How to get over something stupid I done
September 5, 2014 5:19 PM   Subscribe

I did something I feel really bad about, it does not sound like much, but I feel terrible.

A while ago I became friends on Facebook with someone I knew 20 years ago. Back then I was living in another country and was part of a group of older people, who accepted me but never liked me. I was having romantic relationship with one of the members of this group so the rest tolerated me. I was 20 years younger than them. One of this group is very famous writer. He is the one I made friends with on Facebook. He has lots of followers on FB and mostly discusses culture and politics. Since I found him online I started to post on his timeline from time to time. He never 'liked' any of my posts (apart from one), which should have told me something, but I did no take notice. last week I commented on his post which I thought at the time was very witty, but I now see it was crass, self aggrandising and stupid. Someone else from this group came online and added a comment bellow mine 'how disappointing Facebook can be'. partly, I know that I have unresolved hurt about not being accepted by these people when I was in my early 20s and they in their mid 40s. I also would like them to know that I am not the stupid boy I used to be, but a respected intellectual in my own right. and how do I show that? By behaving exactly like that stupid boy!
I feel so angry at myself I can hardly think of anything else, and I feel physically sick. It happened a week ago, and I don't feel any better, probably worse. I mean, what was I thinking? He is a 70 year old patriarch, respected by everyone. He never asked for my opinion on anything, never asked me to be part of the conversation. He let me in on the basis of knowing me 20 years ago, and I begin to behave as a teenager. And yes, I have unresolved issues with my father, who never accepted me.For the record, 20 years ago I moved to another country and started a new life. And while it was a relief to leave this group of people behind, I could never get over the fact that they did not see anything in me. This is why i think what I was doing on Facebook was so despicable: I was trying to get accepted! What I don't understand is how I could sink so low? Now I feel that I completely lost face. I am thinking about the way they would be discussing this incident, and it fills me with so much shame I can barely contain it.

If you have any advice or help please share.
posted by slimeline to Human Relations (32 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Just remember: “Your worst humiliation is only someone else's momentary entertainment.” -- Karen Crockett. In other words, everyone else has forgotten this already. Unfriend the guy and don't look back.
posted by akk2014 at 5:25 PM on September 5, 2014 [65 favorites]

Whoooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaa there.

Exactly what is making you think that the talk about "how disappointing facebook can be" was in response to what you said? Honestly, in the grand scheme of things, all you did was say something dumb in public, and hell, there are people who do that on the internet all the damn time. At least three people per day say stupid things right here on MetaFilter.

And - no children die as a result.

If you don't think this guy's friendship is right for you, I agree with just unfriending him - that way it doesn't matter what the heck anyone says or thinks about you. But on an unrelated issue, I'd explore why the possibility of saying something foolish has you so upset.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:28 PM on September 5, 2014 [7 favorites]

I am thinking about the way they would be discussing this incident, and it fills me with so much shame I can barely contain it.

Dude, last week is a zillion years ago in Facebook time. They are almost certainly not "discussing" the "incident" -- they are too busy worrying about their own shit.

Everyone has stupid things they've done that they look back on and wince in embarrassment. These feelings gradually fade over time (or get overshadowed by worse embarrassments!).

There is nothing to be done about it. Just let it go. Consider defriending and blocking all the people from that group so you're not constantly reminded of your issues with them.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:28 PM on September 5, 2014 [7 favorites]

Apologize. Go back to the same facebook thread, and say that you're sorry -- that you meant to make a lighthearted joke but you think it came out wrong.

I suspect that you actually were more articulate than you thought you were in the facebook thread, and that you didn't *actually* humiliate yourself. You can't have any idea why someone wrote "facebook is disappointing" (paraphrase) -- maybe s/he has some problem with the elderly writer and was being a jerk about what to her was an obnoxious status update or whatever? There's no reason to take something like that personally.

So that's to say that I doubt that you actually shamed yourself to the writer or his social circle just now, BUT I think that writing an apology might make this feel more resolved and to get it out of your mind faster.

Also, if you have a close friend you can describe this to and show the facebook post/response to, that might help. There's a catharsis in confession, sometimes. And a possibly off-putting facebook comment is really not much to confess!
posted by rue72 at 5:32 PM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Post very briefly in that thread saying "On reflection, my comment was crass and poorly considered, and I apologise for making it." Then turn off Facebook for a week.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:33 PM on September 5, 2014 [6 favorites]

Everyone relives embarrassing moments. Here's another quote, this one from David Brooks (I think it was taken from a NY Times column about the brain): “The brain processes huge amounts of information on a subconscious level, thus freeing up conscious neurons for major tasks, like writing, gossiping or remembering humiliating moments from the distant past.”
posted by akk2014 at 5:33 PM on September 5, 2014 [16 favorites]

You can also go back and delete the comment you made on his timeline. And then pretend it never happened. Hey, the comment is gone! Never happened! People (and you!) will forget it a lot faster if they can't go back and re-read it.
posted by silverstatue at 5:34 PM on September 5, 2014 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: I deleted the comment almost immediately. The 'people can be so disappointing on Facebook' was most definitely about me. I fear that apologizing would be dragging everyone into more of my own drama. Mainly, I don't know how to cope with the shame, it is crushing me.
posted by slimeline at 5:41 PM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Personally? I wouldn't unfriend this person. There's no reason. Who knows, he may be a good contact to have some day in the future. No reason to burn bridges. Just remember that everybody has felt the way you do at one point or another. Even this man.

People do and say goofy things sometimes. The person who made the comment beneath yours? They were rude. Now that's something to be ashamed of (but, as others have mentioned, that's only if their comment was referring to yours. There is a chance that it wasn't).

In the future if you feel like commenting on this person's fb, do so. It's social media! That's what it's for. Right now my advice to you is to fill your head up with something else that matters to you. Because this is no big deal. You'll see that when you get out of your own head a little bit. If it were me I'd watch a bunch of movies or start a difficult read or do anything but think about this for a few days. You'll see. You are being way too hard on yourself.
posted by marimeko at 5:49 PM on September 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: What you thought was happening:
Mature and self assured man returns to speak to his former superiors as an equal.

What was actually happening:
Man returns, craving to wittily impress and win the approval of those who once snobbishly cold shouldered him. Is cold shouldered yet again and cast back into the role of the disrespected boy.

The shame and humiliation you are feeling are not because you made a dumb joke and got called out on it. They are because the result highlights that you were casting around for approval and got ignored and shot down, and you now get to relive similar humiliations of the past.

What was actually actually happening:
Man knew some pretty unpleasant people back then and should go back to cultivating a circle of friends that like him and make him feel good about himself. To this end, maybe it is time to let go of that idea of how intellectual they are and that this makes them superior role models.

The past is done. This brainfart of yours is not something mature people would discuss amongst themselves. And if it does occupy their minds as much as it does yours, they are not mature people, but cliquish dicks.
posted by Omnomnom at 6:10 PM on September 5, 2014 [46 favorites]

The guy who posted the comment right under yours might have been trying to toady-up to the author, and maybe the author thought that this person was being a shameless brown-nose.

Anyway, the point is that it's very hard to predict how any given person would react to a short comment on Facebook. My guess is that some people thought your comment was witty (as per your original intent), some people didn't like it -- but for most people, it was just so much background chatter to their lives.

I'm reminded of something that happened to me at work a few years ago. One of my co-workers came up to me at the end of the day, and she had a very worried look on her face. She apologized for a comment that she had made to me earlier in the day. She said she had been worried about it for hours, thinking that she had insulted me. In truth, I barely even remembered the content of our earlier (short) conversation, and I didn't remember her comment -- and, in any case, the comment itself was quite innocuous. I was touched that she wanted to apologize, but it was all entirely unnecessary. (It's also interesting to me that the same colleague actually did annoy me some months later, when she looked me up and down and asked me if I had been gaining weight. She didn't seem to think this was inappropriate and never apologized for it. True story.).
posted by alex1965 at 6:10 PM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

I deleted the comment almost immediately. The 'people can be so disappointing on Facebook' was most definitely about me. I fear that apologizing would be dragging everyone into more of my own drama. Mainly, I don't know how to cope with the shame, it is crushing me.

Your post was *not that bad.* I don't even know what you said and I *still* know that it couldn't possibly have been such a shameful thing to write. Your intentions were just to tell a light joke, and you're now embarrassed because you might have sounded arrogant? It's really not a big deal. Coming off kind of callow or arrogant is not a big deal. Sure that's not how people want to come off, but there are worse things. It's not like you killed this guy's dog.

If you're thinking to yourself, "what does rue72 know! she didn't even see the post! I have reason to feel ashamed!" then seriously, talk about this to your SO or closest friend and tell them what you wrote, verbatim if possible, and ask them how they hear it. I seriously seriously seriously doubt that they're going to have a reading on it anywhere near as bad as yours is right now.

AND they're still going to love you even after you tell them the contents of your comment, I promise. Everyone who loves you now will continue to love you, post-comment. If you doubt that at all, just ask them! Ask, "do you still love me?" and hear them tell you yes.

Maybe this "facebook is disappointing" (paraphrased) person has long has a problem with you and still has a problem with you. Whatever, you know? I doubt that she talked to the writer about your comment because that would make her look (imo) embarrassingly petty, but hey, maybe she did. What's the worst case here, that this writer remembers you for a second, while also thinking that his friend telling him about your comment is petty? You didn't "lose his love" or anything like that. He is also going to feel about you however he feels about you, post-comment, just like your loved ones will continue to love you, post-comment, and just like this random other person in the social circle who has a problem with you (who even knows why? maybe you guys don't click or she had a thing for the person you were with at the time or you look just like her sibling who she thinks her mom liked better or she just thinks you're annoying or WHATEVER) will continue to have a problem with you, post-comment.

This comment probably hasn't changed *anything,* and certainly nothing important, I promise.
posted by rue72 at 6:12 PM on September 5, 2014

I deleted the comment almost immediately

Then as gently as possible, you are actually being juvenile in your attitude towards a post you fear was juvenile. It was a week ago. Literally 100,000 posts have gone past the eyes of that audience since there. Nobody remembers. Nobody cares. Nobody is paying that much attention to you, and you do not stand out as a special snowflake.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:13 PM on September 5, 2014 [8 favorites]

Btw, if you want to get the shamefulness of your post out of your system, post what you said here, in the open.
Then listen to 15 people tell you that well, maybe it was a bit dumb but hardly a big deal. These deep shame things die with exposure.
posted by Omnomnom at 6:16 PM on September 5, 2014 [6 favorites]

It really sucks when your brain goes into overdrive finding all the ways to beat you up and make you feel bad about something that it's blowing out of proportion--your post is full of explosive language about this relatively tiny incident! There's even a word for what you are doing: catastrophizing.

If you find yourself in these sorts of situations a lot, where your feelings are often just choking you and you can't move on, there's a book that my therapist recommended to me called Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy that talks a lot about how distorted thinking can cause us such distress and has worksheets and things to do to try and get into these excruciating states less frequently.
posted by foxfirefey at 6:17 PM on September 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

The world would be a terrible place if nobody cared about anyone else's opinions. The fact that you wanted him to like you is a trait that speaks better of you than if you had truly not cared. How you went about trying to gain approval may have been a mistake, but you learned from it. The lesson you learned may be learned more privately by more fortunate people, but that's not your fault.
posted by amtho at 6:18 PM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Check out this interesting article about the Spotlight Effect:
Part of the human experience seems to be finding ourselves in highly embarrassing situations. At some time most of us have tripped on the stairs in a crowded area, spilled our drink on a stranger, put our foot in our mouth during an important conversation, or simply had to face the world on a really bad hair day. [But it turns out that] we tend to overestimate how much our actions and appearance are noticed by others, something social psychologists call the “spotlight effect."
posted by alex1965 at 6:22 PM on September 5, 2014 [10 favorites]

The only way to get over this is to deal with whatever larger issues are driving it, because this is not about a FB comment.

This is a disproportionate amount of shame for a comment that existed for minutes. There are good helpful books about self esteem and confidence that you can work through, or if this is driven by anxiety there are exercises and treatments you can pursue.

Repeating: this is an inappropriate reaction to the situation. That is your red flag that there's something bigger to deal with here.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:29 PM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: There is a little boy in you who is responding to this situation as if it's your father, whom you crave attention. Part of dealing with things as a grownup is addressing the perspective of the little boy who wasn't able to attach well to a particular paternal figure, and as such, rides along with you yearning for a particular type of love that you didn't get.

There are various ways of learning to deal with this, but one that I've found especially helpful is learning to have an "observing ego" that can look at that little boy from an external perspective, and give him advice as an adult. Tell him it's going to be okay. Or go back to your 20 year old self and let him know he's going to be okay, by imaging that you are your 40 year old self giving advice to someone who desperately wants to belong.

Part of the problem, I think, is that you have learned wisdom over the years. But sometimes our younger selves with unresolved hurt inform the way that we think or feel in similar situations, rather than the other way around. Part of "leaving childish ways behind us" is having loving and understanding conversations with our past selves (metaphorically but imaginatively). It's learning to observe our past hurts through the perspective of more informed and understanding eyes, rather than from the first person perspective of our younger selves.

As you grapple with some of these things in general, it will help address the "why" question if you think it's still informing your current behavior, but also it will help you be a lot more forgiving of yourself when you feel that you make a social mistake at times. Because truly, it isn't as big a deal as it feels like. But when it's connected to things like lost affection from a father, it feels as big as the whole world.

I recommend looking at some of the research and counseling that interacts with the notion of "observing ego" if any of this strikes a familiar cord for you. It's been a great help to me over the years.
posted by SpacemanStix at 6:30 PM on September 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Wow! Do I disagree with you!!!

I think this man and his social circle sound hateful. Yuck.

Tell them I said, "Get stuffed!"

Seriously! You don't need these people in your life. They are ungracious assholes.

You really think they are cultured and important? NOPE. Cultured people don't act like this. Sorry.
posted by jbenben at 7:30 PM on September 5, 2014 [11 favorites]

I think you should stop posting on his wall. It's too late for a happy childhood or for a glamorous youth. You have other friends and interests now, as does he and his circle. What they think of you is out of your control, and there's no point in competing for his online attention and approval. You don't have to unfriend, but I would urge you to curb the interaction. And then to spend more time with people in the real world who like you just the way you are.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:45 PM on September 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

This sounds so familiar I could almost have written it. During my undergrad I overanalysed every single interaction I ever had with profs, and could barely speak to them due to believing they were judging my every word. I probably embarrassed myself a lot due to this self-absorption.. but I was luckier than you because my profs were for the most part understanding of what it feels like to be young. In your case, it seems that your elders had no desire to be understanding towards you.

I think you need to decide what your values are, and stick to them. If you decide you value kindness, then there is no need to suck up to assholes like those you describe. Try to start emulating peoples' character rather than their qualifications. It's truly liberating.

Other than that, it's going to be okay. Don't blame yourself for feeling the way you did. We don't all grow up in perfect circumstances with perfect father figures, and it's easier for some than for others to navigate the world as adults. A kind person would forgive you for this; try to find that kind person and be that person to others.
posted by winterportage at 7:49 PM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think it might help you to read about the social acceptance mammoth.
posted by lollusc at 8:07 PM on September 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

The internet is weird and I still haven't figured it out. When I come to the internet, to a place where I can interact with others, I feel as if I am in a room of humans, like a party, but unlike a real party, I imagine us all as social equals, without the real world hierarchies and style differences and social dynamics. So, being an outgoing type, I go to these internet places, and I try to start a conversation, or jump into a conversation. Sometimes people around me react, as they would if I was sharing a genuinely funny or touching anecdote at a real-world party. But often I am ignored. Because this is not a physical space and people feel little social obligation to interact as they would when they're looking me in the face. And furthermore, those hierarchies and style differences and social dynamics that seem to not exist to me, because, internet!, actually still exist, and are maybe more extreme here on the internet, because there is less of that urge to protect people's feelings when you can't look them in the face.

Maybe it's just me, but I find internet interactions frequently very alienating, or occasionally humiliating. In the physical world, I have learned that not every joke will be laughed at. I have learned some timing and some body language, and some good reading of social skills that helps me basically do OK at parties. But I still haven't learned those rules for the internet - they're kind of opaque to me - and yet I have extra high expectations that people here will like me, and it's frankly painful sometimes when people dislike something I say, or just express no interest at all. Some sites are especially confusing this way for me - twitter for example, or at times metafilter!

On Facebook I used to have some of this, but also have the other side of this weird social dysphoria: I used to be very mildly popular on Facebook. People "liked" my jokes, and commented on my updates. It gave me this really exaggerated rush of positive feeling to be "liked" there, more than I get from getting a smile out of an in-person interaction. In fact, I became somewhat beholden to my desire for positive feedback on Facebook, and had an exaggerated sense of embarrassment or loneliness when something I said there was received negatively, or worse, ignored.

For me, my life got measurably better when I totally opted out of Facebook. At the same time, I changed my name here on Mefi and changed how I interact here from someone who liked to debate on the blue to someone who likes to mostly read on the blue and tries to be helpful on the green when I have an idea. (Twitter is still confusing to me but I've been staying away more lately because it still gives me that weird set of exaggerated emotions).

I'm not saying to quit Facebook, but I would suggest that there's something about that forum that brings out both attention-seeking behavior and also intensely negative self regard. While you don't have to quit Facebook to avoid this, consider the idea of culling your "friends" list to those who you get a real benefit from interacting with. Consider spending less time there. Consider waiting 10 minutes before you leave comment. Or maybe you have your own ideas of how you could change your relationship with Facebook itself, to give yourself a bit of space from the emotional weight of your interactions there. I'm suggesting that the medium itself makes social interactions harder for some of us - maybe for you too? And it might be worth changing that.

Best. I feel confident that no matter what you do, this will blow over, and you will feel OK again!
posted by latkes at 8:41 PM on September 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

He accepted your friend request and he has not unfriended you after your comment. Yes, he and his friends may be jerks, but who is to say they aren't jerks for the same reason you made a kind of jerky post yourself? It's all human. The man in question is a writer in his 70s who posts on culture and politics. He has seen, thought about, talked about, dreamed about, and probably written about all possible manner of human endeavor. Who is to say whether he thinks you are an idiot, or whether he saw your post, thought about it for a few seconds, and understood you with grace, from his perspective as a wise old writer? And then moved on to thinking about some other interesting thing? Maybe you are not giving him or yourself enough credit.

It's possible. In fact, you have no evidence to the contrary.
posted by beanie at 9:32 PM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

This shame you feel is actually a good thing, despite how painful it is. Something deep has come to the surface where you can finally examine it. It's hard for me to explain, but it's always been a gift in my life when this has happened. Take walks and think about it. Turn toward the pain with a curious and friendly manner. Ask yourself why you did what you did. Ask why you feel so awful about it. Try to get to the root of it. Examine your assumptions; are you being fair to yourself? You can learn a lot from this feeling.
posted by salvia at 10:28 PM on September 5, 2014 [8 favorites]

You don't feel accepted by this group and you say it's a one-sided relationship. So unfriend this guy and this people who aren't actually friends so you can stop keeping tabs on them and feeling tempted to try to impress them. This sounds like an exhausting relationship dynamic that only hurts, not helps, your self esteem. If you think unfriending is too drastic, you can "unfollow" which keeps your friendship in tact, but Facebook won't show you posts from them. I'd also stop worrying about it because no one else cares about the comment, other than you. I promise. I've mentioned stuff like that years in the past and no one else remembers what I am talking about.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:47 PM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Shame bombs like that are out own low self-esteem being reflected back to us. It's not about these people.

Nobody is perfect and we don't always act as our higher selves, and it usually feels bad when we realize we've failed our own ideals. It hurts even more when we believe other people see this side of us, it magnifies our pain.

You deleted the comment and that shows you saw that your comment wasn't the greatest. That's great! That's the FB version of an apology. You're in the clear.

Don't put these people so high on a pedestal. (And are you sure back in the day they saw nothing in you, or was that your own projection and low self esteem?) Explore and make peace with your desire to win the approval of rejecting people. Vividly imagine that you are equal to them. Imagine looking them in the eye, feeling calm and being yourself. Meditate on it until you believe it. "You have no power over me!"
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:44 AM on September 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

'how disappointing Facebook can be'

This is quite true, the and passive-aggressive douchecanoes who post things like that prove it multiple times every single day.
posted by Devoidoid at 7:50 AM on September 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

Others have explained the catastrophizing and its likely roots in your regression to a kid-looking-for-dad's-approval stance with regard to this guy. I'm just going to address this:

'how disappointing Facebook can be'


I don't know what you posted, but it can't possibly be as douchey as THAT. What, are we peering at FB posts through a monocle now and sighing our disapproval to the butler? This is the guy who really ought to be embarrassed.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:44 AM on September 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

This famous guy and his passive-aggressive, toadying social circle probably attract, and make, all kinds of comments like that every day. I'll bet if you went back and read through some of the old posts, you'd find lots of cringe-worthy comments from others.

I'm not suggesting that you do that, though, since fixating on toxic things like this is bad for the soul. If you think that the guy might be a good contact in the future, "unfollow" his posts and focus your energies elsewhere. Otherwise, just unfriend him.
posted by rpfields at 12:16 PM on September 6, 2014

I would like to second foxfirefey's recommendation of Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, by David Burns, MD. Though the book is geared toward depression, I have found it to be extraordinarily helpful for addressing all sorts of troublesome issues.
posted by alex1965 at 5:44 AM on September 7, 2014

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