental illnesses or depression.

I think your better bet is to see a therapist, now, and find out what they think. I am willing to bet that they will not agree with you. Look at your question history with an objective eye and ask yourself if the majority of your questions were asked by someone who is mentally healthy, stable, and well-adjusted. It is not healthy to be so hung up on social media, it is not healthy to devise tests for your friends to pass (seriously, testing relationships specifically is a symptom of at least two or three mental illnesses I'm aware of), it is not healthy to be unable to poop in places (also not physically healthy, depending), and so on. These are maladaptive behaviours, and they are obvious signs of some sort of problem the same way that dripping blood is an obvious sign of some sort of physical injury.

Please note, a lot of people are raised with this notion that mental illness is some sort of moral failing, character flaw, or judgement. This is not the case.

When your tummy hurts, you go to the doctor and ask what's wrong. When your head and your heart hurt, you go to a different kind of doctor and ask what's wrong. That's all.

The insidious thing about a lot of mental illnesses is that they make your brain think what's going on is normal. Until about six months ago, I had thought my propensity for wild mood swings, my impulsiveness, my tendency to fly into a rage, my intense fear of abandonment, my difficulty with trust, my ability to cut people or activities out of my life with nary a second thought, I thought all of these were totally normal ways to be, that it was just my personality.

No. I have a mental illness. And it's rough, really rough, having to re-evaluate every moment of my life and ask "Is this normal or was I behaving maladaptively?" for the past, and run that question as filter in my head.

But you know what? I feel a lot better. There's a lot of work to do, there's a long and rocky road ahead, but I have named my monsters and I will subdue them.

Your brain is tricking you into thinking that what is unhealthy and maladaptive is healthy and normal. Your brain is wrong. It is really, really blindingly obvious from your history here that you are if nothing else suffering from some sort of anxiety disorder, and something somewhere on the depression spectrum.

Please. Go to a doctor. Talk about how you've been feeling. It's possible that we're wrong, and obviously we cannot actually diagnose you by internet, but several of us--and at least in my case, someone with inside and intimate knowledge of the lived experience of mental illness--are concerned, and can see what's happening with you. Life really can be better than this. Life can be happier, with less negative stress. But for many of us, getting to that point requires external help. I am pretty certain you are one of those people, and the only way to really know is to go see a doctor.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:40 AM on January 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

Sorry, let me put it this way: a relatively good way to describe illness, mental or physical (and given where research is going, a lot of mental illnesses are really physical problems) is 'a condition that negatively impacts your quality of life.'

Ask yourself, based on your history, if you're really experiencing the quality of life that you could be.

If you'd stubbed your toe and it's swollen and painful, you're probably going to go to a doctor to make sure it's not broken, right? Well it sounds like you've stubbed your brain. It sucks and it hurts and the world is full of idiots who attach a stigma to mental illness, and that sucks and hurts more, but really, please see a doctor.

Feeling alone and invisible sucks. Talking to someone about why you feel that way will help you build a healthy toolkit to stop feeling that way.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:47 AM on January 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry you're feeling so invisible and lonely. It is a terrible way to feel.

My dad is a psychiatrist and diagnosed all of us with something (sigh), so I grew up pretty allergic to therapy. Then I grew up and brought home a daughter with significant mental health issues. She is in therapy, I'm in therapy, we are in therapy as a family.

My depression and anxiety waxes and wanes with my current situation. It is what it is. If I let it fester and burn, it affects everyone I'm close to. I can imagine if my feelings went untreated it would ruin the honest-and-forever relationships I have and keep me from making new connections.

I learned the very hard way that reaching out for objective support from a therapist, counselor, whatever you want to call such a person, is essential sometimes.

If you have health insurance, therapy isn't as expensive as it used to be. The Mental Health Parity Act requires that insurance companies offer psychological support at the same reimbursement rate as any other kind of medical treatment. I believe Obamacare requires mental health be offered on all insurance (my googling only brings politics for this one).

I'd look in your community for someone. Pick a number of an organization you feel comfortable with (for us it was Jewish Family/Children's Services as an example) and call them for a referral. It takes courage, but I think you can do it. It will be a very hard call to make, but the right place will be ready for you when they answer, you know?

Oh, and I find that social media exaserbates my feelings of loneliness, that phone gets awfully quiet sometimes. I'd try making connections IRL. Maybe take a few days off from checking anything (again that courage you have deep down will be needed).

Hugs to you.
posted by mamabear at 9:05 AM on January 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I know dozens of people. We like each other okay. But people I think of as good friends? Got-your-back friends? I've met three of those in my life; and I consider myself pretty lucky. Some people don't even meet one.

Friends-- true friends, good friends-- are just hard to find. They're as hard to find as a good relationship. And it depends on so many factors, how you meet, and how long you talk and whether you have common interests, whether you 'click' etc. And good friendships mean different things to different people.

But they're rarely discovered on social media, because social media just isn't conducive to making 'good' friends.

Look at it this way; you could sit there and feel petulant about how the people you like don't like you back OR you could feel happy that they have shown that they're really not a true friend to you. Awesome, that gives you back future time and energy you would have wasted on them.

Keep meeting people. Really, don't take it personally. Everyone is kind of invisible sometimes. Most people are stuck in their on little worlds. Just keep trying. Eventually you'll click with some people who won't make you care if nobody is paying attention to you on Facebook. Because those kinda things don't matter.

And remember, the best way to make friends is be a friend, too, though. Step back and see who reciprocates you reaching. The ones that did? Focus on those people.
posted by Dimes at 9:07 AM on January 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

I've had to teach myself to not put emphasis on electronic methods of communication and to try very hard to not take it personally, as so many people have already suggested. Quitting FB and Instagram has worked for many of my closest friends who have struggled with similar expectations.

I also think we live in an age when people expect a lot of "value" out of an interaction, something beyond mere conversation (sadly). I use social media and texting A LOT in my day-to-day interactions, but my friends and colleagues and I tend to only text when we have a very specific question for one another. Most of the people in my life are freelancers though, so excessive email and texting is often seen as work, or just tedious. I only send social texts when something funny/interesting pertaining to that person or their interests is happening in the moment. I hardly ever send or receive texts that have a vague purpose, such as "how are you?" That type of thing is likely to give me anxiety about starting up a text-based interaction that lacks a clear goal, or which lacks urgency (I know that sounds cold, and I live in a pretty fast-paced city which is, granted, known for its alienating qualities). I don't like that that's how it is, but I accept it and even perpetuate it.

I'll also bet people do really appreciate your messages and see them as a welcome change from all that hubbub, especially since you mentioned that there is a cultural element to the use of video texts within the Deaf community, but perhaps they are just taking your initiatives for granted! You may be totally lifting their spirits and making them feel happy and included on a regular basis, and they may not even be thinking of writing back because they assume it's making you feel just as good to be doing these things for others (and that plenty of others are sending you back the love). People get lazy!!

I was feeling really, really anxious for many months about a particular person, an acquaintance, not emailing me back when I wanted to start a creative partnership with them. The whole experience taught me to 1) only approach others when I can add "value" to the message and therefore to their life in that moment i.e Something concrete to answer/respond to, or something for them to gain from the content I'm sending and 2) I can't always dictate the terms on which these impersonal, text/email-based relationships exist.
posted by BestCoaster at 9:35 AM on January 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

This is going to sound pessimistic but: I keep my expectations for other people low and my feelings get hurt a lot less for it. Focus on the people who do make an effort to connect with or respond to you and don't worry about the others.
posted by Jess the Mess at 11:34 AM on January 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Feeling lonely is just feeling lonely. But, here's the thing - if you give a lot to others, give with no expectations. If you're giving specifically to get something back, you'll be waiting a long time. Cultivating your inner strength will mean that you can give to others without being hurt so intensely if they don't give back. You can cultivate this via therapy, meditation, exercise, etc - in lots of different ways. But you also have to realise that being human is quite an isolating experience for many people. You have to seek out lots of ways to minimise the isolation as well as the feelings around the isolation because in seeking less isolation, there will be much rejection, and you have to have the inner strength to cope with this.
posted by heyjude at 12:13 PM on January 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think your level of investment sounds very high, especially for people you are not extremely close to. I don't have the time or energy to maintain relationships of texting multiple times a day with more than one or two very close friends whom I've known for years. I'd even be a bit taken aback by something like your Thanksgiving video or your coworker photo project. And this seems like a normal day for me:

Lately, I've felt I'm invisible in some way. I get almost no texts at all on an average day; most of the texting are started by me, and not the other way around, and I've had a few people recently unfollow me on Instagram for no apparent reason.

Making friends is not easy, and I still sometimes struggle with it myself, but...I think what might help is to understand that the problem here isn't that people feel you are not worth their time, it is simply that they don't invest their time and energy in the same ways as you. I even think in some cases this mismatch of investment can make people uncomfortable.
posted by capricorn at 12:15 PM on January 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I know the feeling. When I was younger, I'd obsess over social media and texting; I'd count all my unfollows and brood over them. I'd notice very keenly if I was always the one initiating contact with a friend. I'd get the idea that they never gave me a moment's thought until I reminded them that I existed.

Friendships have a tendency to be unequal. By this I mean that one party needs much more from the relationship that the other. For a confluence of reasons, I'm usually on the same side of the scales; I'll enjoy being around/corresponding with someone far more than vice versa. That's not a healthy position to be in, because the relationship is never going to change in your favor, once it's established. It'll just make you feel worse and worse. I've been friends (or "friends") with a fair amount of very charismatic people whom I liked a great deal, but to whom I was little more than a casual acquaintance. But of course it's going to be that way; I liked those people because they were _likeable_, which meant that they already had lots of friends and lots of demands on their time, and therefore very little time to spend with me (several of them, I'm convinced, were also low-level sociopaths, so I rather think I dodged a few bullets there).

Over time, I developed a system of sorts for eliminating these one-sided friendships: I expend no more than two attempts to reach out to a friend or potential friend before writing them off. Whenever they initiate contact with me, this resets; that is to say, I'll contact them twice more before giving up on them again (usually, I'll space such communications at least a few weeks apart). I can't guarantee that this will work for anyone but me, but after I started doing this I gained a lot more self-esteem. I no longer have to wonder whether I'm being too needy, or if someone is really a good friend or not; if they contact me, without any prompting, then they probably are. If they don't, then they probably aren't.

Also, I wouldn't advise trying to rationalize the lack of response you get by assuming that they're just "too busy"; there are times when I've been too busy to respond to someone right away, but I've never failed to follow up with them later. If someone can forget about you, then they aren't your friend.

It's really hard to say what you can do to become likeable if you aren't already. I'm not a very likeable person, so clearly I have no idea. It probably helps to have a creative or athletic hobby, especially one that is impressive to others. It's pretty shitty that you're alone when you don't want to be; but perhaps there's some way to turn loneliness to your advantage? You have a lot of free time, if nothing else. Use it productively. Learn to be better at something than most other people are. Exercise. Make plans. Set goals. Stop asking so much for the attention and interest of others; instead wait from them to offer it to you. At least then you can be sure that it's genuine. Many people (including at least a few of your unresponsive social media "friends", no doubt) go through life without ever realizing what it's like to be alone, and as a result grow an empathic blind spot; when you get through this, you'll have the ability to appreciate what they take for granted.
posted by Androgenes at 2:32 PM on January 7, 2014

I don't think you have a horrible mental illness like some people here are saying.

I know how you feel...sometimes I go through phases where it seems like nobody wants to answer my texts or invite me out. And I have a lot of friends! Social media can be a bitch sometimes. I have friends that are super flaky and not that honorable, and for some reason they can post a fuzzy picture of a pile of dirt and get a zillion likes. It baffles me. It feels like the high school cafeteria sometimes on FB and Instagram.

Sounds like the people at your work were just not that high quality or weren't clicking with you. That's OK! I have had jobs like that.

You sound like a very thoughtful person, but as others have said you MAY come off a little strong to people at first. I can't really tell because I only have your post. Unfortunately doing cool things for people doesn't instantly turn them into your friend.

It might be helpful to see a therapist because they can help you to uncover bad habits or things you might be doing to affect your friendships.

Are you very introverted? I would suggest going out and getting involved in a lot of community activities and just meet more people. I've gone through phases in my life where I honestly didn't have many great friends. But I moved, got involved in a lot of clubs and other activities, and now I have an entire stable of cool friends. To be honest though, it's very tough to find those really loyal ones. A lot of my friends are very flaky....they won't always respond instantly. Some of them will ignore me rather than say they are busy. I used to get super upset by it but I realized I'm not going to change them.

Maybe you just have a batch of super flaky friends right now and you need to make some new ones who are more considerate and loyal. I'd probably be going crazy like you if I didn't have a couple groups to move between when my flaky friends started being ultra flaky.

I hope things look up, I know how sucky it can feel when you're ignored.
posted by christiehawk at 12:52 AM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers, everyone! You've really given me a whole lot to think over. Yeah, I definitely plan to find a therapist with a reasonable sliding rate, if only to talk to someone who has a professional background. Everyone should see a therapist, really, sometimes it helps to talk to someone who is neutral, at one point of their lives.

I agree that some of my expectations may be high, so I'm working to tweak that and try to be more flexible and understanding, and try to find a new batch of friends who may be less fickle.

Again, all your thoughts (every one of you) have really been helpful.
posted by dubious_dude at 12:48 PM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

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